Illinois candidates for governor, US Senate highlight importance of agriculture
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The top candidates for governor and U.S. Senate faced tough questions at a farm in rural McLean County Wednesday. From prioritizing trade and biofuel to lifting up downstate communities, each of the politicians had plenty to discuss with the Illinois Farm Bureau.
Agriculture is the top industry in Illinois, something Gov. JB Pritzker and Sen. Darren Bailey know well. Both men are trying to gain support from farmers before the November election.
Pritzker said he wouldn’t pretend to be a farmer because he is not one. The billionaire Democrat said he understands that agriculture is very similar to the business he ran with 10,000 employees before becoming governor. Pritzker said his administration has grown ag support programs that make a difference for small businesses and invest in future farmers for the state.
Meanwhile, Bailey stressed that agriculture is the backbone of Illinois and the country as a whole. He told farm bureau members at Schuler Farms that he believes it is time to have a farmer in the governor’s mansion to help the state grow again.
“The problems of hog-tying our ag community are similar to the bone-headed policies of our current governor JB Pritzker and his pals who are creating the problems that we have in Illinois,” Bailey said. “And friends, there’s no denying that.”
Bailey said Illinois has one of the highest estate taxes in the country at a time when some blue states are eliminating it. If elected governor, the millionaire farmer said he would work hard to repeal the estate tax and help farms write off investment costs.
“They steal the sweat equity that we farmers and business people spend a lifetime building,” Bailey said. “The government steals it from our families just to give to Springfield.”
The downstate Republican also said skyrocketing energy costs and the threat of brownouts will hurt many farmers and small businesses. Pritzker stressed that there have not been brownouts in Illinois due to the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. The governor also noted that Bailey voted against investments in ag education, mental health services for rural communities, and the prevention of animal disease outbreaks.
“I refuse to sell farm families out by playing the game of pitting downstate against Chicago and vice versa. We are one Illinois,” Pritzker said. “And I have delivered more for downstate Illinois than any governor in recent memory.”
Pritzker’s remark was clearly a response to Bailey frequently referring to Chicago as a “hell hole” during recent appearances with downstate supporters. The Republican nominee decided to describe the state’s largest city as an “O.K. Coral” Wednesday while describing the rise in gun violence.
“He has criticized Chicago in so many ways and continues to do so. He’s not bringing this state together. He doesn’t understand that this is one Illinois,” Pritzker said. “I’ve been doing it for the last four years, bringing people together and making sure we’re investing across the state. Darren Bailey won’t do that.”
Senate candidates also had their chance to speak with farmers about their plans to improve the quality of life and business for farm families. Republican Kathy Salvi told farmers that she wants to be the go-to person in the Senate for agribusiness. Salvi claimed that Democratic policies like the Inflation Reduction Act will devastate farms and small businesses in Illinois. She also argued the country needs to stop having a top-down government model that intrudes on families and farmers.
“We just want to be free to be able to run our homes, and our businesses, and our farms ourselves,” Salvi said. “We don’t need Big Brother telling us how to do it, to overregulate our small businesses and our farms.”
However, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) explained she personally fought to include $500 million in the Inflation Reduction Act for biofuel production. Duckworth feels the country should continue to lead by using cleaner fuel that comes from corn and soybeans grown in the Midwest.
“Demonstrate how powerful biofuels are for a green energy future,” Duckworth said. “And I don’t think we get there, to a carbon neutral future, without ethanol or biodiesel.”
Salvi said Illinois needs to act responsibly with renewable energy to protect farmland. Both candidates also said they are focused on ensuring Illinois farmers are protected in the 2023 federal farm bill. Salvi said she will fight for crop insurance and livestock indemnity programs.
“I can’t be the voice for you without listening to you and the concerns. You all here run the farms, you feed America,” Salvi said. “You send our products overseas. And I know I’ll take my advice from you.”
Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr said he appreciated the bipartisanship shown by the Illinois congressional delegation during negotiations on previous farm bills. Guebert told Duckworth he hopes to see that bipartisanship again. He stressed that farmers need a risk management tool in their toolbox.
Duckworth said she is optimistic about the 2023 farm bill, partially because of work done for the Inflation Reduction Act.
“We put a lot of environmental stuff in there, so the environmental groups are really pretty happy with us right now,” Duckworth said. “I think that takes the pressure off trying to make the farm bill an environmental bill when it shouldn’t be. It should be an ag bill.”
Duckworth said the farm bill and defense budget are her top priorities when lawmakers return to DC next month.
Copyright 2022 WGEM. All rights reserved.