As many of you know, last week the House overrode the veto of my bill that would strengthen Maine's food economy and create jobs. The vote was 94-46. Please read the floor speech I delivered to the House last Tuesday that answered the veto letter and helped secure the override.
LD 1254, An Act to Increase Consumption of Maine Foods in All State Institutions, would direct all state-funded institutions to purchase a percentage of food from Maine producers so long as it is competitively priced and available.
This is a commonsense economic development bill that would move the Maine food economy forward. This is about Maine people feeding Maine people, keeping our money in the state and creating jobs.
The bill won overwhelming bipartisan support in the State and Local Government Committee, secured a two-thirds vote in the House and was approved unanimously "under the hammer" in the Senate.
The percentage thresholds in the bill increase incrementally over the next 20 years in order to make them achievable and fiscally responsible. Schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program are exempt.
My bill builds on an existing law that requires the state to encourage food self-sufficiency for Maine and state institutions to keep their food dollars in Maine. It adds an element of accountability through benchmarks and a timeline but contains no penalties.
The barriers on local farms to institutional markets are significant, and this bill could help create space for small farms to become mid-sized farms; mid-sized farms to scale up and hire farm help; large farms to gain a market for 'seconds.' Maine's strength can be found in our primary economic engines: our farmers, fishers and forestry -- the emblems of our heritage on our state's flag. If we want more Maine jobs, we need to start with policies that help promote the growth and strengthen our primary economy, not undercut and divert resources away from them.
The fight is not over, however. The bill will now be taken up in the Senate, as early as tomorrow. So please contact your senator and ask him or her to support this bill and override the veto.