The agency administers programs directed toward control and eradication of plant pests and disease. It regulates pesticide use by registering products, certifying and licensing applicators, and investigating suspected misuse. Staff also administer programs concerning proper pesticide record keeping and waste reduction; pesticide and fertilizer storage, containment and disposal; pesticide container recycling; noxious weed control; and other groundwater protection initiatives.
A Department laboratory tests groundwater, plant, animal and soil samples for pesticide residues. The Department also oversees the Livestock Management Facilities program. This program regulates many aspects of livestock production, including setback distances, design standards for waste lagoons, waste management plans, and livestock manager certification.
The agency provides financial, technical and educational assistance to Illinois' 97 soil and water conservation districts. Department staff coordinate district programs to reduce erosion and sedimentation, protect water quality, control flooding, plan land use, and enhance woodland, wildlife and recreational resources. The districts promote conservation practices through informational campaigns, educational outreach and technical assistance. Department staff also administer the agricultural components of Partners For Conservation Program, a long-term state initiative to protect natural resources and improve outdoor recreational opportunities in Illinois.
The Department distributes Partners For Conservation Program monies used for four purposes: to promote sustainable agriculture, stabilize eroding streambanks, fund a cost-share program for construction of soil conservation practices and assist Illinois' soil and water conservation districts. The Department helps organize a statewide soil conservation survey which tracks Illinois' progress toward its goal of reducing soil loss on cropland to tolerable levels. Tolerable soil loss is the rate at which the amount of new, naturally produced soil is equal to or greater than the amount lost. More than 80 percent of the state's farmland currently registers within tolerable soil loss limits.
The Department also reviews and comments on state-funded and regulated projects to protect Illinois' agricultural land from unnecessary conversion to other uses. It works with other state agencies to develop agricultural land preservation policies and tracks the amount of farmland converted by state action. Department staff also provide technical assistance to landowners and local governments wishing to establish farmland protection programs. To ensure farmland disturbed by mining is restored to its pre-mining production capability, the Department reviews coal mining permit applications and inspects mines.