Monday, February 28, 2011

NY Food Procurement Policy Debated in City Council


The New York City Council’s Committee on Contracts today held a hearing to discuss two measures designed to increase city procurement of local and regionally produced food.

The first is a local bill (Introduction No. 452) to require the city chief procurement officer to encourage city agencies to make best efforts to purchase New York State food, defined as food grown, produced, harvested, or processed in New York. The bill refers only to New York food because New York State authorizes cities to preferentially procure food produced within the state’s boundaries.

Int. No. 452 requires the city’s chief procurement officer to develop and publish procurement guidelines for agencies to help them buy New York State food, train agency contracting personnel, monitor agency procurement activities, and submit an annual report to the Speaker of the Council detailing each agency’s efforts and the overall quantity and dollar amount of New York State food that each agency procured. The bill prohibits the city from spending more on New York State food than on its current purchases.

The Council second measure, a non-binding resolution (Res. No. 627), calls on the New York State Legislature to amend the state’s General Municipal Law to permit New York City to extend this purchasing policy to the entire foodshed (defined as New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire).

The bill and resolution were laid over by the committee today, but the Council expects to schedule them for a follow-up committee hearing and vote in the near future.  Once they are voted out of committee they will go to the full Council for a vote, where they are likely to pass, and then to Mayor Bloomberg, who is likely to sign the measure.

This legislation is one of the first to implement the policies outlined by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in FoodWorks, the Council’s policy plan to overhaul and strengthen New York City’s food system.  Procuring food from New York helps support the region’s farmers, food processors and distributors, and may result in environmental and economic benefits to New York (depending of course on the food distribution systems that are used by New York State producers). But since the bill does not set minimum percentages of food that must be procured locally, it will be up to the Council – and interested citizens –to track the administration’s progress in carrying out the goals of the legislation, and to make revisions if those goals are not met.

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