Bill encourages state agencies to buy local - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Bill encourages state agencies to buy local

DANE COUNTY (WKOW) -- It's a mantra of sorts: buy local.. buy local.

That mantra helped Spring Green farmer Mark Olson increase his sales between 10 and 15 percent. But for large-scale state agencies like universities, it's not that simple to buy local.

Agencies usually must sign contracts with the lowest bidder. Assembly bill 782 would require some state agencies to buy 10-percent of its food locally and give incentives to do so.

Representative Phil Garthwaite, (D) Dickeyville, says, "In order to create these entities, we also have to create the markets. We can't create jobs if there is no market for those jobs. What this measure can do, although I'm certain there will be some changes, is allow local producers a foot in the door."

This particular bill would support larger scale operations that could provide what a university would need. In Highland, Wisconsin, just west of Dodgeville, a group of farmers is working on a vegetable processing plant that could meet that need.

Olson says, "This highland plant is the first step in being able to meet local demand at a scale that will make impact in the local economy."

A study done by Dr. Steven Deller, faculty with the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for every 100-thousand dollars of new sales of local food, 2.2 jobs are created, $77,000 dollars of income is brought in, as well as $7,000 dollars in state and local taxes.

Bridget Holcomb was at a public hearing Tuesday at the state capitol, representing Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. She says the agency hasn't taken a stance yet on the legislation because it may be amended, and she does believe in the importance of buying local.

Holcomb says, "The demand for local food has not been met yet. Our farmers could be selling much more local food, so to find ways to really promote local foods industry is wonderful for farmers, rural communities, and those of us who eat."

That Highland vegetable plant we're talking about, could be up and running by the start of the school year in 2010. They've already talked with buyers at the Madison Metropolitan School District about a possible agreement.

Online Reporter: Teresa Mackin

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