Mandatory Transparency Aims to Combat Fraudulent Use of Connecticut Grown Label
CHANGES IN CONNECTICUT GROWN LAW TIGHTEN INTEGRITY, SCRUTINY OF PROGRAM
As of October 1, all products sold at farmers’ markets as Connecticut Grown must be accompanied by a sign that identifies the name and address of the farm or business where the product was grown or made.
Under the bill, which was passed unanimously by the General Assembly and signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut Grown signs at farmers’ market must:
- be readily visible to consumers
- be at least three by five inches in size
- have lettering in a size, font, or print clearly and easily legible; and
- state something substantially similar to “THIS FARM PRODUCT IS CONNECTICUT-GROWN. THIS FARM PRODUCT WAS GROWN OR PRODUCED BY THE FOLLOWING PERSON OR BUSINESS: (name and address).”
The sign also must be “in the immediate proximity” of the offered product. The Connecticut Grown program was developed in 1986 to identify agricultural products grown in-state. Studies have shown the brand to be readily identifiable in the marketplace and that consumers look to buy from Connecticut farmers.
It is also linked to the USDA’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which provides federal funding for lower-income residents to purchase Connecticut Grown produce and qualifying products sold at certified farmers’ markets.
Those programs create an expectation that the use of the label and associated funds are in strict compliance with the law.
Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said the change is intended to ensure the integrity of the Connecticut Grown brand, both for the benefit of consumers and producers.
“It’s a matter of fairness and of truth-in-advertising,” Reviczky said. “Consumers have the right to know what they are buying and ethical producers who play by the rules deserve to be protected from unfair competition by those looking to falsely use the Connecticut Grown label.”
While fraudulent use of the label is not believed to widespread, Reviczky said the department typically receives numerous complaints per year about alleged deceptive practices.
The changes in the law will be reflected in Connecticut Grown pricing signs issued free to growers and producers by the agriculture department. A space for the name and address of the farm or business will now be included on the 5-by-7-inch signs, which also bear the Connecticut Grown label and logo.
Producers also may make their own sign containing the required information.
The agriculture department’s Bureau of Regulation and Inspection will enforce the new law by making unannounced visits to farmers’ markets on a random basis, as well as in response to complaints.
The new law also increases the fine for violators from $25 to $100. Reviczky said first-time violators usually receive a warning.
“The goal here is not to prosecute people,” he said. “It is to ensure that only products grown in Connecticut soil can carry the Connecticut Grown label that supports the hardworking farm families in our state. Unfortunately, the new law does not apply to farm stands or grocery stores.”
Products grown or produced in Connecticut or within a 10-mile radius of the point of sale may be labeled as native, native-grown, local, or locally-grown, but are only subject to the new law if they are labeled Connecticut Grown.
Complaints about use of the Connecticut Grown label may be directed to the Bureau of Regulation and Inspection at 860-713 2504.