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NYS Groups Hail Assembly Passage of Local Food Bill

New York Ag Connection

June 23, 2013

A broad coalition of farming, conservation and environmental organizations applauded the Assembly Thursday for unanimously passing legislation that will strengthen the state's local-food economy and protect New York farms. The groups also urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign this important legislation into law.

The Food Metrics Bill (S.4061/A.5102), sponsored by Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, will 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 Assembly has made an important statement today by encouraging state agencies to buy food grown in New York -- and gathering the information necessary to see if it's really happening," said David Haight, American Farmland Trust's New York State director. "We hope that Governor Cuomo will sign this legislation and use the state's purchasing power to support local farmers and feed more healthy food to millions of New Yorkers."

"Today's Assembly passage of the Food Metrics Bill is a tremendous win for New York farms, for our state's agricultural economy as well as for sustainable food," said New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn. "Thank you to all of the Assembly Members who supported this legislation, especially Assembly Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who invested significant time and energy to get it passed. We look forward to Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing this bill into law."

"This bill is an important first step in establishing New York as a leader on local and sustainable food purchasing," said Mark A. Izeman, director of the New York Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "This legislation lays the groundwork for setting concrete purchasing targets and incorporating sustainability criteria that could further boost green economic growth, preserve threatened farmland, and improve the health of New Yorkers," Mr. Izeman added.

"New York should use its purchasing power to purchase local foods, helping local farmers and food processors. It will help create more jobs in the local food economy. An impressive range of farm, environmental, public health and anti-hunger organizations support this legislation. We want to thank Assemblymember People-Stokes and Senator Ritchie for their leadership. We look forward to Governor Cuomo signing it," said Mark Dunlea, executive director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS.

"Local food is a win-win for everyone involved because it keeps farmers farming and reduces transportation impacts which harm the environment," said Katherine Nadeau, water and natural resources director of Environmental Advocates of New York. "We applaud the Legislature, especially Senator Ritchie and Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes, for passing this bill which we hope over time will significantly strengthen the state's practices of supporting local food growers and producers."

"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."

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 preserves disappearing farmland, 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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