From 2017, central government will commit to buying fresh, locally sourced, seasonal food, through a new, simplified food and drink buying standard.£400 million of potential new business for the British food industry was announced today by Prime Minister David Cameron and Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss, as part of the government’s long-term economic plan to back British businesses.The Prime Minister announced that from 2017, all of central government will commit to buying fresh, locally sourced, seasonal food, so that all food that can be bought locally will be bought locally. This will be done through a new, simplified food and drink buying standard, ‘The Plan for Public Procurement’, which will be launched today to benefit thousands of British farmers, small businesses, rural economies and the British public.The public sector in England spends £1.2 billion every year on food and drink. Up to £600 million of that is spent on imported produce, £400 million of which could be sourced from within the UK. The commitment from central government to use this new buying standard means that just over half of the £400 million will be up for grabs by British farmers. In addition, the wider public sector will be encouraged and supported in using the new framework with the expectation that all schools and hospitals will, in future, serve more locally reared meats and freshly picked fruit and vegetables.Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Our long-term economic plan is all about backing the do-ers and the hard-workers – and no one does more or works as hard in Britain today than our farmers. By opening up these contracts, we can help them create more jobs, invest in their businesses and make sure people in our country have a healthier lifestyle."It’s a triple win – and will mean a brighter future for our country."Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: "This move will mean that food served in canteens across the public sector can be more local, seasonal and tastier."It will help drive growth in Britain’s first class food and drink industry and benefit the environment through reduced waste, higher take-up of meals and less unappetising food left on plates."This is a huge boost to British farmers and producers and for students, patients and employees who want to enjoy fantastic food.Public sector buyers will now judge potential suppliers against five key criteria:- how food is produced and whether the food was produced locally- the health and nutritional content of food purchased- the resource efficiency of producing the food, such as water and energy use and waste production- how far the food bought meets government’s socio-economic priorities such as involvement of SMEs- quality of service and value for moneyBritish farmers are expected to benefit significantly from the plan because British farmers are best placed to meet these tough new standards.In addition to backing local and sustainable food, the new standards prioritise procurement from smaller producers, thereby helping SMEs gain access to the lucrative public sector market.To support these small businesses further, government will also put in place a new buying process from September, centred around an online portal. Companies which register on this portal and meet the requirements of the plan’s scorecard will automatically be alerted when any eligible contracts come up for tender. They will then be able to apply in just a few clicks.A Plan for Public ProcurementThe ‘Plan for Public Procurement’ will be published later this morning following Dr Peter Bonfield’s Review into public produce procurement, which was commissioned by Defra last year. The plan has already generated support from across government and the farming and food sector, including the National Farmers Union, the Food and Drink Federation and major catering companies like Compass and Baxter Storey who supply food across the public sector.Following the launch of Defra’s £400million ‘A Plan for Public Procurement’ (Monday), NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said the plan was a significant step in the right direction to Government backing British Farming.“We applaud the work that Dr Peter Bonfield has done to develop a new architecture for public sector procurement that aims to put more British food on public sector plates. That aim, to grow the amount of locally sourced food and drink, chimes with our own wider aspiration of growing the British farming industry,” she said.“I really look forward to working with the new Secretary of State not only on this procurement plan but also how we build a strategic plan for growing British agriculture.“With agriculture featuring on the new school curriculum for the first time, this procurement plan means that children will not only be learning about how there food is produced, they will be able ?to have more British food on their plates. I am also delighted to have such support across Government departments enabling them to more easily source British produce.“Of course saying that more British food is sourced to our standards of production is one thing; to ensure that this happens on the ground, it’s important that public sector buyers and caterers know that they can easily meet the plans aims by simply sourcing food to Red Tractor standards, the widely recognised mark of British food production standards.”Dr Bonfield said: "I want this work to change how every public institution views the food it buys – we have had a great deal of support from schools, hospitals, businesses, caterers, and farmers, all keen to be a part of this exciting new approach."The appetite for change is there - by creating the right environment and giving organisations the right tools, small businesses will be able to sell nutritious, top quality food to the public sector market. This is the right approach for our health, our environment and also British businesses.Agri-tech winnersThe announcement comes as 15 agri-tech projects are told they will receive a share of £18 million of funding from government and industry to help accelerate agricultural innovation and their commercial viability.This funding will help to support the growth of agricultural science and technology sectors in the UK, which already employs nearly 4 million people and is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets.The 15 projects will receive £12.1 million funding from government with £5.7 million co-investment from industry. They are all led by UK companies and span 3 key areas of the agriculture sector – crops, livestock and aquaculture.