Legislative Update: Where are those bills now?

The legislative session is in full swing and our bills are on the move! Thanks to support from those who attended our Local Food Lobby Day on April 26th, as well as our members and supporters across the state, we are incredibly proud to announce that our bills are enjoying unanimous bipartisan support. All three of our bills have passed out of the chamber in which they were introduced and are moving on to the next chamber!

This early success is great news! But it doesn’t guarantee the bills will continue without opposition. We’re working hard to lay the groundwork for continued support as the bills move on. All of the bills will need co-sponsors as they are introduced in their new chamber. Stay tuned for updates and keep your dialing fingers ready.  Phone calls, emails, and witness slips may be needed to help insure these bills make into the Governor’s hands.

PASSED UNANIMOUSLY OUT OF THE SENATE: Industrial Hemp Farming (SB2298 Sen. Toi Hutchinson): This bill would allow farmers to apply for permits to grow hemp, as authorized by the 2014 federal Farm Bill. Learn more about hemp’s history in Illinois and potential benefits in our op-ed from last year.

PASSED UNANIMOUSLY OUT OUT OF THE HOUSE: SNAP at Farmers Markets (SB2588/HB4568 Sen. Don Harmon/Rep. Tim Butler): We worked with members of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity to pass a bill in 2016 that created a state fund to match SNAP (food stamp) participants’ purchases at farmers markets with additional funds for fruit and vegetables, but Governor Rauner requested it be made into a pilot program. It has not been funded yet and would expire next year, so this bill removes the expiration date to make it a permanent program. We also need to keep pushing the legislature to appropriate the $500,000 authorized by the bill they passed unanimously in 2016.

When you speak to your state Senator about this bill , there are two asks on this. One ask is to support and cosponsor SB2588.. The other is to help make sure the $500,000 is appropriated. The money qualifies for a dollar-for-dollar federal match, helps low income residents access more fresh produce, and it puts money in the pockets of local farmers.

Identical bills were filed in both the Senate and the House. Ultimately, we will pass just one all the way through both chambers, but for now, we are working on both.

PASSED UNANIMOUSLY OUT OF THE HOUSE: Home-canned Tomatoes (SB2895 Sen. David Koehler): The Food Freedom Act we passed last year was not supposed to allow canned tomatoes to be made in a home kitchen but the language is a little vague. We are working with public health representatives to come up with a way to clarify the law that would allow cottage food operations to produce canned tomatoes. For now, consider them not allowed. If you want to be able to sell your canned tomatoes, please help get this bill passed. Stay tuned for updates on when this bill is brought to the Senate and be ready to call your Senator to ask them to co-sponsor the bill.

RESOLUTION TO BE INTRODUCED SOON: Fully funding the Soil & Water Conservation Districts: This will be a resolution we introduce with our conservation partners to urge the legislature to support the Soil & Water Conservation Districts, the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, and soil health in general.

We’re also excited to announce State Rep. Sonya Harper’s Urban Ag Zone bill (HB3418) passed the state House last week. The bill would allow counties or municipalities to create urban agriculture zones made up of organizations or individuals who grow produce or other agricultural products, raise or process livestock or poultry or sell a minimum of 75% locally grown food. Sales tax from agriculture products would be deposited into an urban agriculture zone fund, and monies collected in the fund would be specified for a county, municipality or school district that can be used in a variety of ways they determine, like educational programs focused on nutrition or to support businesses and farms. The bill is supported by Illinois Environmental Council, Advocates for Urban Agriculture, OpenLands, and Illinois Stewardship Alliance. Check out Rep. Sonya Harper’s post about the bill here.