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Buy American Requirement

Audit Faults ‘Buy American’ Compliance at California Schools

California is home to the nation’s largest agricultural economy, but the state auditor says it does little to ensure schools follow federal rules requiring they serve food produced in the United States.

Jonathan J. Cooper: Associated Press
July 27, 2017

California, home to the nation’s largest agricultural economy, does little to ensure its schools follow federal rules requiring the serving of food produced in the United States, according to an audit released Thursday.

State education officials only recently began checking where school food is produced — and those reviews are too weak, Auditor Elaine Howle concluded.

Six school districts checked had purchased foreign food but failed to adequately justify it, the audit showed.

Education Department officials say the “Buy American” mandate is vague. But they agreed to implement most of the auditor’s recommended improvements.

The audit was prepared at the request of state lawmakers, who took an interest in school food after local farmers and food processors said schools were increasingly turning to foreign suppliers.

In 2015, the Sacramento City Unified School District took heat for buying canned peaches, pears and applesauce from China. The district quickly reversed course and used American suppliers once the food ran out.

“It’s my hope that if we have a little more attention on a broader scale that we will see a decision by other districts to source domestically produced food products into the school feeding program,” said Rich Hudgins, president of the California Canning Peach Association.

California produces nearly all of the nation’s processed peaches — $211 million worth last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The state’s $47 billion-a-year agriculture industry produces a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts, according to the state Department of Food & Agriculture.

“California stands to benefit significantly from compliance with the Buy American requirement,” Howle wrote in a letter to lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown.

A 1998 federal law requires school lunch programs to purchase food grown and processed in the U.S. “to the maximum extent practicable.”

The auditor found that the California Department of Education, which distributes $2 billion of federal nutrition money to districts, failed to check for compliance until the 2016-2017 school year. Even then, reviewers didn’t collect enough evidence to justify their conclusions.

The department has also failed to publish the findings online as required by federal law, the auditors found.

Education Department officials say the U.S. Department of Agriculture didn’t require reviews until last year and provides little guidance about what constitutes “the maximum extent practicable.”

The department “is concerned that the report is misleading regarding Education’s obligations and compliance record over the years,” Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Michelle Zumot wrote in response to the audit.

Zumot agreed to improve training for reviewers and post findings online.

Auditors reviewed policies and food purchases at six school districts: Elk Grove, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Stockton, and said none had adequate Buy American policies. Only San Diego and San Francisco consistently included Buy American language in contracts with food suppliers.

All six bought food from foreign sources without maintaining documents to justify the purchase, auditors found. Schools can buy foreign food if there is no domestic producer or if U.S products would be significantly more expensive.

Verifying compliance will be difficult because many food labels don’t say where the product was grown or processed, they added.

Agriculture groups are pushing for legislation that would tighten the rules. A state bill, which has cleared the Senate, would require the state to more aggressively review schools’ policies, bid solicitations, contracts and food labels for Buy American compliance.

Legislation introduced in Congress would require schools to get permission from the USDA before buying foreign food unless no domestic producer is available.

Dr. Pan Bill to Help Schools Comply with Federal “Buy American” Law Passes Assembly Education Committee

SACRAMENTO – Senate Bill 730, which would require the California Department of Education (CDE) to monitor compliance of the Buy American provision of the National School Lunch Program, passed the Assembly Education Committee today on a vote of 5 to 0. The bill is sponsored by Agricultural Council of California.

“Our farmers and ranchers meet some of the highest worker protection and environmental standards in the world and produce high-quality and healthful food,” said Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Senator representing the Sacramento region. “Our students deserve to benefit from the quality of American agriculture and California schools should support our farmers.”

In 1998, Congress added a provision to federal law requiring schools to purchase domestically produced food products for school lunches. Unfortunately, there is limited enforcement of this provision, which has led to schools purchasing imported food products to serve to their students.

SB 730 will create a monitoring mechanism at the California Department of Education to apply the Buy American requirement of the William F. Goodling Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. Under the federal law, schools and institutions that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) are required to purchase domestically grown and processed foods to the maximum extent practicable.

Under SB 730, the CDE would be required inform school districts of the Buy American provisions of the law and requires that information be made available online, including the Buy American requirements and best practices, which provides transparency to schools and parents.

“California farmers achieve the most ambitious goals in the nation to ensure food safety, reduce environmental impacts, protect the health of the workers and provide the highest farm wages in the nation,” said Tricia Geringer, VP of Government Affairs at Agricultural Council of California. “Spending taxpayer dollars to source food products for our children that are grown and processed under very different standards does not comport with our priorities. When we support our famers and producers that adhere to these regulations, we demonstrate that we truly believe in them.”

To be considered a domestic product, the food must be produced and processed in the U.S. with over 51 percent of the final processed product consisting of domestic agricultural commodities.

Recent incidents by some California public school districts have demonstrated that the Buy American requirements are not being followed on a consistent basis.

Senate Education Committee Approves SB 730 to Boost Compliance with the Buy American Provision for School Lunches

Bill Improves Farm to Fork Options for Schools and Ensures School Children Consume Food of the Highest Quality and Safety

ClingPeaches_Aug2015SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, the State Senate Education Committee approved SB 730 by Dr. Pan (D-Sacramento), a bill sponsored by Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council), which will establish steps for California to monitor compliance with and enforcement of the federal Buy American provision in school lunch and breakfast programs. SB 730 will improve local farm to fork food options for school children.

Ag Council President Emily Rooney said, “SB 730 is needed given that the Buy American provision is not being adequately monitored and enforced, and as a result, multiple school districts have purchased food products from foreign sources.  State agencies have the responsibility to provide oversight and ensure compliance, so SB 730 creates mechanisms for the California Department of Education (CDE) to provide guidance to school food authorities to ensure transparency in school food purchases and improve enforcement of the provision.”

The California Canning Peach Association President & CEO Rich Hudgins said, “California’s farmers and food processors comply with state regulations to reduce emissions to improve air quality, carefully manage pesticide use, implement environmental stewardship practices, and our state has the strongest worker protections and wages.  However, all of these environmental and health benefits are more than negated when school districts spend taxpayer funds to source Chinese canned fruit produced over 6,000 miles away.”

Spending taxpayer dollars to buy food products for our children that are grown and processed under very different standards does not reflect our policy priorities and is extraordinarily discouraging to those in the agricultural community who work so hard to achieve compliance with our rigorous standards.  Increased monitoring and enforcement of the Buy American provision ensures that our children consume food of the highest quality and safety.  SB 730 supports locally grown crops, as well as our state’s economy, and reinforces California’s commitment as a world leader on climate change.

Under the Buy American provision, schools and entities within the jurisdiction of the CDE that participate in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program are required to purchase domestically grown and processed foods to the maximum extent practicable.

Ag Council is pleased the Senate Education Committee approved SB 730 on the consent calendar, meaning the bill was deemed noncontroversial and no opposition was expressed at the hearing.  Ag Council thanks Dr. Pan for authoring SB 730, and we appreciate the members of the Senate Education Committee for approving the bill: Chairman Allen (D-Santa Monica), Vice Chair Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), Sen. Galgiani (D-Stockton), Sen. Mendoza (D-Artesia), Sen. Leyva (D-Chino) and Sen. Vidak (R-Hanford).  The bill moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Ag Council & Others Urge Senate Education Committee to Support SB 730 to Improve Compliance with the Buy American Provision for School Lunches

April 21, 2017

The Honorable Ben Allen
Chairman, Senate Education Committee
California State Senate
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Support SB 730 (Pan), relating to pupil nutrition

Dear Senator Allen:

Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) and the organizations listed on this letter respectfully ask for your support of SB 730 to establish steps that the California Department of Education (CDE) must take to monitor compliance with and enforcement of the federal Buy American requirement in the school lunch and breakfast programs in California.  The bill is up for consideration in the Senate Education Committee on April 26, 2017. Given that state agencies have the responsibility to provide oversight regarding compliance with the Buy American provision in schools, SB 730 creates mechanisms for CDE to provide guidance to school food authorities to ensure transparency in school food purchases and improve enforcement of the provision.

Under the federal Buy American requirement, schools and institutions participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program must purchase domestically grown and processed food to the maximum extent feasible with limited exceptions. To be considered a domestic product, the food must be produced and processed in the U.S. with over 51 percent of the final processed product consisting of domestic agricultural commodities.

SB 730 is warranted due to recent actions by some public school districts in California. As reported by the Sacramento Bee in November 2015, the Sacramento City Unified School district purchased Chinese canned peaches and mixed fruit even though nearly all U.S. canned peaches and plastic packaged peaches are grown here in California.  Once the issue was raised publicly, the school district stated it made a mistake and ended future deliveries.  A similar situation took place within the Elk Grove Unified School District when it purchased diced peaches from China.  Other school districts in our state have also purchased imported agricultural products that are grown locally in California.

The absence of transparency and lack of understanding regarding school district sourcing of food products for our children—despite the Buy American requirement—is concerning, and the above instances are just a few examples highlighting the need for SB 730.

In addition, our farmers and producers work hard to grow safe, healthy food, and they implement environmentally friendly stewardship practices.  California grown food is produced under strict regulations to ensure food safety, reduce environmental impacts, carefully manage pesticide use, protect the health of workers and provide the highest farm wages in the nation.  Spending taxpayer dollars to source food products for our children that are grown and processed under very different standards does not reflect our policy priorities and is extraordinarily discouraging to those in the agricultural community who work so hard to achieve compliance with our rigorous standards.

Further, California is known worldwide as a leader on climate change, and the Legislature continues to demonstrate a clear commitment on this issue through its policymaking. California’s farmers and producers, as well as food processors, abide by the numerous regulatory agency directives to lower emissions and improve air quality through the purchase of cleaner burning transportation vehicles and equipment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  The state should not undermine its own efforts to reduce GHGs by spending taxpayer dollars to import products from nations not in compliance with equivalent emissions standards.

Enforcement of the Buy American requirement ensures our children consume food of the highest quality and safety, supports locally-grown products and our economy, and reinforces California’s commitment as a world leader on climate change.

For these reasons, we ask for your support of SB 730 to establish steps for CDE to monitor compliance with and enforcement of the Buy American requirement in the school lunch and breakfast programs in California.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Agricultural Council of California
Almond Alliance of California
Apricot Producers of California
Association of California Egg Farmers
Butte County Rice Growers Association
California Association of Wheat Growers
California Bean Shippers Association
California Canning Peach Association
California Dairies, Inc.
California Grain & Feed Association
California Pear Growers Association
California Seed Association
California State Floral Association
California Warehouse Association
Horizon Nut Company
Pacific Coast Producers
Sunsweet Growers
Sun-Maid Growers
UnitedAg
Valley Fig Growers

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For Immediate Release:
August 11, 2016

For More Information:
Robin Adam 209-658-2600

Sacramento– Senator Galgiani’s (D-Stockton) audit request of the California Department of Education (CDE) was approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee yesterday. Specifically the audit will determine whether school districts under the jurisdiction of CDE are in compliance with the Buy American requirement, a provision within the federal Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 1998.

According to the Buy American requirement, schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program must purchase domestically grown and processed foods to the maximum extent possible. The food must be produced and processed in the United States with the final processed product consisting of over 51 percent domestic agricultural commodities. With limited exceptions to the requirement, and in compliance with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, school food authorities (SFAs) must ensure all food deliveries comply with the Buy American provision or have adequate documentation justifying any exception for non-domestic food purchases.

Recent actions by some public school districts in California warrant an audit of the CDE compliance with the Buy American requirement. In November 2015, the Sacramento Bee reported that Sacramento City Unified School District purchased Chinese canned peaches and mixed fruit even though nearly all U.S. canned peaches and plastic packaged peaches are grown here in California, and four food processor warehouses with supplies of canned peaches are within a two-hour drive of Sacramento. A similar situation occurred with the Elk Grove Unified School District.

“As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I was troubled to hear of these deviations from the Buy American requirement. Parents have a right to know where the food their children are eating at school is from and certifies the quality and safety of the food schools are serving. California serves as an agricultural hub of the world, and we should take advantage of the breadth of local resources we have at our disposal, and support our local economies,” said Senator Galgiani.

President and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association Rich Hudgins said, “An audit of California schools to determine their compliance with the Buy American requirement is warranted due to recent actions by some public school districts to purchase Chinese canned fruit that is also available domestically. The absence of transparency and understanding of the Buy American requirement regarding school food purchases for our children is concerning and serves to highlight the need for an audit to determine compliance and additional steps necessary to increase transparency regarding purchase decisions.”

Ag Council President Emily Rooney said, “We are proud that California is the leading agricultural-producing state in the nation with over 400 commodities grown and produced in our state. With a wide array of nutritious food grown and produced right here in California, it is incumbent upon the California Department of Education to review compliance and enforcement of the Buy American requirement. Enforcement of the requirement ensures our children consume food of the highest quality and safety, supports locally-grown products and our economy, and reinforces California’s commitment as a world leader on climate change.”

Audit Initiated by Ag Council of the Buy American Provision is Approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee

On August 10, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) unanimously approved an audit initiated by Ag Council and championed by Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) to review enforcement of the Buy American requirement.  Specifically, the audit will determine whether schools and entities under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Education (CDE), and participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, are in compliance with the Buy American requirement.  If not in compliance, the audit will outline the steps CDE will take to provide oversight and compliance of the requirement.

Ag Council thanks Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, JLAC Chair Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) and all of the JLAC members for approving the audit request without any opposition.  We will keep our members apprised of the outcome.

Please read on for a letter of support for the audit by Ag Council, the California Farm Bureau Federation and Western Growers Association.

August 8, 2016

The Honorable Freddie Rodriguez, Chair
Joint Legislative Audit Committee
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: Support for the audit request to determine compliance with the Buy American Requirement for schools and entities within the California Department of Education

Dear Chairman Rodriguez:

As agricultural associations in California representing farmers and producers throughout the state, we write in support of Senator Cathleen Galgiani’s request to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee for an audit of the California Department of Education (CDE) to review compliance with the Buy American requirement. The audit should determine whether schools and entities under the jurisdiction of CDE, and participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, are in compliance with the Buy American requirement, which is a provision within the federal Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 1998. If not in compliance, we respectfully ask that the audit detail the steps CDE will take to provide oversight and compliance of the requirement.

Under the Buy American requirement, schools and institutions participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program must purchase domestically grown and processed foods to the maximum extent feasible. The food must be produced and processed in the U.S. with over 51 percent of the final processed product consisting of domestic agricultural commodities to be considered a domestic product.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin W. Concannon recently explained the limited exceptions to the Buy American requirement in a May 2016 letter to leading school foodservice distributors, “In light of its overwhelming importance, there are very limited exceptions to the purchase of domestic foods; these are only permitted after first considering domestic alternatives and when products are unavailable or prohibitively costly.” Also, under USDA regulations, school food authorities (SFAs) must ensure that all food deliveries comply with the Buy American provision or have adequate documentation justifying any exception for non-domestic food purchases.

An audit of California’s compliance with the Buy American requirement is warranted due to recent actions taken by some public school districts in California. Specifically, as reported in November 2015 by the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento City Unified School District purchased Chinese canned peaches and mixed fruit even though nearly all U.S. canned peaches and plastic packaged peaches are grown here in California, and four food processor warehouses with supplies of canned peaches are within a two-hour drive of Sacramento.

Once the California Canning Peach Association raised the issue publicly, the school district stated it made a mistake and ended future deliveries. A similar situation took place within the Elk Grove Unified School District when it purchased cases of diced peaches from China.

The absence of transparency and understanding regarding school district sourcing of products for our children is concerning, and the above instances are just a few examples highlighting the need for an audit. Further, after a cursory review, it has been found that school districts throughout the state—including some in your legislative district—have purchased imported agricultural products that are also locally grown in California. We believe there are others, which leads to the need for an audit.

In addition, California is known worldwide as a leader on climate change and this commitment is clear given Governor Jerry Brown’s significant work on the issue. As such, we should ensure that actions by state agencies do not implement a double standard when it comes to climate change. California’s farmers and producers, as well as food processors, abide by the numerous regulatory agency directives to lower emissions and use cleaner burning transportation vehicles and equipment in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The state must not undermine its efforts to reduce GHGs by spending taxpayer dollars to import products from nations not complying with equivalent emissions standards.

Our farmers and producers work hard to grow safe, healthy food, and they implement environmentally friendly stewardship practices. California grown food is produced under strict regulations to ensure food safety, reduce environmental impacts, carefully manage pesticide use and protect the health of workers. Spending taxpayer dollars to source food products for our children that are grown and processed under very different standards does not seem to comport with our priorities.

We are proud that California is the leading agricultural-producing state in the nation with over 400 commodities grown and produced in our state. With a wide array of nutritious food grown and produced here in California, it is incumbent upon CDE to review compliance and enforcement of the Buy American requirement. Enforcement of the Buy American requirement ensures our children consume food of the highest quality and safety, supports locally-grown products and our economy, and reinforces California’s commitment as a world leader on climate change.

Given these facts, we believe it is evident an audit is necessary to determine the extent to which CDE is ensuring that California school districts are in compliance with the Buy American requirement. As such, we support the audit request and respectfully ask for your support.

Sincerely,

Tricia Geringer
Agricultural Council of California

Matthew Allen
Western Growers Association

Noelle Cremers
California Farm Bureau Federation

 

Ag Council Calls for Stronger Enforcement of the Buy American Provision

December 7, 2015

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Re: Enforcement of Buy American Provision

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

The undersigned organizations write in strong support of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act’s (NSLA) Buy American provision and encourage strengthening enforcement of this important requirement. This provision greatly benefits the American agricultural economy and ensures the quality of the food our Nation’s children are receiving in school.

Under Section 104(d) of the William F. Goodling Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 1998, schools and institutions that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) are required to purchase domestically grown and processed foods to the maximum extent practicable. To be considered a domestic product the food must be produced and processed in the U.S. with over 51 percent of the final processed product consisting of domestic agricultural commodities. This provision applies to all funds in the food service account and is not limited to federal reimbursements.

Our organizations are deeply concerned that the Buy America Act requirements of the National School Lunch Act are not being adequately monitored and enforced. Our concerns were amplified with the Sacramento City Unified School District’s recent acknowledgement that they have been purchasing canned peaches, pears and applesauce from China. Since there is currently no transparency regarding school purchases of imported products, we must assume there are other districts throughout the country purchasing imported food products.

Given the importance of the Buy American provision, we would like to see the enforcement of this requirement become a priority for USDA. We encourage USDA to consider monitoring the procurement specifications and contractor performance. This increased accountability and enforcement will enhance compliance with the Buy American provision and ensure scenarios like the recent one in the Sacramento City Unified School District do not continue to occur.

We appreciate the Department’s consideration and look forward to working with you on this pressing issue.

Sincerely,

Agricultural Council of California
Agri-Mark, Inc.
American Agri-Women
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition
American Mushroom Institute
Apricot Producers of California
Blue Diamond Growers
Butte County Rice Growers Association
California Canning Peach Association
California Farm Bureau Federation
California Fresh Fruit Association
California League of Food Processors
California Pear Growers
California Tomato Growers Association
California Women for Agriculture
Del Monte Foods
Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association
Farm Credit East
Florida Citrus Mutual
Horizon Nut Company
Illinois Farm Bureau
MBG Marketing-The Blueberry People
Michigan Farm Bureau
Michigan Processing Apple Growers
Midwest Food Processors Association
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Grange
National Grape Cooperative Association, Inc.
National Onion Association
NORPAC Foods, Inc.
Northwest Dairy Association/Darigold
Northwest Horticultural Council
Pacific Coast Producers
Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service
Plains Cotton Cooperative Association
Red Gold, Inc.
Seneca Foods Corporation
Summer Prize Fruit Company
Sunkist Growers, Inc.
Sun-Maid Growers of California
Sunsweet Growers, Inc.
Tree Top, Inc.
United Producers, Inc.
United Ag
Valley Fig Growers
Washington State Council of Farmer Cooperatives
Wawona Frozen Foods
Welch Foods Inc., a Cooperative
Western Growers Association

 

Ag Council Thanks Sen. Galgiani for her Leadership on the Buy American Provision

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