A strong local food policy creates real “green” jobs.

A powerful study entitled “The Local Food Impact: What if Georgians Ate Georgia Produce?” has recently been produced from the University of Georgia. While the study particularly emphasized Georgia, a similar answers would emanate if you ask “What if Alabamians ate Alabama Produce.”

According to the study,  if each household in Georgia spent $10 per week on produce grown in Georgia, more than $1.9 billion would be pumped back into the state’s economy. And for every 5 percent increase in local produce purchased, the state would see 345 additional jobs, $43.7 million more in sales, and $13.6 million more in farmer income.

Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls stated here: “I hope this study gets leaders state-wide asking why we don’t see every day foods for our Southern diets growing in the fields of Georgia.

I asked here could Alabama not produce its own tomatoes? And here about eggs? This study examined the production-consumption gap for lettuce in Georgia.

. . .simply closing the gap in one commodity­, lettuce, for example ­could mean an additional $83.6 million of direct revenue to local producers.

What is the lettuce gap? . . .  the average Georgian eats about 30 pounds of fresh lettuce per year, or about 285 million pounds state-wide. Yet the state produces less than 245,000 pounds per year, which is less than one-tenth of one percent of the amount of lettuce that Georgians consume. Closing that gap would generate an additional $83.6 million in lettuce sales.

The study found similar gaps for other products:

  • $228 million gap for apples
  • $62 million gap for bell peppers
  • $46 million gap for a broccoli
  • $12.8 million gap for carrots
  • $124 million gap for pecans
  • $235 million gap for tomatoes
  • $93 million gap for watermelon.

I have proposed that the State of Alabama can employ its own purchasing power to close this gap some.  For instance, each school, prison, and public hospital should purchase a larger percentage of its produce from local farms and ranches.  Or to spur the public to purchase locally, the state could enable welfare vouchers and food stamps to be used at farmer’s markets and community supported agriculture groups.

Let’s not limit this principle to agriculture, the same applies to other sectors of our economy. As I expressed here,

We must close these “leaks” from our local economies. These leaks are as dangerous to our communities as a parasite is to our bodies; it saps our communities of its vigor and vitality. Our communities must be willing to develop industries that can supply our local needs, locally.

Whether we’re talking office supplies, clothing, in fact, most of what we consume, a local business policy makes sense as I argued here:

For example, if one spends $100 from a local independent business, about $68 stays in the area. If spending at a chain store, only $43 of that $100 stays in the local economy.”

This substantial difference in local benefit makes common sense. For example, in my hometown Ashland, when I purchase medicines at the locally-owned pharmacy, that dollar I spend will likely be spent locally also. Our local pharmacist will take my dollar and if she needs office supplies, she will buy pens and paper from the local dealer. Or if she needs to renovate her store, she will buy materials from the corner locally-owned hardware store. Or he she need a lawyer (heaven forbid!), hopefully they would come to my office to retain me. With each transaction, the process recreates itself, over and over and over.

For money to be productive, it needs movement, or in economist terms: “velocity.” Economists believe that dollars spent locally double and quadruple the monetary velocity after each use.  On the other hand, the reverse is true when money falls into out-of-state corporation’s pockets. First, the money is sent off to Arkansas or New Your or Delaware. Instead of spending their earnings locally, those out-of-state and multi-state corporations typically purchase their office supplies from distant wholesale office supply dealers, buy their hardware from a multi-state chains, and employ Birmingham law firms; all of which hurt our local economy.

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