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Time for Illinois to Take Next Steps to Protect Soil Health
Photo by April Opatik

You’ve heard us say it before, but it’s worth saying it again: The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is a big deal. Not just for protecting healthy soils and water quality but also for understanding what kinds of resources farmers need to keep their operations strong and resilient.  

Since the U.S. EPA first provided guidance to the states in drafting their nutrient loss strategies in 2011, AFT and our partners have been engaged in this effort. For over a decade, we have known that the challenges associated with nutrient loss cannot be solved overnight. This kind of work requires patience and dedication to yield valuable results.  

Yet, with the 2025 target for short-term goals right around the corner, funding for critical programs that support nutrient loss reduction efforts are on the line this year in the Illinois General Assembly.  

That’s why we are urging lawmakers to get behind the Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act (SB3471). SB3471 extends critical programs, like the Partners for Conservation program, for an additional ten years and adds new tools to the toolbox for farmers and conservation partners to target investments where they are most needed and can have the biggest impact.  

The bill also includes AFT’s five recommendations for Illinois soil health by improving nutrient loss reduction work by:  

  1. Integrating climate science into the nutrient loss reduction strategy  
  2. Developing long-term stable funding plans  
  3. Building local conservation capacity 
  4. Establishing an outcomes-based approach  
  5. Connecting research to the implementation of projects

The opportunity to correct long-standing barriers to establish projects on the ground is now. Since the Illinois nutrient loss reduction strategy was first adopted in 2015, we have been excited to see farmers from all over the state of Illinois adopt new conservation practices like, reduced tillage and cover crops.  

Mixed cover crop variety

Still, not enough resources are getting to farmers. Demand for financial and technical assistance is far outpacing existing resources and we are falling well behind the targets we set for ourselves.   

Investments in Illinois soil health and nutrient loss reduction mean healthier soils that are more resilient to the impacts of climate change, which helps produce sustainable crops year after year. These investments also mean clean and safe drinking water and rivers and streams that protect biodiversity, here in Illinois and downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. And finally, these investments mean conservation practices that result in less labor and less input costs from fuel and fertilizer, which saves farmers money and valuable time.   

Other states are seeing the value of this kind of work. The H2Ohio program is dedicating millions of new dollars to reducing nutrient loss in the Lake Erie Basin. New York recently enacted the Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act to support farming in adopting practices that mitigate the impacts of climate to soils and watersheds. In Iowa, the state committed to a long-term $100 million investment plan that supports water infrastructure and conservation practices to combat nutrient loss. It’s time that Illinois dedicates valuable time and investments in conservation.

 

Urge your legislators and demand: Support the Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act!

It’s time that Illinois dedicates valuable time and investments in conservation.

Take Action Now!
About the Author
Max Webster

Midwest Policy Manager

mwebster@farmland.org

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