The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a proposed rule designed to allow state agencies and institutions that procure food for USDA child nutrition programs the option of giving preference to the purchase of unprocessed, locally grown products. The geographic preference provision, provided in the 2008 Farm Bill, would apply to the School Lunch program, the School Breakfast program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program and the Special Milk Program. In the rule, pasteurized milk is defined as unprocessed and locally grown.
Under the proposed rule, it is up to state agencies, school food authorities and child care institutions to define the geographic area where locally grown agriculture products would originate. The rule allows unprocessed agricultural commodities to include de minimus handling and preparation, including pasteurizing milk, but nothing that would change the inherent character of the product.
"Local purchasing power not only supports increasing economic opportunities for local farmers but also helps schools and other institutions include wholesome food choices which will encourage children to make healthy food choices," the Federal Register notice states. "Allowing a geographic procurement preference option serves to reinforce the fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers."
According to Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, "The geographic preference provision was designed largely to allow states and institutions to procure local fruits and vegetables on a seasonal basis."
While the geographic preference is not a government contract set aside, it does give additional points or credit calculated during bid evaluations to bidders located in a specified geographic area.
USDA is seeking comments on the proposed rule until June 18, 2010. The proposed rule is available here.
Members with questions may contact Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org.