Louisiana Bill to Reward Locally Grown Produce Purchases

Louisiana’s legislature is considering a bill that would offer financial rewards to area restaurants that use locally grown fruits and vegetables in their menu items.

The bill, which passed through the Senate in May, is now off to the House and then to the governor, where if approved, the Louisiana Buy Local Purchase Incentive Program would reward eligible restaurants with 4 percent reimbursements on the costs of purchasing locally grown and raised foods—an incentive estimated to bring $7 million per year in rebates for area businesses and a badly hit Louisiana economy.

The program would be voluntary and would be financially supported through the produce and other local industry organizations, not by Louisiana taxpayers. In addition to the financial rewards for restaurants, the bill would put an emphasis on regional agriculture development, boosting employment in areas of the state still rebounding from the effects of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

According to the bill’s text, “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.”

Buying and supporting locally grown organic fruits and vegetables is at the heart of the “locavore” movement trending across the country. Gourmands and foodies often prefer local foods for the fresh flavors, while many consumers find they can spend less money while also supporting regional businesses. According to the USDA, as of mid-2010, there were more than 6,100 farmers markets across the country—a 16 percent increase over 2009.

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Photo: Jill Ettinger