Kelly develops ag platform for diverse district
KANKAKEE, Ill. — U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, a Democrat from Matteson, represents the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois. Kelly, who has her eye on the Senate seat occupied by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, talked about her new agriculture platform and farming in her district.
What are your future plans? Do they include a run for the Senate in 2016?
It’s been reported in the media that I’m doing my due diligence for a run for the Senate. I’m looking at that. I am very honored to be representing the people in my district, and I am looking forward to staying around for a long time.
Why did you develop an agriculture platform?
My first session, I came in with a special election. I became really engaged with farmers in my district and worked with Farm Bureau and the corn growers and learned myself how important it is.
Tell us a little bit about the agricultural part of your district. We know it includes Cook, Kankakee and Will counties and part of the South Side of Chicago. What’s agriculture like in your district?
My district is urban, suburban and rural. It’s one of the most diverse districts of Congress. We have 1,800 farmers who operate 1,200 farms totaling 500,000 acres.
Our farmers are very important because they produce $367 million worth of products every year. I think that besides having that in my district, supporting agriculture is important to other aspects of the economy like manufacturing and transportation and with some of the products used to make biofuels, as well as food for us and for livestock.
What is your position on the 2014 farm bill?
I did vote for the farm bill, not the first version that included the giant decrease in the SNAP program, but for the second one that came out. I support legislation that protects and grows markets for domestic farmers.
Regulation is a big concern among farmers. What is your position on agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and what is your position on Waters of the United States?
I voted with the farmers as far as the regulatory overreach bill, (HR 5078). I don’t think the bill is perfect, and I’m not against the EPA. I’m more of a green person, but from visiting farms and hearing their concerns, that’s why I did not vote with the EPA. I thought the farmers had a great point.
What do you see as challenges facing farmers in your district?
From meeting with different people, the whole trade issue and making sure my folks, whether it’s farmers or manufacturers, have a level playing field around the world. That is one thing, that they can export their crops or what they are selling to other countries and there is a level playing field, and then to make sure there is good infrastructure so they can move their crops in and out.
I think a level playing field really helps and not over-burdensome regulations. I want our food to be safe and maintaining a balance is important.
What can farmers and rural residents do, in your opinion, to get their farm message to urban and suburban consumers?
One thing I would love to do — and one of the farmers in my district talked about this when I visited — is getting the urban, suburban and rural folks together at dinners or farms so there is a better appreciation. You want good schools and to be able to work and play close to home and to have a better understanding of each other, to learn that the differences are and what the different needs are.
What are the needs in your district, whether urban or rural?
In my district, it’s the economy and jobs, that’s extremely important to people. People would love to see jobs closer to home. We have some of the biggest commutes. We need more continuous economic development, a stimulus engine.