When Can You Call a Product "Local"

Author: 
Sarah Everhart

Photo by Edwin Remsberg

            We have all seen products advertised as locally grown or locally raised at farmers markets and on menus of all manner of restaurants. But when can the term local be used, and what does it mean?  Is a Delaware watermelon local or must a product advertised in Maryland as locally grown be from a Maryland farm?  The U.S. Congress in the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act found that the total distance a product can be transported and still be considered a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” is fewer than 400 miles from its origin, or within the State in which it is produced.  However, that definition has not been nationally adopted and has not been used to control labeling of products.

            Back in 2010, at the request of Maryland Agriculture Secretary Earl F “Buddy” Hance and with unanimous approval from the State Legislature, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) formed an advisory board to draft regulations on how and when agricultural products could be labeled “local.”

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