Many Bills on Pause, but State Funding Still Critical

After the legislative session was temporarily suspended, the Alliance is updating our priorities.

In a normal legislative session, we would have been posting live videos from the Capitol, advocating for important food and farm bills with you on our Annual Local Food Lobby Day, and celebrating wins with you at the end of session. But this year is anything but normal.

Members of Illinois General Assembly temporarily suspended the legislative session back in March. With the closure of the Capitol, it seems likely that thousands of bills, including our own, will not move forward this session, including:

  • More Cottage Food in More Places
  • Right to Garden
  • Bring Farm Fresh Food to Public Schools; 
  • Good Food Purchasing Policy: Grow the Health and Wealth of Illinois Through State Procurement of Local Food

While our bills may be delayed, one thing that is for certain is that Illinois does need to approve the state budget. The original deadline to approve the budget was May 31, but according to Politico, lawmakers could delay the vote until June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Regardless, there are still a handful of appropriations requests (on topics you care about) that we hope to move forward– like healthy food access at farmers markets, growing the local food economy,  helping farmers put more conservation practices on more acres, and funding more soil and water conservation efforts. 

Continued Advocacy for Priority Appropriation Measures: 

  • Create a statewide fund to match  SNAP dollars spent at farmers markets with a $500,000 state appropriation:  SNAP Match programs at farmers markets help our most vulnerable populations afford fresh fruits and vegetables while also keeping federal SNAP dollars in the pockets of family farmers in our state. Thanks to your advocacy, farmers markets were deemed essential businesses. Markets across Illinois have been tirelessly working to reorganize a new norm to provide a safe shopping environment for local food supporters. This appropriation has always been a top priority at the Alliance. During these uncertain times access to fresh, healthy local fruits and vegetables is crucial. In addition to being an effective food security program, it is also an economic development tool for family farmers, putting more money in their pockets. 
  • Help farmers protect soil and cover more acres by doubling funding for the Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program to $600,000: Cover crops are a conservation and risk mitigation tool that help to build stronger soil, clean our waterways, and blanket the soil with crops and root systems that absorb rainfall events. 2020 has already proven to be wetter than normal. Cover crops are proven tools that can help mitigate the increased risks from frequent rains that would normally run off and errode fields carrying sediment (topsoil) away from the field and into our drinking water systems.  This program rewards farmers for planting cover crops and reducing nutrient pollution by rewarding approved applicants $5 per acre of covers planted the following year on their crop insurance invoice. There were nearly three times more acres applied for than funding available, which shows the need to increase the funding and amount of available acreage from 50,000 to 100,000 acres covered. 
  • Extend the Partners for Conservation Fund (PCF): The PCF was set to expire in June of 2021. A team of conservation organizations banded together to work on advocating to extend the Fund to fiscal year 2026. The original legislation, SB3462, intended to change the name of PCF to “the Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Fund.” In order to address the state’s difficulties with implementing the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, this legislation would create a fund in statute for the first time dedicated to nutrient loss reduction and provide additional fiscal resources to agencies implementing the strategy, like the Soil & Water Conservation Districts. The plan is to still advocate to extend the fund, but the bill concerning the name change and scope may have to wait until the 2021 Legislative Session. 

Both the PCF and Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program are incredible tools that could reduce farm risk and improve farm health, resulting in crop insurance companies paying out less in subsidies because farmers are improving practices. In 2019, Illinois paid out just over $960 million in commodity subsidies. 

We’re working with partner organizations and law-makers across the state to determine the next steps to move these funding priorities forward. Stay tuned for ways you can stay involved. 

2020 setbacks set the stage for a comeback in 2021: 

While our 2020 bills might not move forward this session, we’re prepared to work with you throughout the year to grow support for your issues and return stronger than ever in 2021. This year we will:

  • Host legislative farm tours with farmers and cottage food entrepreneurs that use their products.
  • Organize in-district meeting of farmers and legislators.
  • Continue working with partner organizations to develop and distribute the resources and support you need to grow your business– like the Cottage Food Guide, Industrial Hemp Legislative Guide, and Buy Fresh Buy Local Illinois directory.
  • Connect farmers and eaters through our Buy Fresh Buy Local Illinois directory and campaign. Check out the new, searchable online directory to start finding local food near you, and if you’re a farm or local food business, get listed for FREE today.  Visit www.buyfreshbuylocalillinois.org to learn more. 

This pandemic has revealed the cracks in our food system, and climate change will continue to exacerbate these issues. Now more than ever we need to fund policies like the ones above that will build long-term resilience to protect against future economic and environmental shocks, ensure food security, and help local farms and businesses succeed for the long haul. Ultimately, these appropriations requests ensure that Illinois families will have reliable access to nutritious food both now and for years to come.