Markey’s “Buy Local” Amendment Adopted; Continues Successful Grants Program Promoting Local Agriculture
(BOSTON) – Language added to the House of Representatives’ fiscal year 2014 budget was adopted on Tuesday that will continue to promote locally-grown agricultural efforts throughout the Commonwealth. State Representative Christopher M. Markey (D-Dartmouth) proposed the “Buy Local” amendment which was adopted as part of a consolidated Energy and Environmental Affairs amendment to the Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Consolidated amendment “E”, which passed on a voice vote, calls for funding of no less than $200,000 to be expended to enhance the buy local effort in southeastern, central, and northeastern Massachusetts, amending and increasing the House Ways and Means Department of Agriculture line item.
Representative Markey, who represents the Ninth Bristol District encompassing all of Dartmouth and parts of New Bedford, cited successful efforts to educate others in the Legislature on the importance of the “Buy Local” movement as the prime reason for the amendment’s adoption for the third year in a row. “When we first filed this amendment in 2011, we could say that promoting ‘buy local’ efforts would pay dividends in the form of greater food security and nutrition, decreased carbon footprint and, most importantly, the local economy,” Markey said. “After the first year, we had some good, empirical evidence to show. More locally-grown foods were going to local schools, hospitals and other institutions, more unused farm fields were being utilized for their originally-intended agricultural purposes and local farms increased their direct sales and were able to employ more people. In some grant programs, every dollar we spent generated three. It proved to be a more effective small business engine than we could have hoped for.”
State Representative Paul Schmid of Westport, Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and an early cosponsor of the amendment, stated “’Buy Local’ is a positive, effective program that promotes healthy eating while supporting local farmers in local communities across the Commonwealth. Many of our communities have vibrant farmers markets and this program helps highlight those efforts."
“Buy Local” funding had a tangible impact on farms on the South Coast, helping to establish and promote programs like “Farm to Institution”, which increases and facilitates sales between local farms and institutions, such as colleges, hospitals and k-12 schools, according to Bridget Alexander Ferreira, Executive Director of the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership. Alexander confirmed the economic boost Markey spoke of, adding that “in Southeastern Massachusetts we leveraged funding to triple that amount in farm sales to institutions, increased acres in production by nearly 14 acres and added four jobs. We are so thankful to see the Buy Local funding go through with the EEA amendment. This small amount of money has a big impact on our local food economy.”
In addition to Representative Schmid, the Buy Local amendment garnered 34 early cosponsors from all regions of the State and both parties, including South Coast legislators such as State Representatives Antonio Cabral and Robert Koczera of New Bedford, William Straus of Mattapoisett and Keiko Orrall of Lakeville.