Bill Seeks to Create Urban Agriculture Zones

Alex Ruppenthal reported this week at WTTW Television Online that, “A Chicago lawmaker hopes to break up food deserts and put vacant lots to use by establishing urban agriculture zones that would incentivize the sale of locally grown foods.

“In February, state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, introduced a bill that would allow counties or municipalities to create urban agriculture zones made up of organizations or individuals who grow produce or other agricultural products, raise or process livestock or poultry or sell a minimum of 75 percent locally grown food.

“The zones would work similarly to Tax Increment Financing districts, which receive subsidies to encourage redevelopment and community-improvement projects in areas in need of revitalization, said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, which supports the legislation.”

The update noted that, “According to the bill, sales tax from agriculture products would be deposited into an urban agriculture zone fund, and monies collected in the fund would be specified for a county, municipality or school district.

“Harper said the money could be used in a variety of ways, such as for educational programs focused on nutrition or to support businesses and farms.”

The WTTW item added that, “Harper resides in her native West Englewood, where residents lack access to healthy, affordable food.

“‘I’ve lived in a food desert for the past 40 years, so it’s an issue that is very personal to me,’ she said. ‘A lot of people highlight the crime in these areas, but a lot more people are dying from preventable [causes] than from bullets.’

The proposed bill is the latest attempt to increase agriculture and farming initiatives in Chicago.

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