Illinois 13th Congressional District

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Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Betsy Londrigan
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
Rodney Davis
Contact Information
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Team@betsydirksenlondrigan.com
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217-891-3228
info@electrodney.com
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Candidate Background
Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
Education
University of Illinois, 1993, B.A. Rhetoric; B.S. Political ScienceGraduated from Millikin University in 1992 with a degree in Political Science
Experience
I am proud that my professional life is diverse and will allow me to bring a well-rounded perspective to Congress. My work as a middle-school teacher; as the first Director of Alumni Affairs for the University of Illinois-Springfield; going into business for myself as a writer and editor then learning graphic and web design to increase marketability; working for Senator Dick Durbin; my work with non-profit organizations; and raising three children have all challenged me and each forced me to stretch and grow in different ways.As a sitting Member of the House Agriculture Committee, I have successfully served as a conferee on the past two enacted Farm Bills and worked to promote good farm policy for rural America and have worked to prioritize our local farmers in Illinois, including all the unique needs of our producers. I have successfully worked with both parties on agriculture issues vital to rural America to ensure that our farmers have a brighter future ahead.
Biographical Statement
My family goes back generations in Central Illinois. My cousins still own and operate the farm in Niantic where my Grandma was raised. Cooking is more than a hobby to me. It’s how I relax and how I connect to family and friends. I cook with locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. Growing up, I attended Springfield High School and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Raising three children, I worked as a nonprofit leader. In 2009, my 12-year-old son Jack, developed a rare, life-threatening illness and, after seeing our current representative celebrating his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the protections it provides, I decided to run against him.It’s an honor to serve as a member of Congress for central and southwestern Illinois. I serve on both the House Agriculture Committee and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, both of which have a great impact on rural America and agriculture. I’ve been married to my wife Shannon for 25 years. We have three children – one daughter and two twin boys. My family attends St. Mary’s Church in Taylorville. I have also served as fundraising drive chairman for the Christian County United Way, co-chaired a multimillion dollar YMCA capital fund drive, and served on the Christian County Senior Center Board of Directors. I have also coached youth football and baseball in Taylorville.
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1. Illinois ranks 6th in value of agricultural production, yet the Illinois Department of Agriculture estimated in 2011 that over 90% of the food purchased in Illinois came from out of state. As sources like the St Louis Federal Reserve Harvesting Opportunity and others conclude, local and regional food systems can have a positive economic impact. Support for local farm businesses increases the share of money recirculating in the local economy and helps local farm families access a greater share of the consumer expenditures on food. For more of the food we eat to be sourced locally, we would need more farmers raising diversified crops and livestock, and we need to reinvest in scale-appropriate infrastructure (such as regional mills, food hubs, livestock, and poultry processing) to process   and transport farm products.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

What, if any, policies will you support to increase food security and build a vibrant local food economy?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
I believe we need to rethink our Federal farm policy so that it can better assist farmers with comprehensive risk management policies that seek to help with not just price and yield and weather risks but also longer-term natural resource risks. Rather than continue outdated programs that seem to always benefit Southern farmers more than farmers in the rest of the country, while ignoring emerging challenges, we should be rethinking these policies to better align with modern, precision agriculture with financial management and issues like soil health, water quality, resilient farming and sustainable production. Food security is national security, and that is why we need to invest more in agriculture, and specifically agriculture research. The more we can invest in ensuring that our local farms can thrive for years to come, the better off we are. As co-chair of the bipartisan Agriculture Research Caucus, I’ve been a staunch advocate for increased funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (NIFA-AFRI) which prioritizes research to ensure food safety and security, enhance human nutrition, and train the next generation of the agricultural workforce – this is critical, and helps ensure that America stays a global leader in food and agriculture, and can overcome the challenges we have been met with throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
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2. Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school meal programs help ensure that vulnerable Americans have access to sufficient food. The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), formerly FINI, provides extra funding for SNAP clients to buy fresh produce from local farmers. The Farm to School Grant Program connects children with fresh foods from local farms. These programs strengthen the local food system by putting money in the pockets of local farmers while alleviating hunger with nutritious health- promoting foods. These programs are also particularly important for communities of color who suffer disproportionate levels of food insecurity. However, many families and individuals in need are faced with considerable barriers to access due to restrictive eligibility requirements and insufficient funding. Farmers also face barriers in being able to accept online SNAP/EBT payments.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

What will you support to increase the consumption of health-promoting foods by SNAP clients while ensuring the success of local farmers?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
I strongly support protecting funding and access to SNAP which is a vital program that helps many families throughout Central Illinois and across our nation. I also support funds for programs like the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund which would provide matching funds to SNAP recipients to purchase produce at farmers markets. Programs like these promote healthy diets as well as support local family farmers. I have been a longtime supporter of the GusNIP program and recently sent a bipartisan letter with my colleagues to House Leadership requesting that there be additional emergency funding for this program in any next COVID-19 relief package, because of how well this program works and how effective it is in increasing the ability of local families to purchase more healthy foods. Additionally, I’m the only Republican co-sponsor of H.R. 7535, the Expanding SNAP Options Act, which would allow farmers, farmers markets and small locally-owned grocery stores to accept SNAP benefits, and lend to online purchasing. As someone who has experienced COVID-19, having options like this that would allow for delivery services is critical, especially as we continue to flatten the curve.
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New Farmers
Farmer Chase Sanert of Sugar Grove Family Farm in Greenview holds a free range chicken from his farm. Chase raises 100% grass fed and finished beef, and pasture raised pork and chicken he sells direct-to-consumer, to restaurants and retail. Meat processing is among the most consolidated industries. Four meat processors control over 85% of the U.S. slaughter market, as well as 35% of cattle ranches and 65% of the poultry industry.

3. The average age of farmers is 58 and has been increasing over time, while the number of beginning farmers is a fraction of what’s needed to replace retiring farmers. Young and first-time farmers face significant barriers to   entry, including access to land, credit, and capital. A majority of this new generation come from non-farm backgrounds, operate smaller, more diversified farms, and are more interested in conservation practices to support soil and water health.

However, farmland consolidation makes it challenging for new farmers to compete with established operations to secure land. A compounding factor is how development pressures have been decreasing the amount of available farmland while increasing its price. The farm bill’s ACEP-ALE program has been an effective tool to permanently protect farmland and create affordability, but much more can be done to address this challenge.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

What policies will you support to ensure access to land, credit, and capital for the next generation of farmers?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
We must help the next generation of farmers to succeed and I support funding for programs like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to ensure they have the support they need. This program provides funds for educational, training, and technical assistance and support. We also must ensure that new farmers have access to sufficient credit through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. I was proud to support several programs in the 2018 Farm Bill, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program which supports education, mentoring, and lends technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers, veterans and other groups of individuals who have been met with discrimination or adversity. These types of programs are critical to ensure that we continue to invest in our next generation of farmers to ensure that America stays competitive globally, and to ensure we don’t move to only rely on imports because we don’t have the workforce or farm economy for young people to wish to pursue viable, long term careers in farming.
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4. In 1920, Black Americans made up 14% of U.S. farmers with 892 black farmers in Illinois. Due to the exploitation of heirs’ property by white developers and speculators and the racial discrimination in lending practices by the USDA (see Pigford v. Glickman), today Black Americans make up less than 2% of farmers nationwide with only 59 black farmers in Illinois. Agriculture in the U.S. has a long and cruel history of colonization, slavery, land dispossession, and labor exploitation. Although people of color make up 38% of the population, only 7% of farmers are people of color. People of color not only face barriers to access land, credit, and capital by systemic racism and discrimination but are actively dispossessed of land and wealth in our current system. Furthermore, farmworkers, in particular those in guest worker programs, are subject to poor wages, human rights abuses, and lack adequate access to health insurance or workers’ compensation. Some proposals from advocates include reparations for BIPOC people; reforms to the USDA administration; moratoriums on government foreclosures of Black land; debt forgiveness programs; reforms to labor laws and many others.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

What policies will you support to address structural racism in the food system?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
Systemic and structural racism exists in every corner of America and we must work to address it. This starts with identifying and addressing racial bias and barriers for minority-owned businesses when they are seeking credit and ensuring funding for programs that supply grants to support Black farmers and other underrepresented communities as well as programs like the CRP Transition Incentives Program. We also must fix our broken immigration system and combat the exploitation of farmworkers by passing comprehensive immigration reform. Racism should have no place anywhere in our society, and for that reason I was proud to help write the 2018 Farm Bill which included the new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program. The FOTO program streamlines several existing programs to help address these issues of access to land, credit, and capital for several groups of beginning farmers and ranchers, and specifically prioritizes those historically subjected to systemic racism. The FOTO program helps to prioritize the black community, and those who have similarly been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice, to pursue careers in agriculture and gives them the tools to succeed. This program encourages and assists with farms and ranch ownership and operation by prioritizing training and education, and encourages participation in other existing USDA programs. Additionally, I helped introduce H.R. 5083, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act which passed the House with bipartisan support, and would reform our existing agriculture guest worker H-2A program, and lend to a stable workforce and ensure that merit-based system can exist, providing certainty and stability to our farmers and the workers they rely on.
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5. In addition to access to land and capital, urban farmers face many unique barriers including permits and licensing, secure land tenure, and soil remediation. Historically, urban farms have relied on programs not specifically targeted for urban farming like the Community Food Projects (CFP) or the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Along with not being designed specifically for urban farming, these programs have faced cuts.

Youth and adults work together to trellis tomatoes during an Advocates for Urban Agriculture training program at a farm site in Chicago. According to the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project, the city of Chicago is home to over 80 urban farms and nearly 300 community gardens.

Funding for CFP was reduced by about 45% in the 2018 farm bill. Most existing local urban programs provide assistance that is geared more towards gardeners and hobbyists, rather than commercial, career farmers. There was an effort to address the issues of urban agriculture in the 2018 Farm Bill by authorizing $10 million in annual appropriations through FY2023 in grant funding for research, education, and extension, as well as the creation of the “Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Forms of Production” which has yet to be fully implemented.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

Considering these challenges, how should we tackle federal planning for urban agriculture and ensure that urban farmers do not fall through the cracks?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
Urban farmers face unique challenges and deserve resources tailored to helping address their unique issues. These challenges include finding land suitable for farming as well as access to water and markets to sell their products. We must ensure that all levels of government are working together to provide these resource and that they are readily accessible to help our urban farmers succeed. I was proud to support this program that we enacted in the 2018 Farm Bill on a bipartisan basis. I’ve worked with USDA on implementing several of the new Farm Bill programs and provisions that we authorized in 2018, and look forward to continuing to do so, particularly including the Office of Urban Agriculture and other research and development programs that will help our farmers innovate and produce in new ways. Additionally, research, development and extension activities play a key role in developing the technologies we need to ensure that urban farms can thrive.
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6. The farm and food sectors are experiencing unprecedented corporate consolidation leading to unfair market conditions for family farmers that drive down wages for workers and hurt rural communities. Consolidation throughout the industry, including the agrochemical sector, means that farmers pay more for inputs like seed and fertilizers. The projected median farm income for 2020 is negative $1,449. Farm household income for most farmers comes from off-farm jobs and government subsidies. With low incomes and high operational costs, farmers are amassing debt, and loan delinquencies are rising. Some proposals include placing a moratorium on large agribusiness, instituting supply management programs, updating the Packers and Stockyard Act, and more.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

Do you believe accelerating consolidation in the farm input and food processing industry is a problem, and what will you support to ensure a level playing field for farmers?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
Family farming is an important tradition in our country and we must preserve the rights of small family farms to protect their livelihoods when standing up to major agricultural corporations. This includes ensuring that markets are open and fair with strong antitrust provisions as well as ensuring access to capital so that family farmers can make necessary investments in their land and equipment. Family farmers must also be protected from negative environmental impacts from large agribusinesses. I support policies that help bolster our farm economy as a whole and ensure that our local farmers can thrive and continue to operate, it’s not our job to pick winners and losers, and I support policies that help our farmers and producers of all sizes. Trade also plays a critical role in this conversation — we must open new markets and promote US products in the global market to ensure that our farmers have the ability to sell their products effectively and consistently into new and existing markets. We must continue to seek out good trade agreements, like what we accomplished with the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), with other countries, to ensure that our farmers are treated fairly and can compete on a level playing field.
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Water Quality
Farmer Steve Buxton of Two Mile Creek Organic Farm in Sullivan holds a piece of earth planted with cover crops. “Our lake, thought to have near endless life and community benefits, could be lost to silt,” Steve said. “This is tied to the direct reflection of soils leaving the area farms. When soil moves it carries anything contained within it. Organic matter is being depleted.”

7. A major problem affecting our water is nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from fertilizers and animal waste that go into nearby waters or leach into groundwater causing adverse effects on the environment and people’s health.

Sustainable farming practices such as cover cropping, no-till, and conservation buffers have proven benefits in reducing nutrient runoff. These practices improve soil health by keeping more nutrients in the farm system, reducing erosion, and improving water storage ability. With low commodity prices in the past 6 years and high operational costs, farmers are strapped for cash and often cannot afford the extra up-front cost of soil health practices despite its long-term benefits. Programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) help fund investment in these soil health practices but the demand for assistance is often greater than available funding.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

How will you address the issue of agricultural runoff and water quality?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
I strongly support additional funding for important programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program and agencies like the National Resources Conservation Service to encourage practices like no-till farming and cover cropping. It is essential that we work with farmers to protect our water sources and these practices are important strategies to stopping runoff as well as generally improving soil health. Unlike our current representative, however, I opposed changes within the 2018 farm bill that would have sent federal funds out of Illinois to states like California. It is now more critical than ever to incentivize voluntary conservation practices in a realistic way that provides both economic and environmental benefits for our farmers. I was proud to support the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). We need an all of the above approach which includes a diverse set of solutions that can help farmers of all types. We’ve already seen a great deal of success through these programs. Recently, USDA announced that over $1.6B will go out to farmers participating in CRP. Those are dollars that we helped secure in Congress that directly pay farmers for adopting these critical conservation practices that improve water and soil quality, reduce erosion and emissions, and restore our wetlands. These win-win programs are the types that we must continue to fight for.
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Cover Crops
Farmer Bryce Hubbard of Pleasant Hill kneels to look at the cover crops on his field. Cover crops are typically planted after harvest to “cover” the field and prevent bare soils. They are a conservation tool used to protect against soil erosion and run-off, build organic matter, and capture carbon.

8. Farmers are at the forefront of the climate crisis. They face increasing threats to their livelihood from drought, severe weather events, and higher than normal temperatures. Sustainable agriculture’s focus on soil health plays a significant role in the climate change solution through carbon capture. Storing carbon in the soil is the cheapest   and easiest method of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while also improving yields because of improved soil quality.

Agricultural research that focuses on improving farm and community resilience to climate change is crucial to informing technical innovation and climate-ready production systems. Although soil health and sustainable farming practices build greater resilience and farm viability, farmers transitioning to such practices face steep barriers and often need technical and financial assistance.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

What steps will you propose to assist farmers in becoming part of the solution to climate change?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
We can already see the effects of climate change just this past year with Central Illinois experiencing historic flooding, one of the predicted effects of climate change. Farmers across the district are suffering from these increasingly extreme weather patterns in the forms of soil erosion and shorter growing seasons. This is not a problem we can afford to wait to address and I strongly support investing in programs that encourage regenerative agriculture practices like no-till farming, cover crops, and other techniques which increase the capture of carbon dioxide. Again, Agriculture research is a critical component to finding climate solutions, and through my work as co-chair of the House Agriculture Research Caucus, I’ve worked to increase ag research funding by $109M for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (NIFA-AFRI) in the last 6 years; this program places a focus on mitigating the impacts of climate variability. Additionally, I co-authored and introduced HR 4134, the bipartisan Sustainable Agriculture Research Act which enhances the 2018 Farm Bill’s Advanced Agriculture Research and Development Act (AGARDA) pilot program to expand program priorities and invest more research dollars to study and provide solutions for climate resilience. The bill creates an emphasis on addressing extreme weather impacts on crop production, carbon storage solutions, renewable energy and increased voluntary conservation practices.
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9. Farmers are an aging population working in one of the most dangerous industries in the country. To access health insurance, farmers depend on off-farm jobs, taking time away from the farm and hindering efforts to scale up. In rural areas, declining populations lead to hospital consolidations leaving many rural farmers and eaters with few options for quality care and in precarious situations when emergencies arise. Telemedicine has been helpful but broadband access is still out of reach for millions in rural America. Further, researchers have found that without competition between multiple providers, insurance premiums in rural areas are significantly higher than in urban areas. Many healthcare reform proposals include a public healthcare system, a public option, premium subsidies, caps on payments, and reinsurance. Some states have allowed farmer-owned co-op members to purchase group health insurance rates to lower the cost to individuals.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

Considering these factors, what do you support to guarantee access and affordability to quality healthcare?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
I believe every person should be able to visit a doctor regularly, get medical help when they’re sick, and afford their medications without needing to choose whether they can put food on the table. I will work to stabilize the Affordable Care Act so no one loses coverage, lower premiums, and protect Essential Health Benefits like those which ensure people with pre-existing conditions are not discriminated against. I will also work to introduce a Public Option that can compete with private insurers, starting with rural communities and small businesses, while working with hospitals to ensure they can maintain the quality of their care. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 383, the Continuing Coverage for Preexisting Conditions Act and H.R. 692, the Pre-existing Conditions Protection Act which would ensure access to preexisting conditions coverage and lend to affordable health insurance. Estimates show Medicare X will close half the rural hospitals in our country, including 39 in Illinois, decimating our access to care. I also support allowing associations to pool together and offer associated health plans. Additionally, I worked as lead Republican in advocating for increased funding for rural broadband programs including USDA’s ReConnect program which was designed to provide flexibilities to unserved and underserved areas, and I’ve also advocated for additional funds for Community Connect Grants; Distance, Learning and Telemedicine grants; and the Broadband Loan Program.
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10. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our health while underscoring some of the deepest cracks in our food system. It has highlighted longstanding issues in the food system including the systemic inequalities of food access for low-income households and communities of color. It has caused some food and supply shortages in grocery stores where long supply chains struggled early on to stock shelves amidst the increased demand. At the same time, farmers are forced to dump milk and euthanize their farm animals while families struggle to access food because the inflexibility of a centralized food system and a lack of regional food infrastructure prevents fulfilling local demand or selling directly to consumers. Across slaughterhouses and farm fields, food chain workers are deemed essential but insufficient PPE, low-wages, lack of access to health care, and no paid sick leave put them at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19.

Learn more about these issues from our Eat-Drink-Vote Series

What do you support to ensure equitable access to nutritious foods, protection for food chain workers, and a more resilient local food supply during this ongoing crisis and potential future crises?

Betsy Londrigan
Democrat
Rodney Davis (I)
Republican
The national shortage of PPE has endangered our frontline workers, including those essential to maintaining our food supply chains. Our frontline workers must have access to the protective equipment they need to protect themselves and the public as well as sick leave to care for themselves and their families. Additionally, we must ensure that supply chain issues do not lead to food that is destroyed or left to rot but instead that these products be put to use helping those in need through local food banks and other distribution venues. No one should go hungry while food is wasted because of an inability to get food to where it is needed. Ensuring that our local families have stable access to nutrition is critical. I introduced H.R. 8325, the bipartisan Operation Feed Our Kids Act, which was recently enacted in part and provided for the recently extended child nutrition waivers through the 2021 school year to ensure that children have access to nutritious meals amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This language allows schools to continue to utilize the summer meals programs throughout the school year, including the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option which provides free meals to all children. More broadly as it relates to protecting our supply chain, I believe we need to address our national stockpile and ensure the availability of PPE, rapid testing, and ensure our workers have access to health care, much of which I was proud to support getting started in the CARES Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
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Thank you, Voter Guide Partners!

Advocates for Urban AgricultureAngelic Organics Learning Center Chicago Food Policy Action Council Family Farmed FoodWorks Illinois Farmers Market Association Illinois Stewardship Alliance The Land Connection Openlands Seven Generations Ahead HEAL Food Alliance Izaak Walton League of America National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition