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, as well as our members across the state who have supported our work at the capitol, we are incredibly proud to announce that our bills are enjoying unanimous bipartisan support.

  1. Industrial Hemp Farming (SB2298 Sen. Toi Hutchinson/ Rep. Tim Butler)

The Industrial Hemp Farming bill passed the Senate unanimously in April and just passed the House last Wednesday, May 23rd with overwhelming, bipartisan support. There was a minor amendment filed in the House, so it must still go back to the Senate for approval of the amendment. Session ends May 31st, so the Senate will consider it very soon and then it will be on its way to the Governor. This is a huge win for Illinois farmers and is a successful ending to two years of negotiations and advocacy.

It could take up to 90 days from passage before it is signed into law, and then the Illinois Department of Agriculture has 120 to write rules to implement the program. Within these 120 days, there will be opportunities for public comment. The Department will license growers and register processors of hemp, as authorized by the 2014 federal farm bill. It is possible that rules could be finished in time for a 2019 spring planting, but it will depend how smoothly the rulemaking goes.

  1. SNAP at Farmers Markets(SB2588/HB4568 Sen. Don Harmon/Rep. Tim Butler):

Identical bills were filed in both the Senate and the House, and the House bill has completely passed both chambers unanimously! Therefore, there is no need to continue working on the Senate bill. It will be sent to the Governor soon!

We must still work to secure the $500,000 appropriation to be included in a state budget so that the program can be funded. The legislature is supposed to pass a budget bill by May 31st. HB4568 will at least ensure that the program does not expire next year, and advocacy to include this program in the budget will likely carry into 2019.

  1. Home-canned Tomatoes(SB457 Sen. David Koehler/ Rep. Will Guzzardi):

Like the hemp bill, this bill has passed both chambers but was amended in the House and must still go back to the Senate for a concurrence to the amendment by May 31st. It passed unanimously after months of negotiations with public health groups.

In addition to adding home-canned tomatoes, the bill clarifies other questions that have come up about the Food Freedom law that we passed last year. We resolved all clarifications in cottage food producers’ favor, except kombucha. People had been raising questions about whether kombucha would be prohibited for potentially containing alcohol. However, the negotiation over kombucha was potentially putting other fermented foods at risk of being prohibited. We were able to reach an agreement allowing fermented vegetables, but disallowing kombucha.

The bill also clarifies that acidified fruit is allowed, as the bill last year only mentioned vegetables. Some public health departments have considered cucumbers are a botanically a fruit and have not allowed pickles.

The bill will be immediately effective when signed by the Governor, so there will still be the opportunity to sell home-canned tomatoes (and pickles!) later this farmers market season. Learn more about the Food Freedom Act and the changes to expect under sB457 by viewing this recently recorded webinar.

  1. Soil Health(SR1775/HR1120 Sen. Scott Bennett/ Rep. Tim Butler)

These identical resolutions were just filed on Tuesday, May 22nd. They are meant to educate legislators on the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy that the state adopted in 2015 to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus running off into our waterways. This nutrient runoff has lead to a “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as degraded quality and safety of drinking water in many Illinois communities. These resolutions also urge greater leadership and coordination from the state so that we more effectively and efficiently deploy resources to help farmers protect their soil and reduce the amount of nutrients lost from farms.

On Wednesday, several groups came together to advocate for the resolutions during a soil health lobby day, securing numerous cosponsors. We will use this resolution to facilitate conversations to educate as many legislators as possible about the need to put resources towards improving soil and water health.

Farm and environmental advocates speak with legislators about the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Resolution during a recent soil and water lobby day.