The Seattle Farmers Market Association is calling for help from market shoppers to push back on a set of proposed King County Health fee increases that the group says may push away small farms and food processors:
This proposal stunned farmers market organizers who, like farmers, have been working in partnership with Public Health over the last several years to dramatically reduce violations at farmers markets, as well as Dept. staff time necessary at markets. Under the Public Health proposal, in 2015, the permit fee increase for each farmers market in King County will increase by 132%, and amounts to a more than ten-fold increase in the cost of fees paid by farmers markets just 3 years ago. Farmers and farmers markets alike are struggling to keep up with the escalating costs of doing business in King County.
The association organizes the weekly markets in Ballard, Madrona and Wallingford. Capitol Hill’s now all-year market is organized by the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance. The proposed fee increases would, of course, also impact the weekly Broadway event.
The county tells CHS the proposed increases are part of an across the board update to fees to cover the cost of health inspections. “Public Health is required by law to recover all of the costs it takes to run our food inspection program, and no public funds are currently available to pay for the work,” a spokesperson tells CHS. “Current costs were analyzed by an independent consultant, and the proposed fees were set to cover those costs.”
Fees would also increase for other types of health inspections (PDF) at restaurants, bars, cafes, etc. The biggest jumps outside of some of the farmers market increases (PDF) would be seen in food and drink venues with capacities above 250 patrons where a “higher risk” general food permit would rise from $639 to $841. A more common bump would be a typical risk venue with room for 250 or fewer patrons where the fee would climb around 11% to $388.
County health planners say they are aware of the farmers market concerns. “We’re doing everything we can to find solutions to help hold the fees down, including looking for other sources of funding to subsidize the fees,” the spokesperson said, adding that supporting farmers markets is “a top goal of the health department.”
The Seattle Farmers Market Association isn’t taking any chances:
Please submit comments to King County Board of Health at: Maria.Wood@kingcounty.gov. Comments can be made to Public Health online at www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/ehs/fees/proposal.aspx. Join at us at one of three public hearings on Nov. 13th & 19th to express your concerns (go to ballardfarmersmarket.wordpress.com for more details).
The Board of Health is slated to vote on the new rates and fees later this month.