Local municipalities and BOCES will be able to directly purchase New York state-produced foods

A bill signed in Albany this week gives local growers a better chance at selling their produce to local schools and governments.

State Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua, announced Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill she sponsored that allows local BOCES and municipalities to directly purchase New York state-produced foods.

Helming made the announcement during the Food Access and Health in Rural NY roundtable discussion she hosted last Friday at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva.

Current law allows state agencies to spend up to $200,000 annually to purchase locally grown foods without going through formal procurement procedures. School districts are similarly authorized to spend up to a multiplier based on enrollment and school days. But local governments are limited to a $20,000 annual threshold for the purchase of local products.

This bill, S.5251B, extends similar exemptions to BOCES and municipalities. It provides for a multiplier threshold to purchase New York state food products, modeled after the way school districts buy such items.

“This is a great way to continue to expand opportunities to bring local food into our local communities and school districts and make this practice a part of our culture, as it should be,” stated Helming. “This supports not only our communities and schools but also our local producers and growers. I am so glad that we were able to come to an agreement on this important legislation and that the Governor has signed it into law.”

The New York Farm Bureau put its stamp on the new law.

“This legislation will benefit many, from the students who will have more fresh, healthy food on their lunch table to the farmers who will have an expanded market to sell what they grow,” stated NYFB President David Fisher. “In addition, it is positive for the rural economy as more taxpayer dollars are used to support local businesses.”

Helming also announced during Friday’s roundtable discussion that this year’s state budget includes $750,000 for the New York State Farm to School Program. The program was created to connect school districts with local farms and food producers in order to allow students to eat locally grown, freshly picked fruits and vegetables with their meals during the school day. This allocation represents an increase of $500,000 over last year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School census, 298 school districts — representing 43 percent of New York school districts — with 1,333 schools and 759,024 students participate in Farm to School. This year, three more schools from New York City, the Capital Region, and Jefferson County joined the program. The next application cycle starts in the fall, with a due date in December.

Political Roundup, a clearinghouse of announcements and developments in local politics, runs on Fridays in the Daily Messenger. To submit an item for consideration, email senior reporter Julie Sherwood at jsherwood@messengerpostmedia.com.