The Alliance’s Policy Impact

To build a thriving local food and farm system across Illinois, we need to lay the foundation with fair food and farm policies, like the ones below, that create healthy communities, build stronger local economies, conserve natural resources, and make local food available for all.

Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund – 2019 and 2016

Traci Barkley. Photo provided by Sola Gratia.

In 2016, the Alliance worked with partners in the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity to pass a bill that created a state fund to match SNAP purchases at farmers markets, doubling the purchasing power of our most vulnerable populations to afford fresh, healthy food while putting federal SNAP dollars into the pockets of family farmers instead of Big Box stores. Although the first bill passed unanimously, the former Governor put an expiration date of June 2019 on the program. In 2018 we went back to the legislature to repeal the expiration date. The bill passed unanimously. The legislature can now appropriate $500,000 annually to the program, which is eligible for a federal match to create a $1 million dollar fund.

Enhancing Local Food Procurement Opportunities – 2019

Marty Kern of Natural Artistry smiles next to her home-made jams.

Amends the definition of “local” food for state procurement to provide more opportunities for Illinois growers and processors to supply local food to state agencies and institutions. Under the previous definition, a product like strawberry jam made with Illinois strawberries wouldn’t be counted as “local” because the sugar used to make the jam wasn’t grown in Illinois. The new, expanded definition allows any product grown, processed, or packaged in Illinois, with at least one Illinois grown ingredient, to be defined as “local.” The new definition gives Illinois state agencies (schools, veterans homes, state departments, etc.) the ability to procure more local food to help meet their goal of 20% local food by 2020.

Home-canned Tomatoes Act- 2018

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. There is just a placeholder bill filed now, but once we finalize some details with other stakeholders, we will file an amendment with the real language. You may get a better response from legislators if you contact them after the amendment is filed, so keep an eye open for further updates.

Make Soil Health A Goal for County SWCDs – 2018

Farmer Frank Rademaker displays his healthy soil.

The Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) are an important resource for farmers in Illinois. They are the boots on the ground that can advance conservation practices in support of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. This bill adds soil health practices to the list of resources that SWCDs can provide farmers. When farmers use soil health practices, we all benefit with clean drinking water, less erosion, and less runoff.U4. A concentrated effort to protect Illinois waterways and keep water clean for recreation, drinking, and wildlife.

The Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) Resolution – 2018

The NLRS is a strategy created by state agencies and organizations to reduce nutrient pollution into Illinois waterways that have contributed to the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone.” Currently, Illinois is a top contributor of nutrient pollution to the Mississippi River, which is immensely harmful to not only the Gulf, but the safety, cleanliness, and wildlife of our own waterways. This resolution encourages Illinois lawmakers to take these strategies seriously and support programs and policies that will help Illinois meet its goal to reduce our phosphorus load by 25% and nitrogen load by 15% by 2025. The Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy aims to clean waterways in collaboration with Illinois farmers, in place of restrictive regulations that might negatively impact their livelihoods.

Industrial Hemp Farming Act- 2017

Farmer Demarkius Medley of Greenlords Inc, Galesburg, and his hemp crop.

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized states to create industrial hemp research programs. While Illinois passed a hemp research bill in 2014, other states’ laws, and additional guidance from the federal government, have made it clear that our law is unnecessarily restrictive and that marketing is an acceptable research purpose. In 2017 and 2018 we worked with the Illinois Farmers Union to champion and pass the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2018, authorizing the Illinois Department of Agriculture to develop a permitting process to allow Illinois farmers to grow hemp for the first time in 80 years. Hemp gives farmers an additional cash crop and conservation tool to add to their production rotations.

Food Freedom Act – 2017

This bill was a major win for farmers, food entrepreneurs, and eaters across Illinois. It gives farmers the ability to turn excess produce into value-added products, like cucumbers into pickles and sweet corn into salsa, and expands consumer choice at farmers markets. Prior to this bill, only a few types of food were allowed under the cottage food law; the new law allows everything but a list of more potentially dangerous foods. It also removes the cap on gross revenues so that food entrepreneurs can earn a living wage from their business. Under the previous cottage food law, jams, jellies and baked goods were allowed, but no value-added vegetable products were allowed. Diversified family farms in Illinois raise more vegetables than fruits and providing an opportunity to process these foods and add value not only decreases food waste, but increases the economic viability of small farms. One organic vegetable farmer has said this bill will essentially eliminate food waste from her farm! Not allowed are meats, poultry, dairy, and a select few potentially hazardous foods.

Local Food Business Opportunities – 2017

This law was in response to farmers market vendor complaints that market rules vary dramatically from county to county, adding expense and compliance complexity. The new law provides statewide consistency in refrigeration requirements at farmers markets and also provides that vendors may share handwashing stations.

Local Food Resolution- 2017

This resolution, passed by the Illinois legislature in May of 2017, urges Congress to support local food programs in the 2018 Farm Bill. Illinois Stewardship Alliance works with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to advance federal sustainable agriculture policy, and this resolution helps strengthen our federal policy work by affirming that Illinois cares about local.

Others:

  • Seed-Sharing Bill – 2016
  • Cooperative Expansion Bill – 2016
  • Better Rules for Farmers Markets- 2015
  • Two Composting Reform Bills – 2013
  • Cottage Food Law – 2012