Buy California farm products bill clears committee unanimously

A bill that would require prisons, schools and other public institutions to give preference to California farm products handily cleared a committee Wednesday.

The Choose California Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), cleared the Assembly Agriculture Committee on a 7-0 vote.

The proposed law, AB 199, would mandate public institutions to buy California agriculture products if the price is within 5% of the lowest out-of-state competitor.

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Schools would be exempt from that rule and would be required to buy California-grown products only if they are cheaper.

Existing law gives California products preference only if the cost and value are equal to out-of-state competitors.

California, which leads the country in agriculture production, had sales of $43.5 billion in 2011, according to state agriculture statistics. Almost 82,000 farms in the state produced more than 400 agriculture products. Dairy is the state's biggest agriculture commodity.

“This bill is a win-win for everyone," Holden said in a statement. "The public institutions get a locally grown product, we’re helping create opportunities for our farmers and a new appreciation for local food helps stimulate the economy.”

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), who sits on the agriculture committee, said the bill was a "no-brainer" because it would support the state's economy and agriculture.

The bill now moves to the Assembly's Appropriations Committee for fiscal review, said Wendy Gordon, a spokeswoman for Holden.


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