Good News: 2021 Legislative Wrap Up

You can expect more local food & cleaner water, thanks to key legislative victories

As the 2021 legislative session comes to a close, Alliance members and supporters, farmers and eaters, and ally organizations have so much to be proud of.

Here are some results of our farmer-led, eater powered campaigns this year:

Greater access to unique, artisan food products– like jams, jellies, baked goods, pickles and hot sauce– made by farms and home-bakers in Illinois.

The Home-to-Market Act SB2007 was the number one priority on the Alliance’s policy agenda this year and was passed unanimously by the General Assembly. The bill creates smart new regulations for cottage food producers and expands the avenues where they can sell their products to include not only farmers markets, but also fairs and festivals, home sales, delivery, and shipping. The bill gives farmers and food entrepreneurs across Illinois the opportunity to start and grow a food business from their home kitchen, while also giving Illinoisans more opportunity to purchase locally-made foods and support their neighbors and members of their community with their food dollars. Pending approval by the Governor, the bill will go into effect on January 1st, 2022.

Cleaner drinking water and climate resilience.

Although the Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act did not pass, a significant budget appropriation for conservation exceeded our expectations! The Partners for Conservation Fund was extended and received an extra $6 million. This includes $4 million for Soil Water Conservation Districts to continue programing and grant work. And for the first time ever the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy was awarded $2 million for implementation. Those funds will help carry out the strategy to keep farm nutrients in place and protect our drinking water. Overall, this is a big win. Protecting conservation funding, and providing a new direction for its use, ensures that Illinois farmers — who have an outsized impact on our land and water– have the tools they need to be good stewards of those natural resources.

More acres covered and more farmers rewarded for planting cover crops. 

Funding for the Fall Covers for Spring Savings Reward Program was doubled! Over 2,000 people signed the petition asking lawmakers to devote more resources to this program. And they listened! Thanks to this additional funding, Illinois will be able to cover 100,000 acres in cover crops and award more farmers for shielding their soil, sequestering carbon, and protecting our drinking water.

Black farmers can play a leading role in our local healthy food system and create regional networks of jobs, food, and opportunities. This resolution that passed unanimously urges the Illinois Department of Agriculture to study the effects and the types of land loss to Black farmers from post slavery until today. It also calls for state support and capacity building for Black farming communities across the state and a dedication to helping grow agriculture in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

More farmers markets offering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) match programs– helping SNAP shoppers in your community afford fresh fruits and vegetables and keeping more federal SNAP dollars in your local economy.

The budget includes a $500,000 appropriations request for the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund. The fund will be used to help farmers markets across the state start or expand a SNAP match program– a program that enables SNAP customers to shop at farmer markets by matching up to $25 of their farmers market purchase with an additional $25 that can be used on fresh fruits and vegetables. SNAP match programs double the purchasing power of low income shoppers to afford fresh food, and they encourage SNAP customers to spend their federal SNAP dollars directly with farms in our state instead of big box stores, keeping more dollars in our local communities.  The $500,000 appropriation is now eligible for a federal match, which can bring the total fund to $1 Million dollars, all of which will be directly invested with SNAP customers and local farms and businesses.

A task force will begin exploring ways to use your taxpayer dollars to support more local, fair, healthy, humane, and sustainable food businesses in our state.

Annually, your taxpayer dollars purchase millions of dollars of food through state-run veterans homes, universities, prisons, and schools, but there is no mechanism for how much of this is spent on supporting local and sustainable businesses in our state. The passage of the Good Food Task Force Resolution HJR33 marks the first step in building a new transparent, and transformative procurement policy for the state of Illinois. The Resolution instructs the state to form a task force of state leaders and agencies that will explore the state’s current procurement policies and practices and make recommendations that will encourage the state to purchase from local, fair, healthy, humane, and sustainable businesses in our state. Ultimately, with a new procurement policy, you can expect better school lunches and more economic wealth for our state at the same time.

The Vegetable Garden Protection Act protects the right of all Illinoisans to grow their own food and prevents units of local government from enacting regulations that obstruct gardening on a person’s own property. “I just want to grow my own food on my own property. In America, that really shouldn’t be such a controversial idea, and it certainly shouldn’t be illegal,” said Nicole Virgil, an Elmhurst resident and gardener whose story catapulted this piece of legislation onto the desks of Illinois lawmakers. 

These important legislative victories were made possible by your support and the support of other partner organizations.

We a debt of gratitude to partners who made these victories happen like Institute for Justice, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, Illinois Farmers Market Association, Illinois Public Health Institute, Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, Advocates for Urban Agriculture, The Land Connection, Angelic Organics Learning Center, Food Works,  American Farmland Trust-Midwest, Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club, Izaak Walton League, the Nature Conservancy, and the Association of Soil Water Conservation Districts.

We are especially grateful to the Illinois Environmental Council team for their tireless work in Springfield on all of these initiatives.

In the coming weeks, you can help get these big victories over the finish line.
You will receive quick and easy opportunities to urge Governor Pritzker to sign these bills through email, calls, and your social media. If you haven’t already, join our eNews list for the latest intel and opportunities to use your voice, or become a member of the Alliance today.