Urban Agricultural Legal Resource Library (http://www.urbanaglaw.org/) provides general information about food, agricultural, and health regulations for commercial farmers in urban centers. Note that individual cities may have unique regulations pertaining to the sale of farm products, and be sure to consult your city’s ordinances. Below is a brief overview of New York State Agriculture & Markets marketing regulations as it applies to all State farmers.
If you sell plants for landscape use including bedding plants, perennials, shrubs and trees grown in a nursery or greenhouse, you will need to be licensed as a Retail or Wholesale Nursery, or Plant Grower by the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets. A license is not required for the sale of cut flowers or houseplants. As a plant seller, your greenhouse or nursery crops are subject to inspection to protect the customer from potentially diseased or insect-infested plant materials.
For licensing information, contact the NYS Agriculture & Markets Division of Plant Industry (http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/Licensing.html) or call the Albany office at (800) 342-3464 or (518) 457-2087. Regional Inspectors will visit your production facility to inspect plants before you begin sales and thereafter annually. There is a fee for the license.
No licenses are required. Produce must be sold free of debris and in clean containers. Bulk displays are not subject to grading, labeling or packaging.
Some produce is subject to USDA grade and quality standards if packaged, including potatoes, apples, lettuce, and grapes. Grade, quantity of contents, name and address of producer are required on all closed packages. The NYS Agriculture & Markets enforces quality and grade standards. For grading information, consult http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/FS/general/farmprods.html for factsheets pertaining to each of the above crops.
Slaughter and Sale of Farm-Raised Meats
A great source of information on marketing meat is “A Resource Guide to Direct Marketing Livestock and Poultry”, available at http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/resource-guide-to-direct-marketing-livestock-and-poultry/. Below is a brief summary of some regulations.
Poultry exemption: Farm-raised poultry is exempt from New York State and USDA inspection if the farmer raises and slaughters not more than 250 turkeys OR not more than 1000 of all other poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, etc.) per year. Four birds of other species are equivalent to one turkey. If you raise more than this per year, the birds must be processed in a licensed facility and stamped if for commercial/retail sale.
Other Meats (beef, lamb, goat, pork): These farm-raised meats must be processed in a USDA licensed facility if intended for commercial sale. These meats can be processed in a New York State custom exempt slaughter plant only if they will be consumed by the animal’s original owner, employees, or non-paying guests. In other words, a live animal can be sold directly to the customer and then processed in New York State custom exempt slaughter plant. Such meat must be stamped “Not for resale.” Further processing of meat, such as making sausage, must be done in a USDA certified facility or certified processing facility or kitchen holding an Article 20-C license.
Exotic Animals: bison, deer, rabbits, and ratites must be slaughtered in a NYS custom exempt plant if the meat will be sold. Inspection is not necessary for retail sales (to end user).
For questions about meat slaughter and sales, contact the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets at (518) 457-4492.
Without any special permits, you may sell a fresh whole fish at your farm to a private customer. You may bring completely chilled fresh whole fish to a farmer’s market and sell to a private customer. Keep fresh whole fish at 32°F with crushed ice or in a refrigerated unit.
For eviscerated fish, the entire gut contents must be removed and the fish must be thoroughly rinsed with fresh water that is 38°F or lower (water must be of public source or from a tested well.) Chill the fish to 32°F immediately. At this point, the fish can be frozen and kept in a frozen state for sale. Frozen eviscerated fish may be sold at the farm or at a farmer’s market; fresh and properly chilled eviscerated fish may be sold at a farmer’s market or at the farm.
Filleting fish or any similar processing requires an Article 20-C License at your farm or an off-farm facility that carries a current 20-C License. You may transport your fish to a 20-C facility and use it temporarily (usually for a rental fee). Such fish may be sold to individuals, stores, or restaurants if in a frozen state. Fresh fillet sales require an Article 28 Retail Food Store License. As of June 2010, an Article 20-C license fee costs $400.00 and an Article 28 license fee costs $250.00.
Rules and regulations surrounding aquaculture-raised fish are subject to change. Contact your regional NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets Food Safety and Inspection Division office at (518) 457-4492 or http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/FS/FSHome.html.
Egg cartons must be marked with grade and size. Eggs may be sold in bulk displays but grade and size must be indicated. Eggs should be washed and candled. Cartons must include the name and address of producer and the date packed. For a factsheet on egg sales consult http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/FS/general/farmprods.html.
Selling Honey or Maple Syrup
These products are exempt from licensing if you do not add ingredients or repack. Production facilities must be clean and sanitary. If you make specialty flavored honey or maple products, you must have an Article 20-C License. Maple syrup is subject to grade identification. For more information on the sale of maple syrup, request Circular 947 from the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets or visit http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/FS/general/farmprods.html for a copy.
Making and Selling Wine
Regulations can be found at http://www.sla.ny.gov/ (NYS Liquor Authority, Division of Alcohol Beverage Control, Albany). There are four types of winery licenses that apply to the following situations: 1) individuals who make wines without having a vineyard, 2) a retail facility that retails wines but is neither a producer or processor of grapes; 3) a farm winery (must have its own vineyard and processing facilities and any purchased grapes must be 100% New York grown); 4) a special farm winery that does not have its own processing facility but works with another established wine processing facility. Farm wineries may sell their own wine at their wineries, at farmers markets and to restaurants and retail stores in New York State.
Making and Selling Cider
Cider requires an Article 20-C License for processing. Good manufacturing practices must be followed. Apples must be firm and washed. Pasteurization or ultra violet treatment is required. HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) plans are required for cider and juice processing facilities if selling wholesale. For information contact the Division of Food Safety and Inspection at (518) 457-4492 or online at http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/FS/FSHome.html.
The primary resource to familiarize yourself with in the development of your plant is New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Circular 958 (Part 2), which covers the rules and regulations for operating a milk processing facility in NY.
Milk cannot be transported from a farm to a processing facility without a license and dairy products processed in your home kitchen or a commercial kitchen cannot be sold to the general public. You must have and maintain a certified milk processing plant on your farm if you plan to sell dairy products to the public.
Processing facilities are regulated by the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services (http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/DI/DIHome.html). For more information, contact Matt Morgan at (518) 457-1772.
Selling Raw Milk
Due to the potential liabilities of selling unpasteurized milk to the public, it is highly discouraged by the State and the Cornell University Department of Food Science. However, it can be legal. Your farm may sell raw fluid milk if you apply for permits and meet several additional tests and requirements that other milk processing facilities do not have to meet.
Hard cheese made from raw milk cheese may be sold to the public if labeled raw milk cheese and aged at least 60 days. A permit is still required. More information on selling cheese is available at the New York State Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Makers Guild website at http://www.nycheeseguild.org/.
Weights and Measures
Farmers and vendors who are weighing their products for on-farm sales, at farmers markets, or in stores are required to have their scales certified by a local Weights and Measures official prior to their use for weighing out products. Additionally, many scales are not appropriate for commercial use. For a listing of approved devices, download the New York State Approved Devices Listing at http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/wm/725.pdf.
Local Weights and Measures officials may visit your business, farmers market, or other location of sale to inspect your weighing device at any time, and you may be fined for the use of unapproved or uncertified devices.
For more information about Weights and Measures, visit http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/WM/WMHome.html or contact:
NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets
Bureau of Weights and Measures
10B Airline Drive
Albany, New York 12235