We swear that we are not picking on Representative Stephen Handy (Republican – Layton), but we can’t deny that he has been the focus of many of our bills to watch this session; what can we say? We write about bills that catch our attention.
The most recent of Handy’s legislation to draw our eyes is HB 121 – Local Food Advisory Council, an innovative piece of legislation that could do a lot to help Utah’s urban core over the coming years.
[pullquote]The benefits associated with more locally sourced food are astounding both globally and locally – one big benefit would be reductions in air pollution while reinvesting in our local economy only improves incomes.[/pullquote]As you could have guessed by the title of the bill, HB 121 intends to create a (wait for it) Local Food Advisory Council who is charged with studying and making policy recommendations on how to promote locally owned farms, stronger ecosystems, stronger communities, healthy eating, and local food economies.
What is a “local food economy” you may ask? Well, there is no formal definition, but it is generally considered food that reaches the customer through shorter supply chains – think farmers markets. Of course, that is the most direct method (after all “farmer” and “market” are right there in the title), but the short supply chain could also mean that a buyer for a grocery store interacts directly with the farmer and arranges for a crop to be shipped to a store or groups of stores in a geographically minimal distance from the farm itself. Long story short, here in Utah, we are not going to have very many bananas and oranges come from this short supply chain, but, man, we hope you like peas, beans, and beets!
The council would also look at ways urbanization is affecting local farmland, how policies related local food economies help or hurt growing conditions and the local economy, ways to increase access to fresh produce and promote family-owned farms, and provide increased food security for residents.
The benefits associated with more locally sourced food are astounding both globally and locally. Though more water is required to support farmland when compared to urban and suburban areas (something policymakers should consider when discussing local food production) one big benefit would be reductions in air pollution – not only because of increased plant life cleaning up the air, but also because vehicles won’t need to travel as far to deliver food; the vast majority of our current food chain requires boats, planes, trains, and trucks to travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles to deliver food to market. Not only is the transport energy intensive, but the preservation of these foods as they make it to market often require expensive, energy intensive, cooling systems that also pump more gunk into the air. Compare this to a crop that only has to travel a few hundred miles and will, ultimately, deliver fresher food that does not require refrigeration.
The economic benefit is also astounding. By reinvesting in our local economy, the state and her citizens can only improve. A 2014 report from Penn State economists noted that, for every $1 increase in agricultural sales in a local economy, personal income would rise by 22 cents over five years. Now, these results were isolated to the Northeast United States, however the data seems to suggest that keeping money in the economy, rather than shipping it off to some large Agribusiness on the other side of the country or world does have a positive effect on growth.
The board itself would consist of members from the Departments of Agriculture and Food, and Health, local food producers, a food retailer, a licensed dietician, representatives from local community health departments, and others with direct focus and experience with locally grown food and health.
Handy’s legislation is very forward thinking, and it deserves to pass.
To contact Representative Handy, click here or call 801-979-8711 (Cell)
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