For the past decade, the Alliance has been building momentum on the legislative front when it comes to local food. Our members have helped pass 12 laws since 2012 addressing everything from industrial hemp to cottage food. They’ve also fought to secure funding for local food and conservation efforts on both the state and federal level, insuring that these efforts are taken seriously by lawmakers. These legislative victories are changing the food and agriculture landscape across Illinois and laying the foundation for just, regenerative local food systems that feed our communities, protect our environment, and keep money in our local economies.
This year farmers and eaters across the state have identified 3 key policy priorities and you participation in action alerts, Local Food Lobby Day, and other advocacy activities is extra important. You make it possible for our small staff to bring mighty teams to multiple tables at once and get things done. This February, join us at an Annual Meeting near you to discuss the policy priorities below and learn how you can get involved.
MAKING FRESH, WHOLESOME FOOD AVAILABLE TO THE PEOPLE WHO NEED IT MOST, WHILE SUPPORTING FAMILY FARMERS
In 2018 we worked with partners in the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity to protect the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund, which created a statewide fund to match SNAP sales at farmers markets. SNAP match programs at farmers markets help the most vulnerable members of our society afford fresh fruits and vegetables while also keeping SNAP dollars local in the pockets of family farms instead of big box stores. Now to make this program a reality, we need the state to appropriate $500,000 to the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund. If appropriated, Illinois can apply for a federal match, to create a $1,000,000 Fund that can be used by farmers markets across the state to match SNAP sales.
ENSURING INDUSTRIAL HEMP REGULATIONS AND PERMITTING WORKS FOR FARMERS
Last year we helped pass a law that gave farmers to the right to grow industrial hemp. Now IDOA is drafting regulations and a permit process for farmers. This Spring we’ll be working with farmers and stakeholders across the state to insure that the rules and the licensing process are fair and adequately support farmers as they embark on a venture to grow this new crop. Once the rules are in place, we’ll create a hemp legal guide to help folks navigate the process of applying for an application and getting started with growing hemp.
REWARDING FARMERS FOR PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
Cover crops are an important conservation tool for farmers. They naturally add organic matter to the soil, preventnutrient runoff, and keep our waterways clean. They help build healthy ecosystems for surrounding wildlife and over time they help farmers reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. But planting cover crops costs money and time. To encourage farmers to adopt cover crops, Illinois should replicate an Iowa program that provides a $5 per acre reward for crop insurance premiums for every acre covered. We’re working in coalition with American Farmland Trust and other organizations to bring this “Fall Cover for Spring Savings!” program to Illinois. Our waterways, soil, and wildlife are a public good and farmers should be rewarded for protecting them.