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Illinois pork farmers say California mandates could cause urban food insecurity

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(The Center Square) – Democratic state lawmakers want to pass a plethora of bills that spend taxpayer dollars on grant programs to make food more accessible.

Legislators are looking to pass Senate Bill 3219 to provide grants for equipment upgrades to grocers. Senate Bill 2209 would establish a grant program offering up to $7,500 per school site to initiate Breakfast After the Bell programs. Senate Bill 1931 would provide free breakfast and lunch to all Illinois students attending public and private K-12 schools.

State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, said his bill, Senate Bill 3077, would require the Illinois Department of Agriculture to administer grants to enhance food processing and distribution. When asked why small farmers can’t afford things on their own without the grants, he said his bill would provide an opportunity to diversify agriculture.

“Small family farms are just asking for a little bit of help and that’s what we are trying to do,” Koehler said.

Jennifer Tirey, the executive director of the Illinois Pork Producers Association, said finding a fix for California’s Proposition 12 should be a top priority for small and large farms.

Prop 12 prohibits sales in California of pork from livestock whose confinement does not meet certain minimum space rules. Most Illinois farmers won’t be complying with Prop 12, according to Tirey.

“They [Illinois pork farmers] cannot sustain the expenses that it’s going to cost to change these farms and make these renovations,” Tirey said.

Koehler said he didn’t know much about Prop 12 and its financial impacts on Illinois farmers, but he would be in touch with the Illinois Farm Bureau. The bureau has said a full repeal of Prop 12 is “urgently needed.”

Distribution of pork looks different for small and large pig farmers in the state now that Prop 12 creates a barrier for them to sell meat to California. Tirey said urban areas will experience food insecurity.

“There’s so many food deserts in urban areas of our state and we’re [the Illinois pork farmers] trying to relate it back to our state so they [congressmen] can understand the impact we are starting to see with just this first regulation that California has put down on us,” Tirey said.

Tirey is meeting with members of Illinois’ congressional delegation to ask for support for a federal solution in the next Farm Bill. The association is worried with Prop 12 being upheld by the Supreme Court, that every state will set regulations.

“We can’t have a patchwork and still have our farmers be able to provide nutritious and affordable protein. We have been working at the federal level to get a permanent solution in this Farm Bill,” Tirey said.

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