The Buy American Food Act
California farmers and food processors grow and produce a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts utilizing the highest food safety, environmental and labor standards in the world. Consequently, the food produced is of the highest quality for consumers and a source of great pride for California farmers large and small.
On January 25, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order to “Buy American” to ensure that products made in America by American workers were priorities in the expenditure of federal funds.
In response, this year I authored Senate Bill 490, legislation to strengthen federal Buy American policy at the state level. SB 490 requires that all state public institutions, including schools, who receive federal reimbursements for meals, include in their bids and contracts that the food procured be produced in the U.S. as long as it does not cost more than 25 percent of the foreign produced products.
Buy American policies are common sense measures that ensure the use of our tax dollars to support our farmers and domestic workforce. Buy American policy reflects our values and reinforces California’s placement as a world leader in climate change, environmental safeguards, and labor protections.
SB 490 ensures that our schoolchildren access nutritious, American-grown foods produced under the strictest safety standards in the world. Food grown and processed in California and the United States meets strict requirements for food safety, pesticide use, packaging, and climate standards, as well as protections to ensure employees have safe work conditions and are paid a fair wage.
In 2018, Seneca Foods, a company that produces peach and fruit cocktail products for schools and cafeterias, closed its Modesto plant laying off 265 full-time workers and leaving close to 1,000 seasonal workers without a job. The company cited, “Import competition from overseas — China and Europe” as the reason for the plant closure.
People who rely on federally funded meal programs are often among the most vulnerable, including seniors, patients, children, and families. They deserve and need access to high quality, healthy meals, such as those grown, packed, and produced in California. That is why I advocated for the state budget to include an additional $611.8 million to augment the state’s meal reimbursement rate. This higher rate of reimbursement will enable local educational agencies to continue offering better quality and diverse meals for our students and ensures the Universal Meals Program continues uninterrupted.
Buying domestically grown produce for our children to enjoy in school lunches is a prudent use of our tax dollars. Our children, our farmers and our workers are worth the investment.
Sen. Anna Caballero represents the 12th State Senate District.