Manifolds, Manolos and Manure
Spring in Springfield is an exciting time. Birds return. Grass and trees awaken from a long winter nap usually punctuated by an ice storm. And legislators, staff, and lobbyists spring (pun intended) into action. In several quick months members of the third branch research. Draft. Introduce. Present at committee. Move to Third Reading. And pass legislation. All in the hopes of improving the State of Illinois in some manner or another.
As a young legislative staff person, it was an exciting time. Early mornings mixed with late nights. The rush of session. Excitement of debate. And the thrill of the legislative process.
This spring is no different, Senator Crowe and Representative Mason are excitedly promoting legislation to create the Agritourism Liability Act. Under this Act, agritourism operators would have liability protections from injuries resulting from inherent risks associated with participating in an agritourism activity. The Act would not provide liability protection if a participant’s injury was the result of willful or wanton negligence on behalf of the operator. Farm Bureau supports Senate Bill 3107 and House Bill 5487. This legislation is of special interest to Cook County agritourism operators.
Speaking of agritourism operators, Senator Holmes has introduced Senate Bill 3008 to prohibit the use of certain animals at carnivals or at county fairs. The concern is that this could extend to the use of certain animals at agritourism venues. Farm Bureau is opposed to Senate Bill 3008.
Farm Bureau is also working on updates to the Local Food, Farm, and Jobs Act to incentivize purchasing products from Illinois farms. House Bill 3089 also allows socially disadvantaged farmers in the state the opportunity to have a preference in the bid process where they might not be able to financially otherwise. The bill gives a suggested purchasing goal for the state along with a tracking program. Furthermore, this allows for state procurement to give a bid to a socially disadvantaged bid over traditional bids even if the cost is higher.
Cook County Farm Bureau leaders in February engaged in conversations regarding the creation of policy to address food deserts. Senate Bill 629 sponsored by Senator Fowler also addresses food deserts. Senate Bill 629 calls for the Illinois Department of Agriculture to create a nutritious food program to operate projects and strategies that focus on the distribution of fresh and nutritious food as well as education in food preparation and nutrition in food deserts. Early Farm Bureau policy drafts also address supporting programs to encourage healthy eating, food preparation, and proper food storage. The draft policy also supports incentivizing grocery stores in underserved areas.
Legislative session is scheduled to end early this time around. Legislators are expected to be back in their districts and campaigning by mid-April. Despite the shorten scheduled, Farm Bureau will continue to advocate for members.