All across Illinois and the U.S. lawmakers are beginning to take notice of the growing demand for local food systems. However this is not something that happened on its own. The great success of the local food movement is the result of Illinois farmers and citizens speaking up and letting their voices be heard!
One way you can help build legislative support for local food and promote positive policy changes is to meet with your legislators and tell them what issues are important to you.. Sound interesting? Illinois Stewardship Alliance has the perfect opportunity for you to join us in advocating for environmentally sustainable, economically viable and socially just local food systems. Join us for our 6th Annual Local Food Lobby Day at the Capitol!
On Wednesday, March 25th, local food advocates, farmers, and citizens from across the state will come together in Springfield for Local Food Lobby Day to encourage their legislators to support local food and farms. Local Food Lobby Day will consist of a welcoming address, a civic engagement and lobbying training, a legislative update, and lunch. Following lunch we will descend upon the capitol to educate legislators about the importance of local food systems and advocate for positive policy solutions that support local food systems.
This year, there are several key pieces of legislation on which will focus our efforts.
- Cottage Food – Representative Mike Tryon will be introducing legislation aimed at expanding Illinois’ Cottage Food Law. For those who don’t know about it, Illinois’ Cottage Food law was created in 2011, changing the state food safety laws to allow farmers and entrepreneurs to make certain non-potentially hazardous foods such as baked good, jams and jellies in their home kitchens to sell at farmers markets. Prior to that it was illegal to make any food products in a home kitchen to sell to the public for commercial purposes. When it was originally passed it was one of only a dozen or so laws, now there are 42 states that have some sort of cottage food law with many of them being more liberal than Illinois’ narrow law. Representative Tryon will be introducing legislation this year that aims to expand the narrow list of allowed cottage food products and to allow those products to be sold on-farm and through CSA’s in addition to at farmers markets.
- Co-op Law – Last year the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation that made some small but important updates to the Illinois law that governs food/grocery type co-ops like Common Ground; increasing the level of financial support co-op members can contribute to their co-op. The original law in Illinois governing food co-op was written in the early 1900’s and had not been updated since! Over the summer, fall and winter, since that bill was passed and signed into law, a coalition of organizations, current co-ops and co-ops in formation began working together to develop legislation to re-write the whole law governing food/grocery type co-ops in Illinois.
- “Double-up Bucks” SNAP Incentives – Following years of successful SNAP (Food Stamp) incentive programs at farmers markets across the country, like the Urbana Market on the Square’s, where each dollar a SNAP recipient use at a farmers market would be matched at some level usually 1 to 1; the 2014 Farm Bill created a new SNAP incentive grant program, known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program. The down side of the new federal program is that it requires the market or organization applying for the grant to provide a 50% match. Here in Illinois a coalition led by the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, the American Heart Association and the Experimental Station in Chicago has formed in order to try and get a small state SNAP incentive program created that could provide grants to serve as the full or partial match to prospective federal funding. That coalition is most likely going to be introducing legislation this spring for that very purpose!
- Seed Law Exemption for Seed Libraries – As the presence of seed libraries in Illinois grows, ISA is looking into legislation that would clarify our existing seed laws to make clear that they do not apply to non-for-profit community seed libraries. The purpose is to prevent the kind of situation that has cropped up in other states like Pennsylvania where state regulators have shut down small seed libraries housed in public libraries. To check out existing seed libraries in Illinois, visit seedlibraries.weebly.com
Those four legislative ideas listed above are just a few of the likely food and farm related bills that are bound to surface at the Illinois General Assembly this spring and without the support of engaged citizens at the grassroots level, ideas are all they will likely ever be. Good food and farm policy that supports small family farms, local food systems and sustainable agriculture will not happen on their own; they require farmers and consumers to “Move Beyond the Fork,” and get engaged in the legislative process.
When: March 25th, 2015, from 10:30 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. (Check-in begins at 10:00 a.m.)
Where: The Illinois State Capitol Complex and the Illinois State Library Room 403/404 (300 South 2nd St., Springfield, IL 62701)
Training: On the morning of March 25th following the welcoming address at 10:30 a.m. in the State Library Room 403/404 we will review recent legislative activity on local food related legislation, go over what we will be doing to raise awareness about local food issues, discuss local food legislation that we will be lobbying for, teach you how to navigate the Capitol complex, and train you how to lobby and interact with your legislators.
Lunch: After the legislation overview, training, and orientation we will have a short working lunch from 11:30 a.m. until 12 noon. Following lunch we will walk to the Capitol to begin advocating for local food and sustainable agriculture.
Lobbying: After lunch we will begin our visits at the Capitol Complex to ask legislators for their support of local food and farm issues. We will lobby until around 3:00 p.m.
Cost: The cost for attending the lobbying training and orientation, lunch, and lobby day is FREE for ISA members. For non-members the cost is $10. Organizational members may register 2 FREE attendees. Additionally you may become a member now for the discounted price of $25 (1 year membership) which will allow you to attend lobby day for free.