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Local Food Procurement. Richard Caplan Harrison Institute for Public Law Georgetown University Law Center March 16, 2007. Two Take Home Points. USDA is ignoring Congress regarding local food procurement You can do something about it. Hierarchy of Authority (in theory).

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Local Food Procurement

Richard Caplan

Harrison Institute for Public Law

Georgetown University Law Center

March 16, 2007


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Two Take Home Points

  • USDA is ignoring Congress regarding local food procurement

  • You can do something about it




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1988: Agency Regulations

“Grantees will conduct procurements in a manner that prohibits geographical preferences except where applicable Federal statutes expressly mandate or encourage geographic preference.”

7 CFR §3016.36(c)(2)


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2002 Farm Bill

“The Secretary shall encourageinstitutions participating in the school lunch program to purchase locally produced foods for school meal programs, to the maximum extent practicable and appropriate.”


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2002 Farm Bill Committee Report Language

  • It is not the intent to create a geographical preference for purchases of locally produced foods or purchases made with grant funds. All purchases are to be made competitively, consistent with federal procurement laws and regulations.


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2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act

  • “[T]he Secretary may provide assistance . . . to schools and nonprofit entities for projects that improve access to local foods.”

  • USDA may provide assistance to programs “designed to procure local foods.”


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January 23, 2007 USDA letter

“The document expresses the view that Congress, as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, expressed clear support for geographic preferences in purchases made for school food service programs.”


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Jan. 23, 2007 letter, cont’d

That interpretation is incorrect. Federal procurement regulations at 7 CFR 3016.60(c) clearly prohibit the use of State or local geographic preferences. All purchases are to be made competitively, consistent with Federal laws and regulations.


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7 CFR 3016.60(c)

“Procurements under USDA entitlement programs shall be conducted in a manner that prohibits the use of in-State or local geographic preferences except as provided in §3016.36(c)(2).”


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Which leads us back home!

2007 Letter

1988 Regulations

Statutory Authority for

Local Food Procurement


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What Can Be Done?

  • Dear Colleague letter

  • Additional statutory language

  • Legal action

  • Advocacy by school food service providers

  • Grassroots advocacy by public


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What you can do now

  • Ask USDA to justify any additional exposition of their position in writing

  • Share information about what USDA is doing with officials, newspapers, and anyone else willing to listen

  • Report any problems you are having regarding promoting local food procurement


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Final thoughts

  • USDA is not complying with a clear statutory mandate from Congress on local food procurement

  • Many avenues for action exist now


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