Midwest Policy Priorities - American Farmland Trust

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Midwest & Illinois State Policy

Advocating to protect farmland, keep farmers on the land, and help farmers adopt sound farming practices

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Current opportunities to take action in Midwest grassroot advocacy and Illinois State Policy.

The Midwest is a global leader in agricultural production. The region is home to over 200 million acres of cropland and produces billions of dollars of food and agricultural goods every year. We believe that farms and farm communities are part of the solution to our biggest challenges.

We are dedicated to working with partners to find solutions to these problems in a comprehensive and holistic manner. By expanding Midwest agriculture practices, land protection, land access, and farm viability, we can create a healthy and resilient Midwest.

Midwest Policy Priorities Roadmap
  1. Expanding the Adoption of Cover Crops—Cover Crops are one of the most effective ways to reduce nutrient losses from croplands and protect soil health. However, they are currently being planted on only a small percentage of Midwest Cropland. Innovative programs like the Illinois Fall Covers for Spring Savings offer a unique way to offer a small incentive with a big impact.
  2. Prioritizing Climate Action—Midwest croplands have the potential to sequester carbon and remove millions of tons of excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Prioritizing climate action is not yet a major part of agricultural programs in the region. Climate goals can be integrated into existing cost share, grants, and other supports on croplands in ways that also protect soils,clean water, and bolster agricultural production.
  3. Funding Conservation Partners—State-level programs provide critical funding to farmers and technical assistance partners like conservation districts. However, we still need new investment to protect Midwest farmland. Outcomes driven funding approaches, smart incentives, public private partnerships, and climate finance all do that and we are committed to finding creative ways to bring new funding support to the region.
  4. Protecting At-Risk Land—As farmland throughout the region is under threat, so too are the many benefits that farms provide. Midwest states can adopt a suite of tools and policies to better protect farmland. This includes expanding programs that provide land access to beginning and new farmers, and which provide additional assistance to historically marginalized and discriminated populations.

Our work has focused on engagement with farmers, landowners, and conservation partners to improve the health of our soils and protect our waters through the implementation of best management conservation practices.


The Illinois State Capitol is located in Springfield, Illinois

In Illinois, for years we have been working with strong partnerships, like the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership, and connecting farmers to the technical expertise and financial resources they need to put in place practices that reduce pollution in waterways, improve soil health and water quality, and increase farm field productivity. 

This work has not only contributed towards meeting the state’s nutrient loss reduction goals. It has also bolstered the bottom line for farmers on some of the most important and productive cropland across the country.    

Policy Manager, Max Webster, at Farm Progress Show 2021

We recognize that the challenges facing the state of Illinois and the Midwest agriculture region are seriousWe are not on track to meet our nutrient loss reduction goals, and regenerative practices, like the use of cover crops and no-till, need to be expanded on many more acres. Farmland that is important to communities and the integrity of the landscape continues to be lost across the state. Climate change and increasingly extreme weather events threaten productivity and the resilience of the state’s farming economy. 

Despite these challenges, there are many opportunities to advance important work on Illinois farmland. Through our efforts in farming communities across the state, we have seen a readiness to address these concerns and advance longlasting, innovative solutions that have widespread benefits.  

This demand is best demonstrated through farmer interest in participating in programs like the Fall Covers for Spring Savings Cover Crop Premium Discount Program, which in the three years since it has been offered by the Illinois Department of Agriculture has been fully utilized and oversubscribed. AFT and partners doubled the original funding of the FCSS program to $600,000, or 100,000 acres, into the IDOA budget for crop year 2022. More than 500 farmers applied in 2020, and over 750 applied in 2021, demonstrating the increasing popularity of the FCSS program. In addition to the state incentive, 600,000 FSA certified cover crop acres were eligible for an additional crop insurance discount. This acreage received an additional $5/acre through the USDA Pandemic Relief Program.


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