Sen. Johnson’s bill to increase local food use receives unanimous committee support

Bill will help schools, others use Maine produced food
Posted:  Friday, February 21, 2014 - 12:30pm

The Legislature’s Agriculture Committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill to make it easier for Maine food producers to sell their goods here, especially to schools and other large institutions.

The bill supports the creation of "food hubs" where locally produced food can be aggregated, minimally processed (such as washing and chopping), stored and distributed.

“Now is the perfect time to support food hub growth because hubs are the best way to expand the market for food produced by Maine's small to medium size farms,” said Democratic Sen. Chris Johnson of Somerville, the sponsor of the bill. “Supporting this growth creates jobs, increases access to quality food, and helps Maine farmers succeed.”

Maine currently imports about 90 percent of the food we consume. A draft report entitled “The New England Food Vision” finds that it is practical to produce more than 50 percent of the food consumed in New England locally. Maine would play a critical role in that expansion. Farming is a $1.2 billion dollar industry in Maine and the state has more than 8,000 farms, many of them small, with an average size of 167 acres.

“Making better use of local food options is good for our kids, our farmers, our fishermen and our economy,” Johnson said.

The bill, LD 1431, “An Act to Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy,” now goes to the Senate for further votes.