Local Food, Farms and Jobs: Growing the Illinois Economy

March 2, 2009 at 7:33 pm

UPDATE: The full report is now online.

UPDATE: The task force recommendations have been released. Read the press release here.

Illinois is uniquely poised to forge a new future of hope and prosperity grounded in Illinois’ abundant resources: rich and productive farmland, farmers, and 12.8 million people. Today, Illinois spends $48 billion annually on food, 95% of which is imported from other states and countries.

The borders of Illinois enclose 36 million acres of the world’s most productive agricultural soils, 28 million of which are currently farm fields. Though Illinois is a major agricultural state, Illinois farmers today are not growing the food we eat. While Illinois grocery stores are surrounded by the world’s richest farmland and by the world’s most productive farmers, our food items average a journey of over 1500 miles before reaching our grocery carts.

Illinois soils, farmers, processors, and distributors could be providing our annual diet of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, poultry, and eggs. Some of our winter supply of fresh fruits and vegetables presently comes from greenhouses in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario. Despite Illinois winters, greenhouse, hoop house, and high tunnel technology makes it possible for Illinois farmers to provide our year-round supply of food.

An Illinois farm and food economy is economic development, job creation, and rural/urban revitalization. Illinois farmers producing what Illinois people purchase would enrich the Illinois economy by retaining within our borders most of the $48 billion we now export to obtain our food. The Illinois General Assembly in 2007 commissioned the Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force to provide them a strategic plan for accomplishing this goal.

On March 4, 2009, the Task Force is hosting a press conference for the release of their report, “Local Food, Farms, and Jobs: Growing the Illinois Economy”. At the same time, new legislation will be proposed to implement the recommendations of the report. Join us for the press conference and stay the afternoon to talk with your legislators about local food. If you desire a year-round supply of Illinois grown food in every Illinois community, the revitalization of Illinois communities, and enrichment of the Illinois treasury, let your voice be heard. Join us in Springfield (see details below).

First you may want to learn how to lobby on these issues. On March 3, 2009, join the Illinois Local Food and Farms Coalition statewide conference call to learn how to educate legislators in preparation for March 4th. Jim Braun (Task Force Coordinator) will review talking points for the legislation and share the most effective methods for talking to your legislators (see details below).

The Task Force invites your participation at the training session, press conference, and lobby day.

If you would like more information, contact Task Force Coordinators:

Debbie Hillman and Jim Braun, Coordinators
Illinois Local & Organic Food & Farm Task Force
DLHILLMAN@sbcglobal.net 847/328-7175 (Evanston)
JBraun2525@yahoo.com 515/229-2679 (Springfield)

Event Details:
Tuesday, March 3
10:30am – 11:30am
Conference Call: Learning how to Lobby
Call-in number: (800)377-8846
Pass code: 504-332-17#

Wednesday, March 4
Press Conference and Lobby Day Details
11:00am – Noon: Press conference

Speeches by State Rep. Julie Hamos (chief sponsor), Sen. Jackie Collins (Senate sponsor), other legislative sponsors (to be confirmed), DOA Director Tom Jennings (to be confirmed), Wes Jarrell (Task Force chairperson), farmers, and consumers. Questions by the media.

State Capitol Press Room (Blue Room), West Mezzanine (between 2nd and 3rd floor)

Ask at Main Desk in Rotunda for directions to appropriate elevator

12:00pm – 12:30pm Media interviews of individual Task Force members and local food advocates
12:30pm Visit legislators: talk to your legislators, ask them to be a sponsor of the bill
4:00pm Debriefing in Rathskeller (basement of Capitol)

Jim Braun is a former hog farmer from Iowa (4th generation), turned political strategist and organizer. Currently a Coordinator of the Illinois Local & Organic Food & Farm Task Force, which was created by the Illinois General Assembly through the Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Act of 2007. Also a board member of Slow Food USA.

Debbie Hillman, a Chicago native living in Evanston for 32 years, was a professional gardener until 2005, when she co-founded the Evanston Food Policy Council to work on food and farm issues. Debbie’s state representative, Julie Hamos, was the chief sponsor of the Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Act of 2007, which created the Illinois Local & Organic Food & Farm Task Force, of which Debbie is currently a Coordinator.