New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer signed an executive order establishing a food policy council to increase sales of local agricultural products to consumers, with an emphasis on expanding the consumer market for organic foods.

The New York State Council on Food Policy will coordinate state agriculture policy and make recommendations on developing food policy to ensure the availability of safe, fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all New Yorkers, especially low income residents, senior citizens and children.

“Ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to safe, fresh and nutritious food is a top priority that the Council on Food Policy will be addressing head-on,” said Spitzer. “The council will bring the public, producers and government together to explore ways in which we can improve our existing food production and delivery systems, expand capacity, and in particular, address the critical needs of children and low-income New Yorkers. Additionally, by expanding the sale of locally grown products, we can help struggling farmers, and expand the local agriculture and state economy.”

The council will include 21 representatives from all areas of the food system, including six agency heads. The state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker will serve as the chairperson.

The other members will be appointed by the Governor and will include the Dean of the New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; a farm organization representative; a school food administrator; a consumer representative; two food assistance organization representatives; a nutritionist; an anti-hunger advocate; and three representatives from the food industry at large, which could include producers, distributors, processors or retailers with at least one involved in organic production.

There will also be four appointed positions for members with experience and expertise related to agriculture, nutrition or food policy that will be recommended by the Temporary President of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, the Minority Leader of the Senate, and the Minority Leader of the Assembly.

The council will make recommendations to the governor on state regulations, legislation and budget proposals in the area of food policy to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive inter-agency approach to state food policy issues. The council will also deliver a written annual report to the governor.

“Government decisions about food policy have driven consumers’ eating habits for decades, but not always to the benefit of personal health,” said New York State Health Commissioner Richard Daines.