You can shape a just and regenerative future: Learn more about our 2022 Policy Agenda

For the past year, farmer members of Illinois Stewardship Alliance have been working hard to identify issues, research solutions, and develop farmer-driven policies and legislation that build the health and wealth of Illinois communities. 

While our policy agenda is farmer-driven, it’s also eater powered. Our Alliance relies on farmers and eaters– like YOU– working together to create change. Check out the policy agenda below and join our email list for updates on ways you can use your voice to support these important issues and critical pieces of legislation that will help shape a more just and regenerative food system.

The 2022 policy agenda will:

  • support farm-to-school,
  • improve farmers markets, food access, and small farm livelihood,
  • protect and improve Illinois soil, water, and climate, and;
  • address racial equity in our food system.

PRIMARY ISSUES

Support farm-to-school

Better School Lunches Act HB4813 Rep. Gordon-Booth: Currently, Illinois procurement code requires school districts to accept food contracts based on the lowest bid. The current low bid structure limits the use of local produce and farm produce from Illinois, prevents hiring and pay increases of trained staff in the school kitchen, severely limits scratch cooking in schools, does not allow students, parents and staff to taste test and rate the food from a potential vendor, and does not allow for an appropriate ranking of vendors on criteria such as whether the food comes from farms and businesses that local, fair, healthy, humane, or sustainable– only by price.  Illinois is one of just two states in the nation that still has a lowest price bid requirements. This bill would remove the lowest price bid requirement and allow Illinois schools to improve school lunch.

Creating a Framework on how to Build climate resilience

Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act SB 3471, Sen. Villavalam: In 2015, the State of Illinois developed a plan to protect Illinois waterways from nutrient, soil, and fertilizer runoff, which is causing widespread algae blooms, contributing to unsafe drinking water, and leading to a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, runoff is depleting Illinois soils, the state’s most valuable resource in sinking carbon and building climate resilience. The State’s plan is called the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) and includes a series of goals to reduce runoff. However, in the years following the development of this plan, rather than achieve the goals,  the state has regressed and nutrient loss issues have worsened. In 2021, for the first time ever, the State of Illinois allocated funding for the implementation of the NLRS– a huge step forward– but no directive was issued to state agencies to spend this funding. This Act solves the issue by providing a clear framework, the Healthy Soils and Watersheds Initiative, to state agencies to spend this funding. 

SECONDARY ISSUES

Improve farmers markets, food access, and small-farm livelihood

Farmers Market Permit Act SB3838, Sen. Koehler: For farmers who sell meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy and refrigerated foods at farmers markets, a patchwork of state licensing, local permits, and unclear requirements and fees has created a regulatory framework that is complicated, expensive, and duplicative. The current regulations prevent farmers from reaching new customers, prevent sales across county lines, and prevent Illinois shoppers from access to more fresh, local food. The Farmers Market Permit Act solves this issue by creating a standardized permit and set of regulations to allow farmers to reasonably sell their refrigerated products at farmers markets.

Protect and Celebrate Illinois’ most valuable natural resource

Soil Health Day & Week Resolution HJR63, Rep. Meier & Sen. Bennett: Despite soil’s importance to human health, climate mitigation, soil remediation, nutrition and food, feed, fiber, and fuel production, there is little public awareness of the importance of soil protection. This Resolution is an educational tool to raise awareness of the importance of soil health by dedicating the second full week of March as Soil Health Week and the Wednesday of that week as Soil Health Day. 

MULTI-YEAR ISSUES

Address racial equity in the agriculture

Black Farmer Restoration Act, Rep. Harper HB3501: Farmers of color and socially disadvantaged farmers have historically faced discriminatory and unfair treatment by local, state, and U.S. agencies, including land dispossession, loan refusal, and denial of access to resources. Their voices have not been invited to the table where decisions are made. These inequities have resulted in extreme barriers to entry for current farmers of color who are beginning or looking to scale their farming operations. The Black Farmer Restoration Act establishes the Black Farmer Restoration Fund to purchase farmland on the open market and grant it to eligible individuals. It also establishes the Farm Conservation Corps to provide training in an on-field environment for socially disadvantaged residents. Finally, it establishes an Equity Commission to study historical and continuing discrimination by the Department against Black farmers and ranchers.

Local Food and Farms Act, Rep. Harper HB3089: This Act aims to address past inequities that have led to wealth gaps for farmers of color by calling on the state to directly support farmers of color through state purchasing. This Act creates a goal for all state agencies and state-owned facilities to purchase 20% of all food and food products from socially disadvantaged farmers.

Shift millions in annual state food procurement toward local, healthy, humane, and sustainable farms and food businesses in Illinois

Statewide Good Food Purchasing Policy: In 2017, the City of Chicago passed a resolution to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP) that transforms the ways agencies purchase food by encouraging agencies and institutions to purchase food that meets 5 key criteria: local, fair, healthy, humane, and sustainable. Agencies report their purchasing practices annually and are provided with support to help make improvements. In 2020, Illinois Stewardship Alliance worked with a coalition of organizations to pursue a first in the nation statewide GFPP, which could shift millions in state procurement to local producers and businesses. In 2021 a coalition of organizations, including Chicago Food Policy Action Council, IEC, and Food Chain Workers Alliance introduced and passed a resolution to form a GFPP Task Force. The Task Force will assess the current state of procurement and market opportunities by Illinois state agencies and lay the groundwork for legislation that will focus on creating more transparency in Illinois procurement policy and shifting funding towards local, fair, healthy, humane, and sustainable businesses in our state.

Support farmers who responsibly steward the land:

Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program Funding: For the past three years, the Illinois General Assembly has made it possible for the Illinois Department of Agriculture to offer the Fall Covers for Spring Savings program to farmers. The Program provides a $5/acre discount on crop insurance premiums for farmers who plant those acres in cover crops between growing seasons. Cover crops help build soil health, prevent erosion, and keep waterways clean. Thanks to your advocacy, the Illinois budget allowed for 200,000 acres of cover crops to be planted in 2021. Though the Program has been funded for 3 years in a row, funding is never guaranteed. Continued advocacy efforts seeking level or increased funding are needed to keep this successful program in the ears of lawmakers and ensure that Illinois farmers can continue to offset costs for shielding their soils and protecting our drinking water. 

SIGN-ON SUPPORT

Address consolidation in the meatpacking industry

Illinois Association of Meat Processors Bill: As a result of consolidation in the meatpacking industry, prior to 2020 small livestock farmers across Illinois faced limited options to get their animals processed. In 2020, this issue was exacerbated when large processors shut down, creating a backlog  in processing capacity across the state. Some farmers still must book their processing dates a year in advance, creating added cost for farmers and a shortage of locally-raised meat for Illinois shoppers. This bill streamlines regulations for Illinois processors– primarily smaller processors who have less time and capacity to meet the paperwork requirements– enabling them to more easily conduct both inspected and uninspected processing from the same facility. This gives existing small processors the ability to increase processing capacity and provide Illinois farmers with more processing options.

Solve the livestock processing bottlenecks

Campaign to address meat inspector shortages: The Illinois of Department of Agriculture is responsible for inspecting meat processors to insure public health and safety.  82 inspectors are necessary to meet the inspection needs in Illinois but the Agency currently has 70.  Without an adequate number of meat inspectors, meat processors cannot expand their processing capacity, even if they have demand from farmers who need processing dates. This has contributed to the backlog in processing in Illinois. A campaign to increase the number of inspectors in Illinois will keep the inspector shortage in public attention.

Join our email list for easy updates on ways you can take action to support the 2022 policy agenda and the issues you care about: