Alliance Applauds Illinois Legislature for Investing in Family Farms, Local Food

Springfield, IL–  On Wednesday, May 30th, the Industrial Hemp Bill passed out of the Senate, making it the third bill proposed by Illinois Stewardship Alliance to pass out of the legislature this year.  The Industrial Hemp bill was succeeded by the Home-canned Tomato Bill, which passed unanimously through the Senate earlier in the day on May 30th, and the Healthy Food Incentives Fund, which passed unanimously through both the House and Senate earlier in May.

The three bills now await the governor’s signature before being signed into law.

“These bills support farmers, keep money in the Illinois economy, and make wholesome locally-grown food more affordable and accessible,” says Liz Moran Stelk, Executive Director of the Alliance.  “We applaud the Illinois legislature for investing in the future of Illinois and supporting one of Illinois’ most valuable, but disappearing natural resources…family farmers.”

Industrial Hemp Farming (SB2298 Sen. Toi Hutchinson/ Rep. Tim Butler) gives Illinois farmers the opportunity to grow industrial hemp, a crop that has the ability to revitalize Illinois soils while also fetching a competitive price that may increase the economic viability of Illinois farms.

Home-canned Tomatoes(SB457 Sen. David Koehler/ Rep. Will Guzzardi) adds tomatoes to the list of products that can be processed in home kitchens and sold at farmers markets, building on the Food Freedom Act passed by the Alliance last year. The bill gives farmers the opportunity to earn additional income from excess tomatoes– which might normally end up in the compost bin– by turning them into salsa, pasta sauce, and other canned tomato products, while also giving shoppers greater access to value-added products made in Illinois.

The Healthy Food Incentives Fund (SB2588/HB4568 Sen. Don Harmon/Rep. Tim Butler) creates a statewide fund that allows farmers markets across Illinois to provide SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Match programs at their markets. SNAP Match programs double the purchasing power of low income families, helping them afford fresh, wholesome fruits and vegetables, while also putting SNAP dollars back into the hands of small family farmers instead of big box stores.  

If signed by the governor, these three bills will add to the Alliance’s growing list of local food and farm laws passed since 2012, addressing everything from cottage food and seed libraries to composting reform and grocery cooperatives.

“12 laws since 2012 has a nice ring to it,” says Stelk, “but more importantly, these laws lay the foundation for just and sustainable local food systems. The people of Illinois understand the value that small family farmers bring to their communities in terms of fresh food, clean water, and healthy environments. They’re making their voices heard at the Capitol and legislators are listening.”