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Illinois Lawmakers Target Farmers Market Regulations

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Dan Stroud / Flickr.com/dstroud (cc-by-nc)
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A group of Illinois lawmakers are pushing an agenda intended to help farmers who sell at local markets.

Their legislation covers a variety of issues. One bill would set uniform fees and sanitation requirements at farmers markets across the state.

Lindsay Record, director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, says more people are going to farmers markets, but that isn't translating into better business.

“We actually received reports from across the states from farmers that sales are down," Record says. "So people are there, but maybe they aren’t purchasing.”

One of the proposals would let farmers use coolers to keep food cold — rather than dragging a refrigerator to market. Another would ease regulations on the sale of raw or unprocessed milk.

Meanwhile, a Chicago lawmaker wants state government to track so-called food deserts. These are areas in which residents do not have ready access to fresh and healthy foods.

Democratic state Rep. Sonya Harper's district includes Englewood, a neighborhood notorious for violence. But she says the number one killer in her community relates to food.

“At the age of 35 years old, I am the eldest member of my family, because all of my loved ones have died prematurely from preventable, diet-related diseases, I believe because we’ve lived in a food desert for the past 40 years."

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.