Vitelli’s bill to support local foods passes committee

Posted: February 13, 2018 | Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Senator Vitelli

AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry committee unanimously recommended the passage of LD 1584 on Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, sets aggressive goals in the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for the purchase and sale of local foods.

“Local farmers need markets in order to expand and maintain their sustainability,” said Sen. Vitelli. “This proposal builds on the strength of our farmers and fisherman by capitalizing on the growing demand for healthy  foods produced right here in Maine. I am thrilled the committee threw their support behind the bill.”

The amended version of the bill sets a goal of increasing purchases of locally produced food and food products by state institutions 20 percent no later than 2025. It does so by charging the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to establish guidelines to assist state institutions in assessing their ability to purchase local foods while minimizing costs, providing education and outreach for the purpose of supporting farms, farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture and seafood providers to increase the sale and purchase of local foods.

The bill would also expand access to local foods and farmers markets by SNAP beneficiaries by directing the Department of Health and Human Services to implement a local foods procurement program. The commissioner would report on the department’s progress in its biennial report.

Vitelli’s bill builds on the University of Maine system’s commitment to increasing the amount of locally produced food served on their campuses. As of January of 2018, 23 percent of food served by the University System was locally produced, surpassing their goal of 20 percent by 2020.

The bill will now head to floor of the Senate for an initial vote in the coming weeks.