Good news! The legislative session ended last Friday, and you helped win major legislative victories for local food and regenerative agriculture.
Because of your support through contributions, contacting legislators, joining us for the Food & Farm Day of Action or simply sharing our action alerts and policy news, we were able to scale up our efforts to organize, educate, and build coalitions this year. It paid off big! Together we passed three bills and a resolution, and won $12 million in the state budget for just and regenerative agriculture.
As a result of our farmer driven, eater powered legislative victories this year, you can expect the following:
Better school lunches and more farm-to-school opportunities
Thanks to the passage of the The Better School Lunches Act HB4813, schools across Illinois now have more opportunity to improve the nutrition and quality of their lunches, as well as increase farm-to-school and local purchasing efforts. This bill removes the requirement that certain school districts must accept food service agency contracts based on the lowest price bid and puts your tax dollars to work to request that schools make a good faith effort to increase purchasing of food and services from local, healthy, humane, and sustainable businesses in Illinois, as well as look to increase purchasing from minority and women-owned businesses. It was sponsored by Rep. Gordon-Booth and Sen. Ram Villavalam and will go into effect immediately.
Improved farmer livelihood and increased access to local meat, eggs, and dairy products at farmers markets
The Farmers Market Permit Act SB3838 sponsored by Sen. Koehler and Rep. Bennett will standardize regulations and create an economical fee structure to govern the sale of meat, eggs, and dairy at farmers markets. Prior to the passage of this act, a patchwork of local permits and unclear requirements and fees created a system that was complicated and expensive for farmers to navigate. The existing regulations prevented farmers from reaching new customers, prevented sales across county lines, and prevented Illinois shoppers from access to more fresh, local food. With the passage of this Act, Illinois livestock farmers can expect simple and scale appropriate regulations to support their businesses, and Illinois shoppers can look forward to a growth in availability of meat, eggs, and dairy at nearby farmers markets.
Greater acknowledgement, awareness, and respect for Illinois’ most valuable natural resource– our soil
The Soil Health Day & Week Resolution HJR63, sponsored by Rep. Meier & Sen. Bennett dedicated the second full week of March as Soil Health Week and the Wednesday of that week as Soil Health Day. Thanks to this resolution, Illinois held its first ever statewide Soil Health Week celebration this year. This resolution brings greater awareness to the importance of soil to human health, climate resilience, clean water, and economic development in our state, and lays the groundwork for future policy to build climate resilience and support farmers to protect and build soil health.
New strategies to address racial equity in agriculture
This year Representative Sonya Harper, Chair of the House Ag Committee, introduced a slate of bills to address racial equity in agriculture. The Ag Equity Commission ACT HB5201 recognizes the decline in numbers of Black farmers in Illinois and the difficulties faced by minority communities in the ag industry, and establishes the Ag Equity Commission to address these issues. The Ag Equity Commission will work with the Illinois Department of Agriculture to study and provide recommendations on programs, policies, and other means to increase equity in agriculture, not only for minority farmers, but also for small farms, specialty crop farms, and other diverse types of production. The Black Farmer Restoration Act HB3501 tackled disparities in land access for Black farmers, while the Local Food and Farms Act HB3089 addressed issues of market access for minority and disadvantaged farmers. These two bills ultimately did not pass out of the General Assembly, but sparked conversations across the state. This summer, Illinois Stewardship Alliance and Rep. Harper will conduct outreach to stakeholders and host listening sessions in an effort to improve these bills and reintroduce them in 2023 with a broad coalition of support.
Continued progress towards healthy soils, clean water, and climate resilience
Although the Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act did not pass, we have great news to share! Thanks to you and the continued efforts and collaboration of partners across the state, the Partners for Conservation Fund is extended for one year! This Fund supports conservation programs across the state. Additionally, the Soil Water Conservation District (SWCD) budget was protected and increased from $11.5 million to $12 million! We can’t emphasize enough how big this news is. SWCD’s provide a network of support and technical assistance to help farmers implement conservation projects on their land. In the Governor’s proposed budget at the beginning of the legislative session, SWCD’s were facing a slash of at least half of their budget, but with your help we were able to get an increase. Finally, the budget included level funding for the Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program, which allows the program to continue rewarding farmers for planting cover crops. Protecting conservation funding 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.
Thank you for helping to move these solutions through the General Assembly!
Celebrate these big victories with a gift today! Your contribution empowers the Alliance to work with farmers to identify issues, put forward solutions, and mobilize eaters who power our campaigns.
Better Together: Thank You to Our Partners!
We owe a debt of gratitude to partners who helped make these victories happen. Advocates for Urban Agriculture, American Farmland Trust – Midwest, American Rivers, Angelic Organics Learning Center, Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Bailey Land and Conservation Inc., Bird Conservation Network, Boone Creek Watershed Alliance, Buffalo Creek Clean Water Partnership, Chicago Audubon Society, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, Chicago Region Trees Initiative, Citizens’ Greener Evanston, Clinton County Farm Bureau, Clinton County SWCD, Collective Resource, Inc., Delta Institute, Dundee Township Open Space, Eco-Justice Collaborative, Edible Evanston, Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, Eubanks Environmental, Faith In Place, Flybird Experience, Food Works, Friends of the Chicago River, Go Green Deerfield, Greater Highland Area Concerned Citizens, Green Lands Blue Waters, HeartLands Conservancy, Illinois Association of Drainage Districts, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Farmers Market Association, Illinois Grazing Lands Coalition, Illinois Land Improvement Contractors, Illinois Specialty Crop Growers Association, Izaak Walton League of America, Kane DuPage Soil and Water Conservation District, Madison County Master Gardener, McHenry County Conservation District, Metro East Green Alliance (IL), Metropolitan AME Church, Mississippi River Network, Natural Habitat Evanston, Natural Land Institute, Prairie Rivers Network, Savanna Institute, School of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago, Self and Citizens’ Greener Evanston, Severson Dells Nature Center, Sierra Club IL Chapter Clean Water Team, The Conservation Foundation, The Land Connection, The Land Connection Foundation, The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, The Morton Arboretum, The Nature Conservancy in Illinois, The Wetlands Initiative, Chicago Public School, Edible Evanston, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Illinois Heart Association, Illinois Association of School Business Officials Organization, Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Principals Association, Large Unit District Association, Woodridge School District, West Aurora School District, Joliet 86 School District, Healthy Schools Campaign, Community Organizing & Family Issues, Seven Generations Ahead, Illinois Public Health Institute, Illinois Association of School Administrators, Legislative Education Network of DuPage County