2016 Candidate Questionnaire

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Election Day 2016 is fast approaching!  Illinois Stewardship Alliance wants to help you get to know the legislative candidates, as the big day draws near.

This year, Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) conducted its first ever Local Foods & Sustainable Agriculture Candidate Questionnaire.  With the help of volunteers from ISA’s Grassroots Policy Advisory Committee, we wrote two questionnaires–one for state candidates and another for congressional candidates (Illinois seats only).  We mailed a hard copy of the appropriate questionnaire to each candidate (260 total) at his or her address on file with the Illinois State Board of Elections.  We followed this mailing with an email to every campaign email address we could find, providing links to electronic versions of the respective questionnaires.  Finally, we asked for volunteers from our networks to contact the candidates running in their districts to urge the candidates to complete the questionnaires.

While the rate of return has not been high, we must stress that the absence of a response from any particular candidate does not mean the candidate is uninterested in, or against, these issues.  There are many reasons a candidate might not complete a given questionnaire.  We understand that campaigns are time-consuming and stressful, and very much appreciate all of the responses that we did receive.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and does not endorse any political party or candidate.  Candidate questionnaires and responses are intended for educational purposes only.  They provide an opportunity both to inform candidates about ISA members’ policy priorities and to learn more about candidates’ views.  ISA notified candidates that their responses would be published at www.ilstewards.org, giving them an opportunity to let YOU know what they think.

Before you check out the questionnaire results, take a moment to look up your district numbers here.  You can also double-check who is running for each office here.  Note, if you are not yet registered to vote, you may still have options!

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Click here to download the state candidate responses: state-candidate-responses (updated 10/18: Dan Swanson, IL House District 74 added)

Click here to download the federal candidate responses: federal-candidate-responses (updated 10/24: August (O’Neill) Deuser, U.S. House District IL-1 added)

We will update the spreadsheets if additional questionnaires come in, so you may want to check back periodically.

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These were the questions sent to the candidates, for your reference.

 STATE CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

Question 1  Please describe any experience you have related to agriculture, and let us know what “local foods” means to you.  (If you do not have much experience with these issues, let us know here; we would still appreciate your best attempts at answering the subsequent questions.)

Question 2  The average age of farmers has been increasing over time, with the US Farm Census reporting an increase from 50.5 in 1982 to 58.3 in 2012.  At the same time, development pressures have been increasing the price of farmland in Illinois.  What should Illinois do in order to make farming a more accessible and viable career path for young people?

Question 3  Wyoming has passed, and other states have begun considering, “Food Freedom” bills, declaring a right to buy and sell many local farm products and homemade foods in direct-to-(informed) consumer transactions for home use.  (http://wyomingfoodfreedom.com/)  While Illinois has deregulated the direct sale of limited farm products and homemade goods (cottage foods), many barriers remain for small producers.  Would you be open to exploring ways to reduce barriers for these small businesses?  What suggestions do you have?

Question 4  The Illinois Department of Agriculture estimated in 2011 that over 90% of the food purchased in Illinois came from out of state.  In order for more of the food we eat to be sourced locally, we need more farmers raising diversified crops and livestock, and we need to reinvest in scale-appropriate infrastructure (such as regional mills, livestock and poultry processing, food hubs) to process and transport farm products.  Please explain what Illinois should do to foster local food economies (capital investment, tax incentives, subsidized loans, etc.).    (For more information about the potential economic impact of local foods, see the Illinois studies at http://www.crcworks.org/?submit=fffc.)

Question 5  Agricultural research, education, and technical assistance are among the many important programs and services that depend on Illinois having a complete and funded state budget.  Sustainable agriculture suffers without functioning Soil and Water Conservation Districts, University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, relevant state agencies, and other resources.  Would you support full funding of these important resources?  Please explain your answer.

Question 6  Illinois disproportionately contributes excess nitrogen and phosphorus run-off into the Mississippi River Basin.  Run-off from the Midwest has already created a Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ about the size of Connecticut.  The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued voluntary guidelines through the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, and diverse groups, including agriculture, environment, water treatment, and conservation, are working together to promote cover cropping as one effective strategy to trap nutrients on farms.  What should we do to accelerate adoption of cover cropping, considering that the benefit is a public good, but the costs fall on the farmers?

Question 7  Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s farmer members frequently raise concern over pesticide drift.  Drift means lost income when plants are killed or damaged; for organic farms, it can also mean loss of organic certification and loss of the organic price premium.  How can we better protect neighboring farms, residences, and other properties from this damage, and how should responsibility be allocated?

 

FEDERAL CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

Question 1  Please describe any experience you have related to agriculture, and let us know what “local foods” means to you.  (If you do not have much experience with these issues, let us know here; we would still appreciate your best attempts at answering the subsequent questions.)

Question 2  The average age of farmers has been increasing over time, with the US Farm Census reporting an increase from 50.5 in 1982 to 58.3 in 2012.  At the same time, development pressures have been increasing the price of farmland in Illinois.  What should Congress do in order to make farming a more accessible and viable career path for young people?

Question 3  Public investment in agricultural research, education, and technical assistance is important in order to provide equitable access to resources and unbiased information, and to combat the loss of genetic diversity in our food system (more than 80% decline in food crop biodiversity over the last century).  Illinois farmers have relied on entities such as the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension for such services, but these entities are threatened by serious underinvestment from the State.  What should Congress do to ensure that these important services continue to be available?

Question 4  The Illinois Department of Agriculture estimated in 2011 that over 90% of the food purchased in Illinois came from out of state.  In order for more of the food we eat to be sourced locally, we need more farmers raising diversified crops and livestock, and we need to reinvest in scale-appropriate infrastructure (such as regional mills, livestock and poultry processing, food hubs) to process and transport farm products.  Please explain what Congress should do to foster local food economies (capital investment, tax incentives, subsidized loans, etc.).    (For more information about the potential economic impact of local foods, see the Illinois studies at http://www.crcworks.org/?submit=fffc.)

Question 5  Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school meal programs help ensure that vulnerable Americans have access to sufficient food.   Additionally, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) program provides extra funding for SNAP clients to buy fresh produce from local farmers, and Farm-to-School programs bring fresh, local foods into schools.  Such programs pair food quality with hunger alleviation, while putting money in the pockets of local farmers.  What else can we do to link hunger alleviation with investment in the success of local farmers?

Question 6  Earlier this year, Congress enacted a law mandating labels for genetically engineered foods, but gave companies the option to provide a QR code for customers to scan with a smart phone.  Critics argue that QR codes would obscure information and discriminate against individuals without this technology.  Would you support strengthening labeling requirements for genetically engineered foods to provide clear, on package labeling?

Question 7  As our climate changes, farmers face increasing threats from severe weather events, drought, and higher average temperatures, which can cause major economic harm.  Farming has always involved risk, but how should the United States prepare to support our farmers through even more challenging weather and climate patterns?  Note, conservation practices can actually move carbon from the atmosphere into the soil and help in the fight against climate change.

Question 8  Illinois and other states along the Mississippi River Basin are faced with the challenge of reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that run off into our waterways, causing a massive ‘Dead Zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico.  Conservation practices such as cover cropping have proven benefits in reducing such nutrient loss, as well as keeping more carbon in the soil rather than the atmosphere.  Programs like Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) help fund investment in these conservation practices.  Given that conservation benefits us all, how can we help more farmers pay the costs to implement additional conservation practices?

Question 9  Immigrants play a significant role in our food system, working in fields, factories, and restaurants, and participating in our communities.  How can our immigration policies better reflect the important role that immigrants play in our food economies?  How can we increase opportunities for farm ownership among minority groups, including immigrants?

Please direct questions and comments to Rebecca Osland, Policy Associate, at rebecca@ilstewards.org or (217) 528-1563.