Illinois’ has more than 74,000 farms covering some 27 million acres, or about 75% of the state’s total land area. Agricultural commodities in Illinois generate more than $19 billion annually, and billions more from agriculture-related industries. Illinois is a leading producer of soybeans, corn, and swine. We also produce cattle, wheat, oats, sorghum, hay, sheep, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops, such as buckwheat, horseradish, ostriches, fish, and Christmas trees. Illinois has one of the highest concentrations of large-scale factory farms in the nation. There are approximately 30,000 livestock operations in the state, including around 500 large CAFOs and 5.4 million egg-laying hens.

Unfortunately, Illinois’ agricultural operations often lead to the contamination of our water resources. About 20% of our rivers have been degraded due to the production of crops. Damages include soil erosion, which leads to sedimentation in waterways; nutrient pollution from phosphorus and nitrogen contained in fertilizer and animal manure; and pesticide pollution. Additionally, over 600 miles of streams and 25,000 acres of lakes in Illinois have been polluted by CAFOs, making these facilities one of the top causes for pollution in rivers and lakes. Illinois has over 87,000 miles of rivers and streams that join the Mississippi River and is a significant contributor of the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution causing the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

Current Food Laws
Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Council:
The Food, Farms, and Jobs Council is putting a large amount of effort into creating self-reliant food communities that not only benefit small business, but provide jobs for the working class. The benefits are similar to that seen with farmers markets.
Cottage Food Operations Act:
In addition to growing local food, processing and selling food locally is important to encourage the sales of local food and develop local economies. The cottage food operations act gives regulatory guidelines on how “non-hazardous” foods made in a home kitchen such as baked goods and canned goods can be sold and distributed. These products are labeled as homemade and the seller cannot gross more than $25,000 annually in sales. This legislation was passed in 2011 and changes were made in 2014.

A bill, HB3063, passed in 2017 now allows food, such as baked goods, but excluding most meats, that hasn’t been inspected to still be sold at farmers markets.

Composting for rural and urban farms.
Rural farms are exempt from IEPA permitting for composting if the operation is kept to less than 2% of the size of the property. This exemption was extended to urban farms in 2013. In addition, regulatory barriers to community garden composting were removed in 2013 through state government. The city of Chicago has adopted these new changes to create an urban farm and community garden compost operation through ordinance.
Farmers Market Regulation and Task Force:
Amends the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act. Provides that the Farmers Market Task Force shall be formed to assist in enacting statewide administrative regulations for farmers markets, which creates a more consistent regulatory system than having each county create their own set of rules, as was previously the case.
Our Vision for Illinois
Many of IEC’s goals seek the result that farmland is protected and remains as farmland and open space. Counties have the authority to preserve farmland.
Illinois farming practice emphasize the following:
  • Soil building and retention, erosion control
  • Decreased use of pesticides
  • Improve water quality
  • Improve Food access
  • Farmland protection
  • Promoting infrastructure that supports local food systems
  • Scale appropriate public health regulations
  • Increased consumption of local food
Illinois should ensure that pollution from agricultural operations is minimized by...
setting an acreage goal for cover crops and enacting policies or redirecting funds to meet this goal; implementing carve outs or mandates that promote sustainability; requiring genetically engineered foods are required to be labeled; setting up best management practices and ensuring financial support is available for nutrient pollution; regulating pesticide drift to protect nearby farmers and landowners; reducing the reliance on factory farms for livestock production; promoting sustainable farming practices at every level through the Department of Agriculture system; and, fully funding soil and water conservation districts with directives to promote sustainable practices. Illinois should also reform the pesticide regulatory system to promote least toxic practices, including Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is an environmentally sensitive approach that relies on comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment.”
The Illinois food safety and regulation system should protect the health of consumers...
while still providing opportunities for small batch and farm producers to sell products. Regulations for the sale and barriers to the sale of local food at farmers markets, grocery stores, and restaurants should be examined and should appropriately incentivize the sale of local and sustainable foods.

– Funding and programs should be created or increased to support new farmers with access to farmland, sustainable and organic farming practices, and better statewide communication and planning that supports local food consumption.

State and local governments should increase their procurement of local and organic foods.
Currently, there is a 20/20 procurement goal for the state. Analysis should be conducted to provide information on whether the 20/20 procurement goal is feasible and how it can be met. This goal should be a focus for all relevant state agencies. Barriers to use of local foods in public buildings—including schools—should be removed. Further, government run agricultural operations should model stewardship approaches to farming. State resources should be used to connect buyers to sellers and more active partnerships to encourage these transactions.
State policy should recognize the importance of community gardens and urban agriculture.
Community gardens tie into the whole food production system, and include rainwater harvesting and soil testing. Any barriers to community gardens should be removed, including governmental units allowing community gardens on public property, where applicable. And regulatory barriers to providing food-to-food banks should be removed.
Take Action and More Resources


Sustainable Agriculture:

Factory Farms:
Read Environment Illinois’ report on Factory Farms.

Partners for Parks and Wildlife

Partners for Parks and Wildlife (PPW) is a grassroots coalition that is dedicated to secure and increase funding for open space and park acquisition, natural area preservation, wildlife habitat protection and recreational opportunities in Illinois.

Learn More About Climate Change

The U.S. EPA’s website on climate change was once a great resource for basic scientific information on the topic and we look forward to the day that it is again. Until then, the City of Chicago is making sure its citizens have access to research and information.


One of the simplest ways to donate to the IEC is by contributing through EarthShare in your workplace charity campaign .