ISA goes to Washington

Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Outreach Coordinator Drew Thomason and central Illinois farmer Marcus Maier* spent two days in Washington D.C. in March talking with lawmakers and their offices about need for a new, five-year farm bill that funds sustainable agricultural programs.

In a whirlwind tour Marcus and Drew met with the offices of the three Illinois freshmen members of Congress that are on the House Committee on Agriculture, including meeting personally with Rep. Rodney Davis. Marcus and Drew also met with Sen. Richard Durbin’s office.

Drew and Marcus’s efforts were part of a larger push by sustainable agriculture advocates from across the nation arranged by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Their efforts came after Congress failed to approve a new five-year farm bill, and instead passed a short-term measure that extended parts of the 2008 farm bill through September of this year. Unfortunately that extension left many sustainable agricultural programs stranded without funding.

Programs Drew and Marcus focused on:

  • Conservation Stewardship Program

  • Value Added Producer Grants

  • Specialty Crop Block Grants

  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

These programs help grow agriculture in a way that benefits the environment and creates new jobs and economic opportunities in Illinois. Specifically the various programs and grants  encourage conservation practices on traditional row crop farms, help agricultural related businesses grow, fund programs such as Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Illinois and train a new generation of farmers and ranchers.

Thanks to efforts like this and a concentrated push by conservation advocates, Conservation Stewardship Program funding was recently restored for 2013. Click HERE for those details.

Now it’s time to make sure your voice is heard. Call your representative and senators and let them know you want a five-year farm bill that supports sustainable agriculture, and small and family farms!

*Marcus lives with his wife and three children live on the farmstead that’s been in his family for four generations. He’s an advocate of using conservation practices to maintain and improve the health of his 400 acres, and benefits from federal programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program that help cover the costs of his cover crops.