Could the state be required to ‘Buy Local?’

06/18/2014 12:00 PM |

Farmer Phil Schmitt (left) and his sons Matt (center) and Phil Jr. loading boxes of cabbage onto a flatbed at the family’s Riverhead farm (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

A law aimed at ensuring government agencies are purchasing foods from the businesses they represent has cleared the state Senate and is on track to potentially boost business for local growers, according to a release from state Sen. Ken LaValle, who supported the initiative.

Known as the “Buy From The Backyard” legislation, the bill, if passed, would require state government facilities and institutions to purchase as least 20 percent of food products grown, produced or harvested within New York, so long as products do not cost more than 10 percent higher than other options, according to the bill.

“This legislation is important for all our food growers and processors, especially on Long Island,” Mr. LaValle said in the release. “By requiring state government to purchase items from our local businesses, it helps strengthen the agricultural market, bolster the local economy and help maintain jobs.”

The bill would also require the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to submit a yearly report to the state Governor’s office outlining which agencies, such as state-run schools, hospitals or jails, are complying, and what products are being purchased.

It is unclear what percentage of products facilities and institutions are purchasing from state businesses. The state does not currently compile that data, according to Mr. LaValle’s office. It is presumed the percentage of in-state purchases is much lower than 20 percent, making the legislation beneficial to area growers.

The bill is now awaiting approval from the state assembly, which will be in session until Thursday.

cmiller@timesreview.com