IEC Legislative Update

Food, Farms, and the Environment: What’s on your legislator’s plate for 2014?

We’re a little over a month in to session and IEC is tracking over 100 bills that touch on environmental issues.  Few bills are advancing out of committee at this point.  Committee deadline is March 28; it’s very likely that a great majority of bills will be heard in committee after the Primary Election on March 18.  To kick off this week, I’ve put together an in depth look at one of the many issues that the environmental community is working on: agriculture and the environment.

Agriculture plays a dominant role in the economy of the state of Illinois and likewise, agricultural interests are important to many Illinois legislators.  The environmental community has concerns about from the impact of agriculture on our natural resources and the environment: nutrient and pesticide pollution from runoff, soil erosion, and loss of habitat from farmland development have long been issues of concern. Today, carbon pollution from food transportation, genetically engineered crops that encourage further pesticide use, and the loss of open space through urban development of farmland are growing concerns.

Illinois is fortunate to have a robust and growing local food economy and stewardship movement on agricultural lands.  Organic crops, local specialty crop growers, farmers markets, and food cooperatives provide new and growing economic opportunities to Illinois and new alternatives for environmentalists to support.

IEC and our partner organizations have put together a slate of important food and environment bills.  Read more and help us pass these bills!

Clear Rules to Support Farmers Markets. Currently, rules and regulations governing farmers markets vary dramatically from county to county, as there are no uniform statewide regulations for farmers markets. We should be doing everything we can to support farmers markets, the jobs they create and the businesses they incubate. HB5657– Tryon /SB3380 – Koehler creates a process to address the larger issue of inconsistency by setting clear timelines to develop statewide administrative rules for farmers markets, creates a new statewide license for sampling, and requires product origin transparency requirements so consumers know where the produce they are buying was grown. Take action here.

Clean up pollution from large animal farms. Nutrient pollution is llinois’s most widespread water pollution problem, threatening our drinking water and wildlife.   Illinois is a lead contributor to pollution causing the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.  The General Assembly should especially take steps to curb pollution from large animal feeding operations through tighter environmental regulations, local control, and citizen appeals (HB5637 – Jakobsson). Take action here.

Label Genetically Engineered Foods. Legislators should take action to require GE labeling of food. GE labeling would help consumers avoid farming practices and products that are contributing to the use of more and harsher pesticides and herbicides and undermining efforts to promote biodiversity and sustainability.  (SB1666 – Koehler /HB3085 – Hernandez).  Take Action through Food and Water Watch here.

Food Cooperatives.  The local food economy in Illinois is supported in many ways by membership owned food cooperatives such as Common Ground in Urbana, Illinois, Neighborhood Co-op Grocery in Carbondale, Dill Pickle in Chicago, Sugar Beet Cooperative in Oak Park, and forming cooperatives like the Chicago Cooperative and Green Top Grocery in Bloomington.  Cooperative laws haven’t been updated since 1915 and they need an update.  We are working with cooperatives to explore HB5877 and SB3438 and update existing laws.

 

Policy on the Plate:  Panel Discussion

Talk more about the issues outlined in this e-mail with the legislators leading the cause on Friday, March 14th at 5:30 p.m. as part of the Good Food Festival Policy Summit.

Join Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Bob Flider, State Senator David Koehler, Representative Mike Tryon, and Representative Robyn Gabel for a special Policy Summit panel discussion on state local food policy. Panelists will discuss some of the exciting initiatives and priorities they are working on to advance the Good Food Movement.

The panel is being organized by the Young Professionals for Good Food Network and the Illinois Environmental Council’s Young Professional Board and will be free and open to the public (festival admission is not required to attend). Come and learn about policies that are advancing the Good Food Movement.

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