Agricultural Preservation State Policies
Illinois has a number of state policies in place to support agricultural preservation. The state has adopted or enabled local governments to adopt policies such as agricultural district areas, conservation easements, right-to-farm laws, and purchase of development rights. A major break for farmers is the land use assessment procedure that values the land based on its soil productivity index, rather than land market value (ILGA, Property Tax Code). Other legislation requires the state to minimize its own conversion of prime farmland (both directly and indirectly), secure funding for agricultural research, and mandate notification to local Soil and Water Conservation Districts if any municipality is planning to rezone or subdivide agricultural land.
Important State Legislative Policies
Among all of Illinois' initiatives to preserve agricultural land, there are five key policies that have been exceptional in their effort to assist preservation.
State Legislation "In the Making"
As of mid-2008, there were three pending bills in the Illinois legislature regarding agricultural preservation in either the House or Senate. At the time of the posting of this report, all of these bills have been referred to the Rules Committee.
Illinois Senate Bill 1992 (2008)
An amendment to county code passed allows a county with over 1,000,000 residents to levy an annual tax no greater than 0.05% of the equalized assessed value of taxable property in the county for farmland preservation purchase of easement purposes if approved by referendum.
Illinois House Bill 4774 (2008)
An amendment to the county and Illinois municipal codes which allows county boards and corporate authorities of municipalities, for the purpose of preserving agricultural land, to purchase or accept donations of development rights.
Illinois House Bill 4462 (2008)
Provides that Kane County specifically may levy an annual tax of no greater than .05% of the equalized assessed value of taxable property in the county for farmland preservation purchase of easement purposes if approved by referendum.
Under the Farmland Preservation Act (FPA), local agencies have to notify the State of requests for conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. Local municipalities must be FPA compliant. The State then conducts an agricultural impact study to determine whether or not this project is harmful to the environment. In this capacity, the State plays an advisory role. The goal is to try to minimize agricultural land conversion. Typically the municipalities notify IEPA (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency) directly and then IEPA, the regulatory authority, notifies the State. On average there are up to 1,000 requests per year for conversion to non-agricultural development all over the State. However, only an estimated 30% of farmland conversion is a result of state agency action, recommendations or approvals. The State doesn't review privately funded projects (Source: Steve Chard, IL Dept of Agriculture).