Groups Hail Senate Passage of Local Food Bill, Encourage Assembly Action
June 12, 2013
(ALBANY, NY) A broad coalition of farming, conservation and environmental organizations applauded the State Senate today for passing legislation that will strengthen the state’s local-food economy and protect New York farms.
The coalition also called on the Assembly to follow suit, and approve the legislation before the end of session on June 20. The Assembly bill is currently before the Committee on Governmental Operations, where it was assigned in February.
The Food Metrics Bill (S.4061/A.5102), sponsored by Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, would require state agencies to establish a robust food purchasing, tracking and reporting system that will provide baseline data about money being spent on food and the geographic source of such food. The bill also lays the groundwork to encourage state institutions to buy more food grown on farms in New York.
“The Food Metrics Bill is a win-win for New York farms and our environment, and we applaud the Senate for taking action today,” said New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn. “The demand for locally grown food has never been stronger and this legislation will set New York on a path to growing more sustainable, healthy and fresh food. Now it is up to the Assembly to stand up for local food, and we are hopeful this legislation will be approved before session ends.”
“More New Yorkers than ever are buying locally grown food because they know it is good for our families, our farmers, and our economy. It is important for New York State’s institutions to do the same,” said David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust. “When state-run institutions buy more food grown in New York it will put money back into the state economy, help our farmers turn a profit, and feed nutritious, locally-grown food to people who need it – like students, hospital patients and senior citizens. We appreciate the leadership demonstrated by Senator Ritchie and the Senate and look forward to working with the Assembly and Governor Cuomo to enact this legislation.”
“When we buy New York Farm food we get more than great food. We get strong farms, open space, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, protection of our water resources and a stronger economy. This legislation will help all New Yorkers,” said William Cooke of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
“By setting the example to buy local, the Food Metrics Bill makes it a priority for the State of New York to support its farmers. Not only would this open up new market opportunities for our farms, but it would provide additional exposure for the great tasting food and products made within our borders. That, in turn, will be a welcomed boost to the rural economy,” said Julie Suarez, New York Farm Bureau Public Policy Director.
“The Adirondack Park hosts hundreds of farms that produce a wide array of products including apples, maple syrup, beef, lamb, dairy products, and vegetables,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, an environmental organization. “Adirondack farms protect open space and provide wildlife habitat that is not common on the Forest Preserve. Locally produced food means fewer long-haul truck trips, which helps reduce transportation costs and congestion, as well as fuel consumption and pollution.”
“We are pleased to see Senate support for local food procurement and look forward to the Assembly quickly taking similar action. The State should use its purchasing power to help strengthen the local food economy, promoting local jobs and supporting local farmers. Strong local food systems are critical to the effort to ensure all New Yorkers have access to healthy, affordable food,” said Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS.
New York currently has no reliable data on the amount of food it purchases in- and out-of-state. Without a baseline to measure against, it is very difficult to scale up the consumption of local foods, a step which is of vital necessity to New York’s struggling agriculture industry. The benefits of buying local are numerous – it reduces our carbon footprint by cutting down on the transport of foods from out-of-state, it provides a boon to our local economy and it provides New Yorkers with fresher, healthier food.
The Food Metrics Bill mandates that state agencies establish a tracking and reporting program for all food they’re buying. It requires the Office of General Services and the Department of Agriculture and Markets to set guidelines for state agencies on increasing their purchase of local foods. Successful bidders on state food contracts would also have to provide the type, dollar value, and geographic origin of all their food to the procuring agency.
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