Illinois 16th Congressional District

Back to 2020 Voter GuideView U.S. Senate Candidate Responses

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat

Dani Brzozowski
Adam Kinzinger (I)
Republican

Adam Kinzinger
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Contact Information
802-558-7918
marguerite@daniforillinois.com
www.daniforillinois.com
(815) 433-4766
info@electadam.com
electadam.com
Social Media
DaniForIllinois or DaniForCongressNo Response
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Candidate Background
Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Adam Kinzinger (I)
Republican
Education
BA, Purdue No Response
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Experience
I worked in nonprofits for 15 years, served on a number of civic and philanthropic boards, and owned a small business that was a community center in my hometown. I decided to run for Congress because my family subsisted on food stamps and lived in trailers and homes we couldn’t afford to heat. As I made a career out of helping other people and trying to lift my community up, I recognized that for far too many families, the things that had been hard for mine were getting more, not less difficult. No Response
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Biographical Statement
I grew up on Army bases all over the world; my family settled here, in the middle of this big district, in the late nineties when I was a young teenager. As I sought similarities between the military environment of my childhood and the small rural town that became my home, I found a thread of commonality in the strong sense of community that characterized both. That sense of community is embodied by the family farmers who are my neighbors. I live in an unincorporated area of LaSalle County, surrounded by farmers; I know how hard farmers are working, and we shouldn’t be making their work harder. No Response
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
Agriculture remains in the top five sectors of our local in economy in IL-16. Not only are our farmers critical to the economic vitality of this district, but they are the backbone of the food supply chain and a significant part of the fabric of our identity. Empowering family farmers to produce more consumable goods by diversifying crops and to keep both production and consumption local keeps money in the district and contributes to sustainability. This requires pulling legislative levers that include incentives for sustainable agriculture practices, investments in small farms in the form of grants, providing resources to community lending institutions to prop up Farm Ownership and Operating Loans, and getting creative in how we encourage relationships between food purveyors (grocery stores) and the producers of the goods they sell. We need more opportunities for direct-to-consumer sales, including CSAs, co-ops, and farmer’s markets, and the federal government can play a role by providing resources for these opportunities and setting standards for both production and consumer protections.
The proliferation of the dollar-store sector has contributed to food deserts, often providing no access to fresh produce and preying on low-income communities with few options. This, too, must be reined in so consumers have access to the kinds of unprocessed foods farmers produce and people need.
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
Permit the use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets, for CSAs, and co-ops. I managed a local farmer’s market and know the challenges small farmers face in navigating the bureaucracy and expense of accepting SNAP. There should be no barriers to farmers accepting these benefits and we should be investing in programs like SNAP, which provide a critical safety net to families in need of nutritious food. No Response
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
The first thing we need to do is protect the family farms we have now — there are so many generational family farms whose youngest members are looking at the hard work of their parents and grandparents and seeing that work getting harder, not easier. We need policies that demonstrate our support for family farmers, including incentives for sustainable practices, diversification, and reducing emissions. We need to mandate living wages for farm workers and support workers transitioning to owners. Larger operations must be subject to labor laws and workers should be empowered to collectively bargain. By supporting the workers who prop up farms of all sizes, we begin to restore the American ideal of farming and demonstrate our commitment to making farming the respected and valued profession it once was. No Response
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
We must end systemic racism within the USDA, expand access to credit, and incentivize lenders to provide funding to BIPOC farmers — we need to prioritize Black-owned farms and do everything we can to ensure the US government gives Black farmers every possible advantage and tool for success.
Beyond just farmers, however, we have to make sure that farm workers are being paid a $15 minimum wage and given the same rights as workers in other sectors. Farming has long been exempt from labor laws that all other industries are held accountable to — that must end for both practical and philosophical reasons. By exempting farmers from labor standards, we continue to send a message that farming is somehow archaic or operates outside of the constraints and opportunities of the rest of the economy. This is dead wrong and it’s detrimental. Farming is central to the economy and the foundation of the food supply chain, and we must hold it to the standards necessary to ensure it thrives. BIPOC farmers, farm workers, and others in the food supply chain need the protections that treating agriculture like the economic sector it truly is provide.
Additionally, we must pay special attention to the rampant misclassification of workers, which is a key loophole that permits the pervasive mistreatment of farm workers.
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
The next farm bill must necessarily address the needs of urban farmers. We know that productive green spaces in urban areas help to address the food security crisis facing so many urban areas, particularly in low-income areas. Funding is critical here and will encourage not just production but also sustainability, diversification, and innovation. The implementation of programs supporting agriculture in urban areas should include provisions for education of children and adults in the communities most affected by food insecurity. By considering these urban farmers small businesses and treating them as such, we can also begin to see their value as job creators. No Response
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
Consolidation is a huge problem, and the skyrocketing profits of agricultural conglomerates is particularly offensive when juxtaposed with the economic strife faced by small farmers who’ve tended their families’ land for generations and are still coming up short every year. We need to be making the hard work of farming easier, not harder, for everyday family farmers. This requires that subsidy dollars get invested into those small family farms and that not another cent of government subsidy money goes toward increasing the profits of the large commercial farms that have consumed the livelihoods of our country’s farmers. We need to place a moratorium on the expansion of big agribusiness to permit our family farmers to compete economically. The contract farming that has become standard practice has devastated farmers — we need new rules, and they must favor the small family farms who are the backbone of our communities, not the corporate mergers that have consumed those communities. We need to place a moratorium on the expansion of big agribusiness to permit our family farmers to compete economically. The contract farming that has become standard practice has devastated farmers — we need new rules, and they must favor the small family farms who are the backbone of our communities, not the corporate mergers that have consumed those communities. No Response
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
We have to protect our fields and families, and we have to do so with an eye toward not just the next harvest, but the next generation, and the generation beyond that. The consequences of our poor investment here will be long-lasting, and we have to provide resources right now to the farmers who recognize they have both an opportunity and a responsibility to contribute to clean soil and water. This requires that we prop up the ag sector more broadly, but also that we make significant investments immediately into the CSP and EQIP to ensure we are providing the funding necessary to help farmers contribute to soil health. No Response
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
I support the Growing Climate Solutions Act which, among others things, incentivizes small farmers specifically to sequester carbon and reduce emissions. This bill is broadly bipartisan and has support from all sectors. We’ve made a grave error in not relying more heavily on farmers to help innovate regarding solutions to the climate crisis. It’s time we corrected for it, and policies like this one put farmers squarely at the forefront of solutions to the climate crisis, the consequences of which they’ve faced for many years. No Response
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
I support expansions of access that ultimately ensure universal coverage. The ACA has increased coverage rates for this district specifically by around 1/3. Nationwide, more than 5 million people have lost their insurance as a direct result of unemployment due to the pandemic. The inequities in our healthcare system have been put on full display, and the pervasive tying of healthcare to employment has been proven to be tremendously detrimental. No family should go bankrupt as a result of a healthcare crisis. No farmer should have to choose between a much-delayed surgery and a critical equipment repair. We need more access. We know that Medicare works efficiently and effectively and to the great satisfaction of most people who receive their benefits via the program. We must expand access.No Response
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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?

Dani Brzozowski
Democrat
Candidate
Party
Everything we’ve described above helps to level the playing field for farmers and farm workers and put us on the right track to ensuring that our food supply chain is prepared to handle any acute crises and the ongoing crisis of both the pandemic and the inequality and food insecurity that unfortunately plague too many Americans. Food chain workers should be given the hazard pay essential workers deserve. This is also a pivotal moment for labor law reforms that include the agriculture sector and empower workers to organize to fight for and protect their health, safety, benefits, and wages. No Response
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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