This February, Alliance members from across the state came together during our Annual Gathering of Stewards to discuss and approve our state policy agenda. The legislation in the agenda was put forward by farmers in our Local Food Farmer Caucus and Soil Health Farmer Caucus with widespread approval by our members at large. The 2021 Policy Agenda will help grow small farms and the local food economy, make local food more accessible to vulnerable populations, make state purchasing of local food a priority, and help Illinois farmers create greater climate resilience for our state.
Support Farmers, Artisan Food Maker & Home Bakers:
Home-to-Market Act HB2615, Rep. Guzzardi
Cottage foods are foods prepared and packaged in a home kitchen. Cottage food operators want to sell their products at fairs and festivals, at home, through delivery, and through shipping to meet the growing demand for their products, but current regulations limit sales to seasonal farmers markets. These regulations hamper business growth and cripple start-up food businesses. Additionally, more individuals and families are looking for ways to safely earn income from their homes due to the pandemic and recent layoffs. Reforming cottage food law will provide more entrepreneurs, especially women, minority, and low-income entrepreneurs, a means to start or grow a home-based food business while also giving shoppers greater access to delicious Illinois made products.
Defend Conservation Funding: Illinois Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act HB1792/SB2474, Rep. Vella / Sen. Villivalam
The purpose of the Illinois Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act is to extend the Partners for Conservation Fund, one of Illinois largest funds supporting conservation efforts which is set to sunset (expire) this Summer. The Act seeks to do two main actions: 1) extend the funding to 2027 and 2) add a new purpose in order to use funds to administer and implement the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy’s 2025 milestone to reduce nitrogen in Illinois waters by 15% and Phosphorous by 25%. Illinois is THE leading state in nutrient pollution that flows into the Mississippi River, and we are already two centuries away from reaching our Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Goals. The loss of conservation funding will put Illinois even further behind. In order to fight climate change and restore waterways, Illinois must center farmers as champions of climate solutions. Letting the Fund sunset at this time would reverse decades of work to move Illinois agriculture towards climate resilience.
Support Healthy Food Access at Farmers Markets while keeping SNAP Dollars Local:
SNAP Match for Farmers Market Bill: HB 2520, Rep. Butler
Calls for a $500,000 state investment to match Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) sales at farmers markets through the “Double Value Coupon Program.” The program doubles the purchasing power of our most vulnerable populations to afford healthy local produce, while also incentivizing them to spend their SNAP dollars with Illinois farms, keeping federal SNAP dollars in our state, supporting local farms and growing the local economy. In 2019 we worked with partners in the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity to protect the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund. Now to make this program a reality, we need the state to appropriate $500,000 to the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund. The program has existed as a line item in the budget since 2016, but no funds have ever been appropriated.
Shift millions of dollars in annual state food procurement toward Local, Fair, Healthy, Humane, and Sustainable farms and food businesses:
Good Food Purchasing Policy Resolution
In 2017, the City of Chicago passed a resolution to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP) that transforms the ways agencies purchase food by encouraging agencies and institutions to purchase food that meets 5 key criteria: local, fair, healthy, humane, and sustainable. Agencies report their purchasing practices annually and are provided with support to help make improvements. In 2020, Illinois Stewardship Alliance worked with a coalition of organizations to pursue a first in the nation statewide GFPP, which could shift millions in state procurement to local producers and businesses. As a first step, the Coalition, including Chicago Food Policy Action Council, IEC, and Food Chain Workers Alliance will introduce a resolution to form a GFPP Task Force. The Task Force will assess the current state of procurement and market opportunities by Illinois state agencies and lay the groundwork for legislation that will focus on implementation of a statewide GFPP.
Support for Black Farmers Resolution: HR0046, Rep. Harper
Urges the Illinois Department of Agriculture to study the effects and the types of land loss to Black farmers. 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. States that Black farmers can play a leading role in our local healthy food system and create regional networks of jobs, food, and opportunities
Protect Your Right to Garden
Vegetable Garden Protection Act: HB 0633, Rep. Harper
Since 2019, Nicole Virgil, a resident of Elmhurst has been fighting for her right to grow food on her property. Nicole was asked by her city government to remove the season extension structure on her property. Nicole used this structure (hoop house) to grow fresh vegetables for her family in the cold winter months. The Right to Garden Act gives property owners, like Nicole, the right to grow food for their families on their property and provides protection to the property owner and his or her garden from state, county, and local authorities.
Better Rules for School Lunches for our Kids
Update School Lunch Bidding Policy: HB 1782, Rep. Gordon-Booth
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) as it is currently administered under Illinois law requires school districts to select the lowest bidder from among those vendors who submit bids. Unfortunately, some vendors bid low to secure a contract, and then cut their service or the quality of their products. The school district suffers a year of bad food service and then must go through the bidding process once again, hoping for a high-quality food vendor at the lowest bid. In contrast, 48 other states that participate in the NSLP allow for a matrix format of evaluation, which awards points based on various criteria apart from just the lowest price.
Solve the Livestock Processing Bottleneck
Policy solutions in development
Finding quality small-scale livestock processing and securing processing dates has always been an issue for small-scale farmers selling direct-to-consumer, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, these issues were suddenly exacerbated. When large-scale processors like Tyson and Smithfield closed their operations to handle outbreaks, the farmers that normally sold to these processors suddenly flooded small-scale operations with their businesses causing an enormous back-log in processing. Many farmers could not get processing dates for months, some not even until well into 2021. This has caused a loss in business and sales, as well as increased prices for feeding the animals until new processing dates can be acquired. The Alliance will explore grant programs and regulatory changes that could facilitate more processing capacity.