Local Food Policy Updates

By: Wes King

Illinois State Capitol Building in SpringfieldIt’s been a busy last several months on the Local food and farm policy front. Here in Illinois at the General Assembly, this coming Friday is the deadline for substantive legislation to pass out of the original chamber it was introduced in. As usual, most of the thousands of bill that have been introduced in both the Illinois Senate and Illinois House of Representatives haven’t made it this far and even fewer bills will make it through the whole process to the Governor’s desk.

In order to make a less than transparent and not so easy to follow process a little more manageable, every spring Illinois Stewardship Alliance develops bill tracker listing all the various food and farm related pieces of legislation introduced each year, the status of that legislation and Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s position. That bill tracker can be found by clicking here. Also if someone is interested in getting involved with our policy advisory committee that reviews and decides positions on all the legislation I track, please let me know and I can tell you more about it.

 With that said, I wanted to provide a few highlights and a disappointment:

  • HB2468 – the Cottage Food Expansion Bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tryon passed the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously on Friday April 17. HB2486 now heads to the Senate where it will be sponsored by Senator David Koehler. If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the Governor, HB2486 would expand where cottage food products can be sold to include on-farm, farm-stands and CSAs (no longer just farmers markets) for cottage food products where the signature or featured ingredient was produced on farm. HB2486 would also increase the gross sales limit, authorize the IL Farmers Market Task Force to develop an expanded list of allowed products and a few more small but important changes. It also includes an exemption from food handling laws for charitable organizations doing bake sale fundraisers.
  • HB2487 – the Seed Library Protection Bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Pritchard unfortunately will not be making it past this Friday’sdeadline. The Department of Agriculture had concerns regarding exempting interpersonal seed sharing and seed libraries from Illinois’ Seed Law. In the end the Department wanted to have regulations and rules for seed libraries, rules and regulations that went well beyond the kind of minimal oversight Illinois Stewardship Alliance and some of our partners thought were appropriate and justifiable. Highlighting the need for increased grassroots level engagement in legislative efforts, we were not able to move the bill forward over the Department’s objections. Next year we plan to take another bite at the proverbial apple but we are going to need a lot more help to make it possible. Stay tuned for more information about how you can get involved in the effort, to protect interpersonal seed sharing from government intervention.
  • HB3830 – Co-op Law Modernization Bill, sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi, is on track to make it past the Friday deadline and on to the Senate where Senator Scott Bennet will be the sponsor. HB3830 will modernize Illinois law governing food co-operatives which was written 100 years ago in 1915, making it easier to start and structure co-ops including permitting the formation of worker co-ops.