It has been another exciting and productive legislative session for local food advocates this year. While we’ve had some immediate wins, we’ve also taken on more controversial issues this year on which we’ll have to keep working. The more controversial bills have provided opportunities to elevate the conversation around these issues and we’re pleased with the chance to bring them to the attention of the public and to continue to work for just policies.
To recap from where we began the year, we kicked off the 2017 Illinois state legislative by introducing 4 bills and 2 resolutions which garnered support from both sides of the aisle and from both legislative chambers. Those bills included: Illinois Food Freedom, Industrial Hemp, Local Food Business Opportunities, Farm Fresh Milk, and resolutions in the House and Senate urging Congress to support local food in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Before we delve into the progress of those bills, we’d like to acknowledge and thank all of the local food legislative champions who care enough about local food and farming that they worked to support, sponsor, and co-sponsor our bills, and even some of their own! It is with great gratitude that we recognize some of them below, though this list is by no means comprehensive!
- State Sen. Dave Koehler (D – Peoria) sponsor or cosponsor of ALL of our bills this year!
- State Rep. Steve Andersson (R – Geneva), who sponsored HB2820 Local Food Business Opportunities
- State Rep. Carol Ammons (D – Champaign), who initiated her own bill to create a statewide permit for farmers markets, but there needed to be some more attempts to resolve the permitting outside the legislature issue first HB2592
- State Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D – Chicago Heights), sponsor of SB1294 Industrial Hemp
- State Rep. Sonya Harper (D – Chicago), who sponsored several of her own local food bills, including tracking food deserts (HB3157 which looks good for passage) and creating urban agriculture zones (HB3418 this bill may need input from additional stakeholders to be brought back again next year)
- State Rep. Peter Breen (R – Lombard) sponsored HB2466 Farm Fresh Milk (raw milk)
- State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D – Chicago) sponsored HB3063 Illinois Food Freedom
- State Rep. Tim Butler (R – Springfield) sponsored HR277, a resolution urging Congress and the President to support local food programs in the 2018 federal Farm Bill
- State Rep. Justin Slaughter (D – Chicago) a new state representative this year, who carried a bill to clarify that schools may serve school and community garden produce HB2993, which looks good to pass
- State Rep. Theresa Mah (D – Chicago) a new state representative this year, who cosponsored most of our bills and the House resolution and spoke in support of HB2820 on the floor.
- And many more great local food supporters, who signed on to cosponsor these bills this year! Click on the bill links to see who else supported these bills.
Please consider calling any of these sponsors and thanking them for their work this year, especially your own legislators and Sen. Koehler, who took on all of our bills in the Senate! If you want to know who your state legislators are and whether they cosponsored any of these bills, you can look them up here.
(For a more detailed review of what these bills do, read last month’s newsletter article here.)
Illinois Food Freedom – This bill has passed both chambers(!) and will be sent to the Governor for his signature in the next few weeks. It dramatically increases the types of foods that may be produced by a cottage food operation. Due to a drafting glitch, we realized it will not be immediately effective, but will go into effect on January 1, 2018.
Farm Bill Resolutions – HR277 (House) and SR377 (Senate) were identical resolutions urging Congress and the President to support local food programs in the 2018 Farm Bill, and each has been adopted(!) by its respective legislative chamber. They will both be sent to all Illinois members of Congress, Congressional leadership, and the President.
Local Food Business Incentives – There were two identical bills introduced, one in each chamber. Each passed its respective chamber, and we continued to work with HB2820, which we anticipate will pass the second chamber today. While the bill should pass without problem, there will be a follow up bill, a “trailer bill,” to address concerns recently raised by another party. This bill will provide consistency in refrigeration and handwashing station rules at farmers markets, reducing the cost and burden on farmers market vendors, especially for those who sell in multiple counties. Again, if this passes, it will not be effective until January 1, 2018.
Farm Fresh Milk – Unfortunately, certain public health and pasteurized dairy groups mounted too strong an opposition for us to get very far this year. On the other hand, the Illinois Department of Public Health has been working on the issue for a few years and they supported the bill, so we thank them for that. We also had 13 cosponsors between the two chambers, so that is a start on identifying supportive legislators. We will work on building a stronger grassroots strategy during the summer because we simply cannot do this without the people of Illinois getting involved and helping to educate our state legislators. Most raw milk in Illinois remains illegal since rules went into effect last year, and there is no longer any way to legally get milk unless the customer goes to the farm–no private arrangements to meet off farm are accommodated under the existing rules. The summer is a great time for you to call your state legislators’ district offices or even better, schedule a meeting, if you support small diversified farms and freedom to make our own food choices. We need you!
Industrial Hemp – Illinois Farmers Union approached us with the idea of working together on this bill to let farmers grow hemp in Illinois. It passed the Senate unanimously, but it has opposition. Last Tuesday, the bill passed the House Agriculture and Conservation committee unanimously with an agreement to keep negotiating. At this point, we have support from the Lieutenant Governor’s office to keep working to make this a program that the state agencies are able to administer, but we need to continue ironing out some issues over the summer. We hope to have the bill ready for a vote in the veto session this year, which takes place in November and December. The effective date, either way, would be January 1, 2018, so this plan should not cause a delay.
Finally, thank you to YOU. Your continuous phone calls, witness slips, participation in Lobby Day, and testimonies have helped to build a better food system this legislative session. We appreciate all the time and effort you have spent tracking these bills and making time in your busy day to make a difference. There’s still much to be done though and we’ll need you in the coming years just as much as ever. Keep up the good work!