Legislative Update from Wes King at the Illinois Stewardship Alliance

Legislative Update: A two week spring break around the Easter holiday has come and gone for both the Illinois General Assembly and the United States Congress. Here in Illinois at the General Assembly spring break represents a half-way point, legislation that didn’t garner enough support to make it through the original chamber (House or Senate) from which it started in is generally dead. The Illinois General Assembly then uses the remaining time, April through the end of May, to deal with the state’s budget and any legislation from before spring break that was able to find enough support from lawmakers to pass out of its original chamber. Below you will find some highlights from the Illinois General Assembly since the last update I sent out, as well as some timely updates on the 2012 Farm Bill.

Illinois General Assembly Updates:

Senate Bill 3456, sponsored by Senator Frerichs, which would create a new permit that, would make it easier for Illinois winemakers and Illinois craft beer makers to sell their local wine or local beer at farmers markets and other community events was passed by the Illinois Senate with a vote of 55-0. Representative Lou Lang is the chief sponsor in the House.

HB 5893, sponsored by Representative Kosel would amend state economic development laws to encourage convention center boards to support farmers markets by opening their doors free of charge or at reduced rates for farmers markets on inclement weather days, was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives by a vote of 105-1. Senator Dave Koehler is the sponsor in the Senate. HB 5893 is moving along fairly quickly, the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee unanimously recommended HB 5893 to the full Senate.

ISA hosted our 3rd annual Local Food Awareness Day at the Capitol on March 28th. Local Food Day was once again a big success. We had nearly 40 local food and farm advocates from around the state join us for the day! Local Food day was capped off by a roundtable discussion of local food issues hosted by Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, topics discussed included, composting regulations for farms accepting off site materials, implementation of Illinois’ cottage food law and general discussions about risk and scale appropriate regulations.

2012 Farm Bill:

The Senate Agriculture Committee is moving fast! Having completed a series of committee hearings over the past couple months, last week Chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow released a draft 2012 Farm Bill. The Senate Agriculture committee is set to debate and offer amendments to the legislation in a process called “mark-up” this Wednesday. The draft proposal released last week is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to ISA’s local food, beginning farmers, and conservation priorities. We are hopeful that during the “mark-up” process we will see improvements relative to our priority areas.

In the U.S. House of Representatives things are a moving forward much more slowly and are being hampered by partisanship and general dysfunction. The House Agriculture Committee is finishing up field hearings and is set to begin D.C. committee hearings. However, the process is being overshadowed by a partisan budget reconciliation process that undermines previous bi-partisan work on putting together a new farm bill this year. Whether or not the House is able to get their act together in time remains to be unseen.

Cottage Food Implementation:

Throughout most of Illinois implementation of Illinois’ new cottage food law is moving forward with relatively minor bumps. However, things have not been very smooth for those in the Cook County suburbs that are under the jurisdiction of the Cook County Department of Public Health. At this point despite the clear intent of the law as documented in the IL Department of Public Health’s cottage food implementation guidance document, Cook County Department of Public Health is refusing to register cottage food operations within their jurisdiction. We are working with our key partners in state government to resolve the issue but need your help. If you or someone you know has tried to register as a cottage food operation with the Cook County Department of Public Health but has been refused we need to know who you/they are. If Cook County Department of Public Health has refused to accept your registration please contact me at wes@ilstewards.org and let me know about the situation. We need to be able to have specific individual examples as we move forward with resolving the situation.

Wes King
Policy Coordinator
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
“Local Food Matters”

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