California bill would limit foreign-grown foods in public school lunches

A bill advanced in the state legislature would ban California public schools, colleges and universities from purchasing agricultural products for student meals not grown, packaged or processed in the United States.

“It was really in response to the closing of a factory in the city of Modesto,” the bill’s author, Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Merced), said Monday during a committee hearing. of Agriculture of the Assembly.

“A peach processing plant, which closed due to direct imports of Chinese peaches, laid off 300 full-time workers and nearly 700-800 part-time workers at the height of the season,” said said Caballero.

Under Caballero’s bill, called the Shop US Food Acta school could only buy foreign food if its price was more than 25% lower than that of its national counterpart.

“[Buy American Food Act] ensure that our residents, our children in particular, consume the highest quality and safety food that reflects our values ​​in supporting local farmers, jobs and our economy,” Caballero said.

But opponents say the bill places too heavy a burden on school nutritionists and other staff.

“Wording requiring that the supply or price of a non-domestic agricultural product be more than 25% lower than that of a domestic product, it is 5% now, is far too restrictive and will prevent virtually all purchases non-nationals,” Lee-Angela Reed said with the California Association of School Administrators.

“It will also allow domestic food producers to raise their prices, which are already much higher this year than last, just because they can,” Reed said.

Caballero disputed this claim.

“The idea that you’re going to end up with abusing farmers because of this requirement is ridiculous,” Caballero said. “That’s not how the system works. And there’s an anti-abuse provision. [in the bill] as well.”

The federal government already has a Buy American requirement for schools, but Caballero says compliance is weak.

“A recent audit found that many school districts in California are not following federal guidelines that require them to justify or support the purchase of foreign products,” Caballero said.

The bill was unanimously approved by members of the Agriculture Committee on Monday. It will then be heard at the Meeting.

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