Even with the pandemic, the General Assembly passed the capital budget and the budget implementation plan. With the passing of the budget, we are excited to share with you some tremendous news along with some items that we are going to have to go back full force next year.
There was not much to 2020’s Legislative Session if you look at it from the perspective of the quiet halls of the Capitol Building. But behind the scenes in every district, lawmakers and their staff, lobbyists, and advocates like you had to readjust to the new normal of Zoom meetings and social distancing, amongst all of the additional new programs to offer relief to constituents. With respect to the legislature and the current pandemic, we put a pause on our advocacy efforts to also focus on supporting communities impacted by COVID-19.
As you may have heard, the General Assembly met in late Mat to discuss the Capital budget and the budget implementation plan. Though the Alliance staff, and our farmer and eater members were not there to knock on doors, we understand that the session was unlike any other. Masked up, the Senators debated in the Capital, and the House set up their debate floor at the BOS Center in Springfield. We imagined the usual hustling and bustling of legislators, lobbyists, and changemakers, but were struck with the reality of the necessity to respect social distancing and found ourselves listening to the debates over ILGA live stream.
Thanks to all the work of our staff, partners, and members we laid the groundwork for these wins. Every Zoom meeting, phone call, and story shared matters and made a difference. This year was very challenging but we all showed what can happen when we work together and persevere.
- $500,000 appropriated to the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund
WOW! For over five years we have been advocating with you for the General Assembly to appropriate much needed funds to this program. And now we can celebrate!
Thank you especially to Sara Feigenholtz, State Senator, Representative Tim Butler, and Robyn Gabel for State Representative without whose leadership this fund would not have been possible. We are also incredibly grateful for the work of Illinois Farmers Market Association, Illinois Public Health Institute, Experimental Station, The Illinois Environmental Council, and so many more who have worked tirelessly to make this happen.
- $300,000 Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program
This appropriation is equal to 2020, but less than the Governor’s proposed budget of $600,000. It was the coalition’s goals to double the funding for this program, which would have covered an additional 50,000 acres in cover crops.
- $7.5 million for Soil and Water Conservation Districts
For years Districts have been operating with funding cuts, and FY2020, FY2021 will be no different. The $7.5 million is similar to the budget that the Districts were appropriated in FY2020. This budget again falls short of the necessities that our District offices need to operate and build capacity.
- Extension of the Partner’s for Conservation Fund
The PCF was set to expire in June of 2021. A team of conservation organizations banded together to and successfully extended the Fund to fiscal year 2026. The program was not appropriated any additional funds and will operate on the same budget as FY2020
These are challenging times for the state budget. We are grateful that legislators value these programs and awarded reappropriations, rather than simply sweeping the funds into different programs.
The setbacks just set stage for the comeback, we look forward to continuing our education of the public and policymakers on the most important issues facing diverse agriculturalists through Illinois.