Illinois 8th Congressional District

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

Preston Nelson
Libertarian

Preston Nelson
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat

Raja Krishnamoorthi
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Contact Information
224-253-1699
vote4nelson@yahoo.com
www.vote4nelson.com
(847) 413-1959
mark@rajaforcongress.com
krishnamoorthi.house.gov
Social Media
facebook.com/vote4nelsonNo Response
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Candidate Background
Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
Education
A.A.S. Rend Lake College 2011No Response
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Experience
I was raised on politics, and have witnessed numerous revelations, from those notorious 28 pages (28pages.org) to the “Afghan Papers,” which prove deliberate and repeated actions by our government to deceived us while destroying other parts of the world. Libya used to be prosperous! It is sad. We want peace, prosperity, liberty and justice for all. When government is detrimental to those ends, new people must intervene. Individuals pay the most taxes. War receives most funding. Military-industrial complex, big pharma, big agriculture.. Ag subsidies are a many-billion dollar industry, affecting the health and life of every American, so thank you for this opportunity to speak on the subject.No Response
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Biographical Statement
You and I, we all touch food and products of agriculture many times, every day. Realizing it or not we all study prices. Most everyone realizes quickly when prices increase, and when the store runs out of meat. Born and raised in Illinois, I have been surrounded by corn all my life. I recently saw a documentary “King Corn” where researchers discovered that most of the carbon in most of our bodies comes from corn, whether it is via corn syrup, starch, meal, or the feed that is fed to cows and chickens. I and others who I know have experienced very positive effects of a more natural and diverse diet. I do not receive money from agriculture lobbyists or corporations, unlike Krishnamoorthi.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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
Thanks for your research! It is so critical that we shift policy towards more natural, fresh, and local agriculture. For over half a century, federal food policy has nationalized the supply chains and homogenized the supply. The proliferation of cheap, processed carbohydrates devoid of many nutrients has resulted and most Americans have weakened immune systems because of this nationally-sponsored diet. Americans spend over $4 trillion annually on healthcare, mostly to treat PREVENTABLE diseases. We can save money and lives by switching to better food. I support flipping the farm bill. Over 80% of subsidies are now received by large factory-farms. I would give at least 80% to local farms. I just spoke to Rep. Mike Bost, who I ran against two years ago. I asked him about possible diversification of the food supply, but he could make me no promises. I would like to work with the Congress more towards this end. Rep. Krishnamoorthi also supports the current farm bill, which disparages small, local farms. If we just got the government out of the food supply, better, more diverse, healthy, and local produce would naturally result. People clearly want this. Millions of people are even willing to risk exposure to COVID19, just in order to continue shopping at farmers markets! The people’s demand is promising. Instead of subsidizing food, I would prefer to let people keep it have a bigger budget to spend on better food. But for as long as we are subsidizing food, the billions should be to boost those trying to improve and diversify the supply, while maintaining humane, natural, and organic standards. The US spends billions every year, just to subsidize sugar. Processed sugar is known to debilitate one’s immune system. Now more than ever, we need to end our national support for these processed foods which are making is sick and sicker. Besides the health factory relating to trillions in healthcare costs, there are disruptions to our economy and even the threat to national security inherent in the nationalization of food in America. COVID19 just proved how easily a disruption to one or a couple major producers effects the whole system. Prices went up, and for a moment, store shelves were empty. This centralized food supply could quickly become a catastrophe, so a transition to more local agricultural production is urgently needed!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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
I would allow SNAP to use a cash-based system in addition to the card. Many farmers’ markets do not even accept credit card payment, so a cash option is crucial. The SNAP “approval process” is a prohibitive bureaucracy for some small agricultural entities. Moreover, many SNAP-eligible Americans do not use SNAP because the card is clumsy and complicated.
Anyone should be eligible for one month of SNAP benefits based on verbal affirmation of need.
I would apportion funds from the farm bill for local jurisdictions to create community gardens to further boost aid for vulnerable Americans, as well as to promote community and voluntary cooperation.
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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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
Simple elimination of the entire farm bill would help level the playing field overnight, as most of the its billions directly benefit corporate factory-farms.
I support re-appropriation of any farm bill funds away from factory-farms and towards small local farms. Imagine the results if 80% of the bill’s 800+ billion in subsidies were used to benefit small and new farmers, as opposed to the corporations.
We could be healthy and diversified overnight! The money is there, just spend it more wisely.
The primary hurdle is that billionaire corporations are stealing attention representation from the every day people, including those individuals wishing to enter the agricultural supply market. Agribusiness quite literally pays for congresspeople to vote for their billion-dollar subsidies. The best way to stop this is by voting for candidates who are not already sold out to corporate special interests. Empowering every individual is the best way forward.
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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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
I support reforms to the USDA administration, moratoriums on government foreclosures of all land, interest-free debt programs, and reforms to labor laws.
Anyone and everyone who produces agricultural goods, even if only for local consumption, should be entitled to some farm-bill subsidies. I will also fight to end bad policies that indirectly disparage minority communities. We will end the war on drugs, and stop making criminals out of normal people. We will restore voting rights to people who have paid their time, so that those minorities who once lost their ability to participate in the democratic process may once again elect leaders to represent themselves.
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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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
It is absurd that we give billions to large, profitable corporations, but we cannot afford $10 million for new, sustainable, and innovative start-ups. Of course, do this, and more. There is PLENTY of money to fund these smart programs, once we stop giving it to factory farms. 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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
It is a huge problem. I am afraid that it is about to become catastrophic amid recent COVID complications affecting our economy. Those Congresspeople voting “yay” on the farm bill ought to be voted out of office. Decades of this bad policy has resulted in this consolidation which is threatening our economy and national health.
We can and should “flip the farm bill,” so that most of its dollars go towards small, local, natural farms.
Corporate farms have received the brunt of the benefit for far too long. It is time for change.
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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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
Flipping the farm bill, so that most of its subsidies benefit small farms, instead of corporate farms, will help ensure that everyone is able to meet these important environmental standards. Over $860 billion is provided by the farm bill. Less than 1% of the bill could fully fund these programs.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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
The solution is to shift the farm bill’s billions away from corporate farms and towards small farms, new farms, and farms looking to implement these new innovations. As far as people may dream, the market may innovate to meet our needs. We need only to stop propping up corporate profits, and instead help the real people trying to enter the market. 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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
First, completely de-regulate the private healthcare market. Then, the public options provided by government will work to standardize care as there is real competition with the private market. This is the best way to benefit all people while affordable, high-quality care, which is accessible to the most amount of people. I like public options, and private options, as long as people are free to choose.
So much government regulation has forced many small doctor practices out of business as national policy has favored medical corporations. Again policy is backwards and should be flipped. Innovative technology is providing broadband for more people than ever. Wireless internet is better than ever, and getting better all the time. Even small communities in Southern Illinois are having fiber-optic internet installed. I previously worked for a small wireless internet company, and I am pleased with society progress in this area.
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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?

Preston Nelson
Libertarian
Raja Krishnamoorthi (I)
Democrat
Your question stated many of the problems, and implied many of the fixes.
Decentralize the food supply, and spend farm bill dollars mostly on local farms, instead of national corporations. Again, over $860 billion is provided by the farm bill. We only need to shift funds towards these real needs, and away from just padding corporate profits. It is that simple. Just do it. The hurdle to shifting the farm bill away from big corporations and towards small operations is the number of agricultural-industrial complex lobbyists in Washington. As long as we continue to elect congresspeople whose reelection campaigns are funded by special interests, then we should expect this bad policy of unhealthy corporate food to continue. But if we will break the chains, and vote for leaders who are not sold out to agribusiness, then we will see new ideas, and sincere initiatives.
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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