Testimony at Hearing on L.D. 1431, An Act To Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy

We all know that buying local is good. It keeps dollars in the local economy rather than having that money leave the state.
In 2011, MECEP produced a report, Buying Locally Pays Big Dividends for Maine’s Economy. MECEP’s analysis found that every $100 spent at locally owned businesses generates an additional $58 in the local economy. By comparison, $100 spent at a representative national chain store generates $33 in local impact. Buying locally also creates jobs. MECEP calculates that if consumers in Cumberland County alone shifted just 10% of their buying to local businesses; that would create over 800 new jobs.
Expanding food hubs will help grow Maine’s economy. Many local food growers struggle with getting their product to market because they do not generate sufficient quantities to meet market demands, or they are unable to process their catch or crops into a consumer-ready product. Food hubs will help farmers and fisheries amass quantities to make it attractive to food products manufacturers and provide some minimal processing to get their products to institutional markets, like public schools.
It is important to note another study. University of Maine economic professor Todd Gabe’s 2011 study of the economic impact of Maine’s food industry looks at jobs resulting from fishing and farming and from food processing.
The number of jobs created from food processing is more than two times that of crop farming. That’s because manufacturing firms spend more on purchased inputs, like equipment, than farms and fisheries and hence generate more economic activity.
This is something we all know –to create more jobs, Maine needs to manufacture more of its foodstuffs here in the state rather than sending it out of state for processing.
And we also know that Maine needs these jobs. Nearly five years since the Great Recession officially ended, Maine has regained just one-third of the jobs lost as a result of the economic downturn. Maine is near the bottom of all states in terms of jobs recovery. Expanding food hubs and food processing in Maine can enhance Maine’s long-term job prospects.
I urge you to support LD 1431 to help create food hubs and to equip local schools to buy from them. This bill will create needed jobs for Maine workers.
Thank you.

Jody Harris, Associate Director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy, testifying before the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, in support of LD 1431.