JOYCE: Meeting the responsibility to protect farmland

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Covering up just makes good sense today: for Illinois farm fields, for our economy and for our environment.

As a longtime family farmer, I have really enjoyed serving this year in Springfield as chair of the Illinois Senate Agriculture Committee. We cannot underestimate how important the crops we grow here and the families and jobs we support in our agriculture industry are for our success as a state, and as a nation.

With that opportunity to support a vibrant farming landscape comes our responsibility to protect our lands for generations to come. Promoting agriculture conservation practices is a priority of mine and many of my colleagues in the Legislature.

I have been excited to work this spring with a coalition of agricultural and environmental advocates led by American Farmland Trust and the Illinois Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, with the mission of encouraging more Illinois farmland to feature cover crops. Cover crops are planted to protect soil from erosion and nutrient loss when those fields are not filled with corn, soybeans and wheat for harvesting.

The coalition is pushing for a needed expansion of a program through the Illinois Department of Agriculture called Fall Covers for Spring Savings, which helps farmers get discounts on crop insurance for their cover crop acres.

The program has been a smashing success. In 2020, farmers reached the maximum 50,000 acres funded in just 12 days and more than double that number of acres could have been funded if state funds were available. This year, the demand soared: the 50,000-acre limit was hit in less than 12 hours, and interest topped 185,000 acres.

I am supportive of the coalition’s efforts for a significant increase in funding for this program. As I write this column, we are wrapping up the spring legislative session and a new state budget that I hope will prioritize cover crops and other agriculture conservation tools. I will continue to work with advocates and my legislative colleagues to promote these programs in the years to come.

I will have more in my June update on our legislative progress on other issues this spring. After 2020 when we were largely sidelined because of the pandemic, I have welcomed the chance to get to work on our state’s most pressing issues in Springfield.

I am encouraged by the governor’s announcements in May that we are more fully reopening the state this summer, and that we continue to vaccinate more people — including our younger people — to eventually end this pandemic. Please support our local businesses, take a minute to thank your healthcare professionals, and do something kind to show teachers how much you appreciate their patience and determination during these two trying school years.

Join us in following the social distancing guidelines, and take advantage of getting your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible. I urge you to contact me anytime I can help.

Patrick Joyce, D-Essex, represents the 40th District of the Illinois State Senate. The district includes all or parts of Kankakee, Will, Grundy and Cook counties. He can be reached by calling 708-756-0882 or visiting senatorpatrickjoyce.com.

Region: Northern,Region: Kankakee,Feeds,Opinion,City: Kankakee

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May 26, 2021 at 08:11AM

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