On Friday, February 15, I attended the Chicago Food Policy Summit in Chicago and got a chance to hear about many of the policy topics that are being addressed in Illinois this year that have a direct impact on our food system. While some of the initiatives were Chicago-centric, many of them were statewide.
Some of the ones that really caught my attention I have listed and linked to below. Many of the groups that I listened to have not yet released their Policy Agendas for 2019 (at least not online) so make sure to check in with your local policy groups to see what their legislative agendas for the year look like and give your support whenever you can.
Here we go…
Illinois Stewardship Alliance (https://www.ilstewards.org/)
Executive Director Liz Stelk gave a wonderfully robust list of their 2018 successes and 2019 priorities. Here were some of the highlights that (as pulled from their website):
MAKING FRESH, WHOLESOME FOOD AVAILABLE TO THE PEOPLE WHO NEED IT MOST, WHILE SUPPORTING FAMILY FARMERS
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 sales.
ENSURING INDUSTRIAL HEMP REGULATIONS AND PERMITTING WORKS FOR FARMERS
Last year we helped pass a law that gave farmers the right to grow industrial hemp. Now IDOA is drafting regulations and a permit process for farmers. This Spring we’ll be working with farmers and stakeholders across the state to ensure that the rules and the licensing process are fair and adequately support farmers as they embark on a venture to grow this new crop. Once the rules are in place, we’ll create a hemp legal guide to help folks navigate the process of applying for an application and getting started with growing hemp.
REWARDING FARMERS FOR PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
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. They help build healthy ecosystems for surrounding wildlife and 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.
Illinois Environmental Council (https://ilenviro.org/who-we-are/)
The Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) was speaking about their priorities just as I got into the hall (I was late) so I’m not able to talk about anything that they have on their policy agenda for 2019, but they are partnering with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance for a few projects. Here are links to some of their recent posts about their work and announcements by the new administration.
What Joining the U.S. Climate Alliance Means for Illinois: https://ilenviro.org/what-joining-the-us-climate-alliance-means-for-illi…
Powering Illinois’ Future Report: https://ilenviro.org/powering-illinois-future/
Check out how your state Senators and House Representatives stack up on IEC’s 2018 Legislative Scorecard: https://ilenviro.org/scorecard/
Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United (https://rocunited.org/)
Although they are a national organization, the Chicago/Illinois chapter of ROC United is pushing their One Fair Wage campaign, which calls for the elimination of the subminimum wage for tipped workers, which is currently just $4.95 in Illinois. Four of the state’s five lowest paying jobs are tipped occupations. As a result, many of the states 224,322 tipped workers are living in poverty and accessing Medicaid and SNAP at higher rates than Illinois’ overall workforce and that of the seven states that have eliminated the tipped minimum wage (states that have instituted One Fair Wage legislation). This is not only an economic issue but also a gender justice issue (66% of tipped workers are women, 38% of whom are mothers) and a sexual harassment issue (the two-tiered wage system facilitates sexual harassment and reinforces a power structure).
Illinois Workers Cooperative Alliance
The Illinois Workers Cooperative Alliance is asking for people to take action in favor of the Illinois Limited Cooperative Association Act which would provide for a new type of entity, the limited cooperative of business association (LCA), which has characteristics of both the traditional cooperative and the limited liability company (LLC). The LCA would 1) allow for additional sources of capitalization for worker cooperatives, 2) expand options for governance structures of worker cooperative businesses, 3) explicitly include worker cooperative language, 4) enshrine cooperative values in the business form, and 5) better accommodate access to worker-ownership for low-moderate income entrepreneurs and immigrant communities in Illinois.
Learn more about the white paper that the Illinois Worker Cooperative Alliance put together here: https://cjc.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Cooperation-Chicago-Rev-082418-compressed.pdf