The Louisiana Legislature has advanced a bill that would reward restaurants using local fruits, vegetables and other food produced in the state.
Under the “Louisiana Buy Local Purchase Incentive Program,” eligible restaurants would receive a 4 percent reimbursement of cost of using locally produced products. The state began working on the program after last summer’s British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill crippled the state’s seafood industry.
Stan Harris, president and chief executive of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, said the group supports the bill as it “encourages the state’s owners and chefs to buy local product whenever possible.”
The bill would be in effect through 2014, with the option for the Legislature to extend it.
The program would grant up to $7 million per year with funds coming from fees assessed by the food producers, including those in seafood, beef, rice, yams, corn or other state-grown or harvested products.
The legislation, introduced by Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville, cleared the Senate 30-1 in May and the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development 10-0. It still must pass the full House, technical language in the Senate and then go to Gov. Bobby Jindal for approval.
The bill states: “The health, safety and welfare of the people of this state are dependent upon the continued encouragement, development, growth and expansion of Louisiana farmers and agricultural products. Louisiana residents rely on Louisiana farmers and agricultural processors as their primary source of safe, nutritional and affordable food.”
In addition, Harris said the LRA is working with the Louisiana State University Agriculture Center and the state’s agriculture commissioner to launch a chef/restaurant survey to determine what products they are interested in serving, and how much and how often they need certain products.
“This initiative will put the ‘farm-to-fork’ concept in to motion here in Louisiana,” Harris said.