Illinois 2nd Congressional District

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

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Theresa Raborn
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
Robin Kelly
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Contact Information
708-238-9901
theresa@rabornforcongress.com
www.rabornforcongress.com
(773) 321-2001
friendsofrobinkelly@gmail.com
robinkelly.house.gov
Social Media
FB: @RabornForCongress
Instagram: @RabornForCongress
Twitter: @Raborn4Congress
No Response
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Candidate Background
Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
Education
Bachelors in Criminal Justice (Governors State University, University Park, IL), one year of law schoolNo Response
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Experience
Bachelors in Criminal Justice, 9 years as a Claims Processor for a major health insurance company, former business owner, homeschooling mom of three, problem-solver with over 30 detailed bills / solutions on my website, RabornForCongress.com.No Response
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Biographical Statement
My dad and paternal grandparents were farmers before I was born, so I was raised by a former farmer. My uncle was a farmer. My first job was on my uncle’s farm. I grew up in a rural / farming area.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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
I would like to draft legislation to ensure that people who are on food assistance (i.e., SNAP or WIC) are given special vouchers to use at local farmer’s markets so they can receive healthy, locally sourced produce as part of the program. I would also like to provide additional federal funds 1) to schools which purchase a portion of their school lunch produce from local farmers and 2) to food banks to use toward the purchase of locally grown produce. This will provide the funds and increased demand to incentivize local farmers to diversify and bridge the gap between food needs and the providers (farmers). No Response
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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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
I would like to expand SNAP and WIC benefits for fresh produce from local farmers. We also need to make sure every SNAP and WIC recipient knows about the farmer’s markets in his/her area and where they can find locally sourced produce. Funding and educating the public (about the resources local to them) are key to bridging this gap. As a former WIC / SNAP recipient, we were allotted $15 for fresh produce for the month. $15 for a family of five with three young children is just not sufficient for a month. If we are already giving a family food assistance, we can certainly make sure that assistance is going towards healthy, fresh produce, with a emphasis on locally-grown produce. We just need to connect those recipients to the farmers and use the funds we already allocate for assistance, to pay the farmers for that produce, including allowing farmers to accept SNAP and WIC payments.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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
My education plan, Educating For Success (https://www.rabornforcongress.com/educating_for_success), has life skills and career training incorporated in it. One of the career training fields listed is agriculture. I think this would be great for teens in our urban areas to gain experience in a field they may not have considered before, but can find great personal pride in, knowing he or she is contributing to his or her community by growing food that is vital for the community. Under my FUND (Fundamental Urban New Deal) bill, we provide mentorships for budding entrepreneurs. Most farmers are entrepreneurs, but it can be very overwhelming to start a business, especially a farm. We need to make sure these budding new farmers are not intimidated out of the business, but instead have mentors to guide them so they have a far better chance of success by learning from those who have been there before. I would support grants for first generation farmers who commit to environmentally-friendly practices (fewer pesticides, more organic / natural methods).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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
One of the biggest problems we have here in Illinois is the property taxes, which is a state issue, not a federal one. I am already in contact with my counterparts at the state level to ensure that they continue to fight against the current property taxes, so we can lower the overheard for everyone, especially our farmers. I would advocate for more grants to first generation farmers to allow them to have access to the funds to get started and to make it through their first 5-10 years. As for the healthcare, I have the Freedom Health Bill, https://www.rabornforcongress.com/freedom_health_plan_bill, that will provide that access to health care and lower the cost of healthcare for everyone. I also think that debt forgiveness programs would be great, especially for farmers who are providing produce at reduced costs to people in need. We forgive student loan debt when certain conditions are met. We can certainly do that for our farmers too. However, no government assistance should be provided to farmers who engage in human rights abuses and/or do not pay adequate wages. We want the farmers who are treating their farmworkers right to be the ones to benefit.No Response
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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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
Urban agriculture is very difficult due to the lack of space. However, we do have a lot of opportunities to cultivate an urban agricultural landscape. We devote a lot of resources to parks, forest preserves, and other nature areas in our urban areas. One of the biggest being Central Park in New York City. If we can utilize some of these areas already dedicated to nature, we can reintroduce agriculture to our urban areas and improve the landscape. I would support reallocating some of those funds to support urban agriculture, in and around our parks and preserves. We can also look into cleaning up abandoned buildings to utilize that land to build neighborhood agricultural enclaves for the various neighborhoods. These may not be large in scale, but they can be used by local schools to teach agriculture to our youth and train them for larger-scale farming in their future. I also think we can look into rooftop agriculture and gardens.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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
Although I don’t like interfering in an owner’s right to operate their business as they please, I also don’t like monopolies because they hurt everyone. We need competition to keep costs and inflation in check. I would like to bring together farmers (from large, medium, and small farms) together to get the input from everyone about what would be the best way to balance the interests of everyone, including the consumer and taxpayers, so everyone wins. We need to sit down and work on fair compromises to ensure no one is going broke providing such a vital product and service. I have always felt that the people who are the “boots on the ground” are the best to advise on how to draft legislation for their particular field. I want the experts to advise me on how I can best service their interests in a balanced and fair manner. I have always felt that the people who are the “boots on the ground” are the best to advise on how to draft legislation for their particular field. I want the experts to advise me on how I can best service their interests in a balanced and fair manner.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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
Sadly, money is one of those finite resources. I would love to take a look at our federal budget to see how we can get more into those programs to assist with keeping nutrients in the system, reduce erosion, and improve water storage. There is a lot of waste in our federal budget. When we reduce that waste, we will have more funds to put towards programs like CSP and EQIP. However, I would love to make sure these are long-term solutions. 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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
I am always looking for more economical ways to solve the challenges that we face and this is no different. We need to make sure we are providing the technical assistance at the most reasonable cost. Even then, it’s a matter of pulling resources from other areas. We have a lot of waste in our federal budget, so when we cut the wasteful spending, it frees up those funds for these types of programs to ensure our farmers can have the resources they need without going broke. We all must be committed to the sustainability of our food supply. 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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
My Freedom Health Bill, https://www.rabornforcongress.com/freedom_health_plan_bill, provides access to any healthcare provider, allows the free market to dramatically reduce the cost of healthcare overall, is far more economical, provides telehealth options, reduces the burdens on the taxpayer, ensures Medicare will be around for at least 100 more years, and much more. This will help our farmers who are often in remote areas, while reducing the overall cost of healthcare, and alleviating the financial burden. I support expanding broadband to our remote areas, so everyone has access to the internet and the benefits of video conferencing for telemedicine. 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?

Theresa Raborn
Republican
Robin Kelly (I)
Democrat
First, I am a firm believer in everyone having access to purchase directly from the farmers. With famers in my family, I was lucky to experience truly farm fresh food. The best produce always comes directly from the farm. Nothing should be wasted and I will fight to make the centralized food system more flexible. If that cannot be done, then we must decentralize it so people can have access to their local farm products. I hope and pray that COVID-19 will be gone by the time I am sworn into office in January. Even if it is, we must prepare for a future pandemic. We were caught off guard with a national stockpile that had been depleted over the previous decade and not replenished. We must require that our stockpile is maintained at 2x or 3x more than what the experts say we would need. And I would include PPEs, ventilators, beds, materials needed to rapidly construct remote hospitals, and a wide variety of medications in that stockpile. All “essential” workers should be the first to access the stockpiles.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