Where are those bills now?

This past winter, farmers and eaters across the state identified key policy priorities for this legislative session. Illinois Stewardship Alliance, in coalition with partners across the state, has been working hard to put those priorities into motion. Check out the bills and appropriations we’ve been working on, and where they are now!

Support Appropriations the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund
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 purchases. That’s a $1,000,000 investment in diversified family farms in Illinois and healthy food access for all Illinoisans.

UPDATE: We are pursuing numerous strategies through both the legislative and executive branches. Appropriations are challenging because there is no bill, but rather a need to build the issue as a priority in as many places as possible and convince legislators to prioritize this issue among competing funding asks. The state still anticipates a substantial deficit next fiscal year. However, Lobby Day participants reported many favorable conversations with legislators about appropriations for this fund during Local Food Lobby Day on April 10th. Our specific ask is for legislators to send letters of support to chairpersons of the House Appropriations Human Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations I Committee.

Support appropriations for Fall Cover for Spring Savings
Cover crops are an important conservation tool for farmers. They naturally add organic matter to the soil, prevent nutrient runoff, and keep our waterways clean. 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. Our goal is to secure appropriations in the state budget for this program. Our coalition is seeking legislative champions to appropriate $300,000 to fully support the program

UPDATE: $5 per acre crop insurance incentive for planting cover crops: this is an idea that is mostly being explored through the Department of Agriculture directly, but it would require some new funding. The ask is $300,000. The strategy is similar to that of the Healthy Food Incentives Fund, but as a newer idea, it may take some time to educate legislators first. However, the Illinois Director of Agriculture has already come out in favor of the program and we expect will propose the $300,000 in appropriations as a part of IDOA’s budget. 

Support the Hoop House Bill SB1675/T. Cullerton
Amends the zoning division of the Illinois Municipal Code so that a municipality may not restrict residents from constructing a season extension or crop protection device from October 1st – April 13th. Season extension devices are commonly used by farmers and gardeners to protect and grow crops, especially during colder winter months. They are temporary in nature and consist of a skeletal structure covered by plastic or clear membranes. This bill protects the right of Illinois people to grow their own food on their property. The bill was introduced after a resident of Elmhurst was asked by her city government to remove the season extension structure on her property.

UPDATE: This bill would supercede local control, which generated formidable opposition from local governments around the state and essentially stalled the bill in committee. By elevating the issue to the state level and drawing media attention, there is a chance that it will pressure Elmhurst to change its stance. If not, or if more people come forward with similar problems in other communities, the case for the bill will continue to strengthen. It could become a multi-year campaign.

Support Enhancing Local Food Opportunities SB1450/HB2505
This bill 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 toward Illinois’ goal to procure 20% local food by 2020.

The House bill has passed the House unanimously, and the Senate bill has also passed the Senate unanimously! This bill is breezing forward. Only one bill will ultimately need to pass all the way through the second chamber to become law. The strategy of introducing one in each chamber helps in case something goes wrong procedurally with one.

Support Conservation on Public Land HB2819/Miller
Provides that the Department of Natural Resources may require the establishment of soil health practices on leases of land used for agricultural purposes. Illinois leases over 75,000 acres of land across the state. This bill insures that this land is being farmed in a way that improves water quality, supports the local food economy and local growers, generates more revenue for state conservation programs, and protects soil as one of Illinois’s most valuable resources.

UPDATE: This bill was tabled, but conversations with the agency have turned up additional needed legislative fixes that could make an even stronger bill. It may have to wait for next year though, given that there is only one month left of session.

Support HB2737/SB1980 Halpin/Bennett
The Soil and Water Conservation Districts 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 NLRS. This legislation would add soil health practices to the list of resources that SWCD’s can provide farmers. When farmers use soil health practices, we all benefit with clean drinking water, less erosion, and less runoff.

UPDATE:  Identical bills were introduced and each bill has passed one chamber, unanimously. Like the local food procurement bill, only one bill will ultimately need to pass all the way through.

Support the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) Resolution SR0052/Bennett
The Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy 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”. The 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.

UPDATE: The Chairman of the Senate Agriculture is the sponsor, and the new director of Illinois Department of Agriculture, John Sullivan, testified in committee in support of the resolution. It passed committee unanimously. We look forward to continued support of this resolution.