Illinois Healthy Soils Policy

The Soil and Water Conservation Districts Act

Dates:

Passed May 2019 

Legislation:

SB1980 / HB 2737: The Soil and Water Conservation Districts Act

Sponsor/s: 

Description:

The Soil and Water Conservation Districts Act declares that soil health is a matter of public interest because of its impacts on erosion and sediment control, air pollution, water quality, resilience against floods and droughts, and public health.

The Act amends the original Soil and Water Conservation Districts Act to explicitly allow the Soil and Water Conservation Districts to take targeted action to support soil health and water quality. Actions can include but are not limited to; creating surveys, investigations, research, development of comprehensive plans, and making machinery and equipment that support soil health practices available to landowners. 

The Act was intended to preempt potential legal battles of the districts designing soil-specific programs as well as provide guidance to the conservation districts. There is no funding is associated with this Act.

Soil Health Definition:

“The overall composition of the soil, including the amount of organic matter stored in the soil, and the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.”

Stated Goals:

  • To build the soil health in the state for its many co-benefits including: preventing soil erosion, reducing pollution, improving water quality, conserving natural resources, and building resilience in the face of floods, droughts, and extreme weather  
  • To promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people of the State.
  • To allow the Soil and Water Conservation Districts to take specific action to increase soil health and soil organic matter

Program Required Measurements:

  • To be determined

Tools & Guidance: 

  • To be determined

Funding: 

  • No funding is associated with this Act

Practices Eligible for Funding: 

  • N/A

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking Process:

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups

Lessons Learned:

  • Be prepared with clear policy, program frameworks, and ideas in order to take advantage of the right political climate when it arises. The obstacle previously was an unsupportive State Administration. When a new and supportive Administration took over in 2019, advocate organizations were prepared with policies and ideas that were able to be quickly implemented. 
  • Work to build trust and communication  with the Director of the Department of Agriculture and other key stakeholders before crafting policy
  • Turn programs into statutes when possible to protect against changes in administrations. 
  • Help educate legislators by building relationships between legislators and farmers in their districts. The Illinois Environmental Council organizes legislative farm tours to see conservation practices in action so they are more likely to understand and advocate for them

Media:

Maps:

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NOT PASSED: Department of Natural Resources-Soil Health Practices 

The Bill was tabled in the House Chamber. Requires a legislative champion to move the Bill forward next legislative session.  

Date:

Introduced 2019

Legislation:

House Bill 2819 DNR-Soil Health Practices 

Sponsor/s: 

Representative Chris Miller 

Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz

Description:

House Bill 2810 would amend the Department of Natural Resources Act to allow the Department to require specific soil health practices on land leased for agricultural use. Similar to SB1980 / HB 2737, this Bill was intended to preempt potential legal battles if the Department of Natural Resources begins requiring soil health practices. No funding was associated with this Bill. 

Soil Health Definition:

N/A

Stated Goals:

  • To support building healthy soils in the state to capitalize on its many co-benefits 
  • To allow the Department of Natural Resources to require the use of soil health practices on land leased for agricultural use 

Program Required Measurements:

  • N/A

Tools & Guidance:

  • N/A

Funding Source/s: 

  • N/A

Funding Type/s:

  • N/A

Practices Eligible for Funding: 

  • N/A

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking Process:

  • N/A

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups:

Lessons Learned:

Media:

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Related Policies

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Partners for Conservation (PFC)

Dates:

First created in 1995. The program has been extended twice, once in 1999, and most recently in 2008 creating an extension to 2021 

Legislation:

HB 1780 – Extended the program to 2021 and renamed the program to Partners for Conservation

Sponsor/s: 

Description:

The Partners for Conservation (PFC) initiative aims to protect natural resources and improve outdoor recreation in Illinois. PFC programs are all voluntary incentives. It has created four main strategies targeting soil and water conservation: 

  1. Sustainable agriculture grant program supports demonstration projects, outreach, and education.
  2. Conservation practices cost-share program 
  3. Streambank stabilization and restoration program funds demonstration projects on methods to limit stream bank erosion. 
  4. Soil and water conservation district grants program supports soil and water conservation districts offset expenses. 

Soil Health Definition:

N/A

Stated Goals:

  • To manage and preserve the state’s natural resources and preserve and enhance biological resources through voluntary and incentive-based means 
  • To collaborate with private landowners (90% of the state is privately owned) and community interests in promoting conservation efforts.

Program Required Measurements:

  1. Sustainable agriculture grant program: Must create an interim and final report on the progress of the program and a minimum of 6 digital pictures. 
    1. Reporting forms 
  2. Conservation practices cost-share program: Applicants are not required to take measurements. 
  3. Streambank stabilization and restoration program:  Must meet assessment and selection criteria established for successful streambank stabilization and maintain the practices for at least 10 years. 
  4. Soil and water conservation district grants program:  Applicants are not required to take measurements.

Tools & Guidance:

N/A

Funding Source/s:

Funding Type/s: 

  1. Sustainable agriculture grant program
    1. Individuals can receive up to $10,000 and groups, institutions or organizations can receive up to $20,000 per project
  2. Conservation practices cost-share program
    1. SWCDs share cost for projects that reduce soil loss with landowners (maximum is 60%)
  3. Streambank stabilization and restoration program
    1. Fund demonstration projects at suitable locations statewide and provide cost-share assistance to landowners with severely eroding stream banks
  4. Soil and water conservation district grants program 
    1. Funded by the Department of Agriculture 

Practices Eligible for Funding: 

  1. Sustainable agriculture grant program
    1. On-Farm Research and Demonstration grants
    2. Outreach and Education grants
    3. University Research grants
  2. Conservation practices cost-share program
    1. Cover and green manure crops 
    2. Critical area planting
    3. Diversions
    4. Field border strips
    5. Filter strips
    6. Grade stabilization structures
    7. Grassed waterways
    8. No-till planting systems 
    9. Nutrient management planning/implementation
    10. Pastureland and hayland plantings
    11. Terraces 
    12. Water and sediment control basins
  3. Streambank stabilization and restoration program
    1. Vegetative or other bioengineering techniques for stream stabilization 
  4. Soil and water conservation district grants program 
    1. Soil conservation
    2. Water quality protection
    3. Wetlands management
    4. Flood control
    5. Soil erosion control at urban construction sites
    6. Streambank stabilization
    7. Recycling, soil interpretation
    8. Land use and site suitability
    9. Conservation education

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking Process:

  1. Sustainable agriculture grant program
    1. Grants reviewed by an 11-member Sustainable Agriculture Review Committee 
    2. Based on the following criteria: Project objectives, cost, cooperative efforts plan of work, outreach, impacts
  2. Conservation practices cost-share program
    1. Based on which projects save the most soil or benefit the most acres per dollar cost
    2. Recipients must agree to continue or maintain structural conservation practices and possibly some management practices for at least 10 years
  3. Streambank stabilization and restoration program
    1. Selected by an independent committee 
    2. Recipients must agree to maintain streambank stabilization practices for at least 10 years
  4. Soil and water conservation district grants program
    1. Overseen by Soil and Water Conservation Districts 

State Universities & Researchers: 

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment; Funding research on greenhouse gas emissions and farming practices, nutrient management and soil health, technology for sustainable agriculture, regulation, public health, food safety, and policy

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups:

Lessons Learned:

  • Good programs don’t exist without funding. There was an Illinois budget crisis for years which effectively gutted this program. 

Media:

Maps:

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Other state initiatives: 

  • Pilot program for discounted crop insurance if farmers use a cover crop 
    • $300,000 was included in the 2019 state budget that will cover 60,000 acres of farmland with a payment of $5 per acre 
  • Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources (STAR) Program rates farm fields based on the use of conservation practices  
    • Implemented by SWCDs and shown success within the farming community as a means to support and acknowledge farmers 

Questions?

Contact Illinois@healthysoilspolicy.org