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New food metrics law aims to help New York farmers

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If a state agency wants to buy food, it now has to consider buying food grown or produced in New York. It's called the food metrics law, which starts shifting into effect now, although some sections don't kick in until late March. Basically, the law requires state agencies to record where food is being bought from and make New York farmers aware of the foods being purchased.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes says the measure will help the state's troubled farming industry.

"New York State buys a lot of food and our food metrics bill will require New York State to record data on how much of that food is bought from New York State farmers. The reason we want to know this is because we believe that it can be increased, and by increasing it, we actually are helping farmers to grow their business and we're helping to develop jobs in the communities around those farms," People-Stokes says.

Peoples-Stokes says the bill also applies to businesses around the state which take some product produced in New York and turn it into another food, like taking pork and turning it into sausage. Erie County Farm Bureau President Patrick Spoth of Clarence says the legislation will open a market to farmers.

"Require the state institutions, hospitals and, I would assume, universities, to disclose how much of the food product that they use and that would make that information available to the farmers, people that are producing food in the food industry to gear their efforts towards tapping into that market," Spoth says.

Spoth says much of the produce grown in the state is seasonal but the new law might allow groups of farmers to sell to a state agency year-round, like continuing supplies of beef.

There are already programs to help producers of wine, beer, and distilled spirits, as well as the Pride of New York and Taste of New York food programs.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.