SPRINGFIELD — The passage of Senate Bill 1701 advances agriculture conservation in Illinois by supporting farming practices that will yield healthier, stronger soils and cleaner water across the state, advocates said today.
Legislators approved Senate Bill 1701 as part of the final days of the spring legislative session in Springfield. It now goes to the Governor for review.
The Illinois Healthy Soil and Waters Coalition worked closely with groups representing farmers to craft the legislation, which builds on several years of progress in the voluntary adoption of practices to protect farm ground from soil erosion and other climate and weather challenges.
The legislation sends a strong message that Illinois must accelerate its efforts to protect soil health and prevent nutrient losses. It directs the Illinois Department of Agriculture to work with Soil and Water Conservation Districts and other conservation-focused state agencies to help with the accelerated soil health framework.
County Soil and Water Conservation Districts will develop soil health assessments to identify the staffing and funding needed to ensure farmers have both the tools and in-the-field support to embrace soil health strategies and tactics that work best within their farm operations. The new legislation places special emphasis on beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers.
“Every step we take today to prevent our soils from eroding and losing nutrients is a step forward for tomorrow,” said Grant Hammer, director of the Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts, a member organization of the Illinois Healthy Soil and Waters Coalition. “The practices envisioned in Senate Bill 1701 will give farmers overseeing operations of all sizes the knowledge and opportunity they need to seamlessly integrate sustainable farming practices into their daily lives. We all will benefit from more farms using cover crops and other conservation tools to protect their investment and promote a healthier, stronger future.”
“Conservation on farms is one of the best ways that Illinois can tackle nutrient loss. But practice adoption is risky and farmers need the proper tools and support to implement conservation practices. The passage of SB1701 provides resources farmers need and accelerates our ability to meet the goals of the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, ” said Liz Rupel of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.
“Farmers work every day to carefully and thoughtfully make decisions that not only produce strong crops for this year’s harvest but also set up success that can be repeated year after year,” said Dr. Corey Lacey of the Illinois Soybean Association. “We believe the funding for voluntary soil health practices included in this legislation give our farmers a broader menu of tools and support to incorporate these smart strategies for their fields’ needs.”
The organizations supporting this legislation are now calling on legislators to vote for an Illinois state budget that follows through on SB1701’s promise of more support for sustainable farming practices. By putting more money into Soil and Water Conservation Districts and urging farmers to make voluntary conservation practices a key part of how they manage their operations, we will invest in our future success – on our farms and across our state.