Eat•Drink•Vote: Your Guide to Federal Food & Farm Issues in 2020 and Beyond

Every Tuesday at noon from September until Election Day, Illinois Stewardship Alliance is hosting a series of Facebook Live events entitled Eat Drink Vote, bringing together farmers and organizations from across the state to discuss each of the nine key issues from the Alliance’s Illinois Food and Farm Candidate Questionnaire

During the series, viewers will hear stories from farmers about how issues like food security, land access, climate change, and racial equity affect their lives, livelihoods, and the well-being of their community and surrounding ecosystem, as well as positive policy solutions to address these issues.

Check out the full series and past event recordings below: 

  • Sept. 1: Increasing Food Security and Strengthening the Local Food Economy
  • Sept. 8: The Next Generation of Farmers: Land Access and Barriers to Entry
  • Sept. 15: Racial Equity in the Food System: Land Dispossession and Stolen Labor
  • Sept. 22: City Foodscapes: Federal Support and Planning for Urban Agriculture
  • Sept. 29: Creating a Level Playing Field: Consolidation, Farm Income, and Debt
  • Oct. 6: Reducing Agricultural Runoff for Water Quality
  • Oct 13: Farming as a Climate Change Solution
  • Oct. 20: Access to Affordable Quality Healthcare
  • Oct. 27: A Resilient Food System Post Covid-19

Tune into the series on Facebook Live

Increasing Food Security & The Local Food Economy

Traci Barkley, Sola Gratia Farm, Urbana
Jeff Hake, Funk’s Grove Heritage Fruits & Grains, McLean
Jody Osmund, Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm, Ottawa
Wes King, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, D.C.

Background: Illinois ranks sixth in value of agricultural production, yet Illinois Department of Agriculture estimated in 2011 that over 90% of the food purchased in Illinois came from out of state. As sources like the St. Louis Federal Reserve Harvesting Opportunity and others conclude, local and regional food systems can have a positive economic impact. Support for local farm businesses increases the share of money recirculating in the local economy and helps local farm families access a greater share of the consumer expenditures on food. 

For more of the food we eat to be sourced locally, we would need more farmers raising diversified crops and livestock, and we need to reinvest in scale-appropriate infrastructure (such as regional mills, food hubs, livestock, and poultry processing) to process and transport farm products. 

Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school meal programs help ensure that vulnerable Americans have access to food. The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), formerly FINI, provides extra funding for SNAP clients to buy fresh produce from local farmers. The Farm to School Grant Program connects children with fresh foods from local farms. 

These programs strengthen the local food system by putting money in the pockets of local farmers while alleviating hunger with nutritious health-promoting foods. These programs are also particularly important for communities of color who suffer disproportionate levels of food insecurity. However, many families and individuals in need are faced with considerable barriers to access due to restrictive eligibility requirements and insufficient funding. Farmers also face barriers in being able to accept online SNAP/EBT payments.

Beginning Farmers: Land Access & Other Barriers to Entry

Kaitie Adams, Savanna Institute, Southern Illinois
Demarkius Medley, Greenlords Inc., Galesburg
Frank Rademacher, Rademacher Farms, Gifford
Nathan Aaberg, Director, Conservation and Working Lands at Liberty Prairie Foundation, Grayslake 
Cassidy Dellorto-Blackwell, Farmer Training Program Manager at The Land Connection

Background: The average age of Illinois farmers is 58 and has been increasing over time, while the number of beginning farmers is a fraction of what’s needed to replace retiring farmers. Young and first-time farmers face significant barriers to entry, including access to land, credit, and capital. A majority of this new generation come from non-farm backgrounds, operate smaller, more diversified farms, and are more interested in conservation practices to support soil and water health. However, farmland consolidation makes it challenging for new farmers to compete with established operations to secure land. A compounding factor is how development pressures have been decreasing the amount of available farmland while increasing its price. The farm bill’s ACEP-ALE program has been an effective tool to permanently protect farmland and create affordability, but much more can be done to address this challenge.

Racial Equity in the Food System: Land Dispossession and Stolen

Erika Allen, Co-Founder & CEO, Urban Growers Collective, Chicago
Marlie Wilson, Good Food Purchasing Project Manager, Chicago Food Policy Council, Chicago
Jose Oliva, Campaigns Director, HEAL Alliance, Chicago

Background: In 1920, Black Americans made up 14% of U.S. farmers with 892 black farmers in Illinois. Due to the exploitation of heirs’ property by white developers and speculators and racial discrimination in lending practices by the USDA (see Pigford v. Glickman), today Black Americans make up less than 2% of farmers nationwide with only 59 black farmers in Illinois. Agriculture in the U.S. has a long and cruel history of colonization, slavery, land dispossession, and labor exploitation. Although people of color make up 38% of the population, only 7% of farmers are people of color. People of color not only face barriers to access land, credit, and capital by systemic racism and discrimination but are actively dispossessed of land and wealth in our current system. Furthermore, farmworkers, in particular those in guest worker programs, are subject to poor wages, human rights abuses, and lack adequate access to health insurance or workers’ compensation. Some proposals from advocates include reparations; reforms to the USDA administration; moratoriums on government foreclosures of Black land; debt forgiveness programs; reforms to labor laws and many others.

City Foodscapes: Federal Support and Planning for Urban Agriculture

Coming Soon!

Creating a Level Playing Field: Consolidation, Farm Income, and Debt

Coming Soon!

Reducing Agricultural Runoff for Water Quality

Coming Soon!

Farming as a Climate Change Solution

Coming Soon!

Subtitle Access to Affordable Quality Healthcare

Coming Soon!

A Resilient Food System Post Covid-19

Coming Soon!