September 26, 2021

Curran: Agriculture drives Illinois' economy

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — A three-term county sheriff and attorney running on the Republican ticket for a U.S. Senate seat provided his platform at the Agricultural Roundtable Candidate forum Aug. 17 hosted by the Illinois Farm Bureau.

“I’m somebody who has run on middle-class issues, recognizing the fact that we need to support the middle class, that there’s great disparity in wealth and income in America and that the middle class is getting left behind,” Mark Curran noted in his opening statement.

“I also believe very much in liberty. I was also a constitutional law professor where I taught classes in constitutional law and I see the erosion of liberty in America.”

The Libertyville resident said that while there were only 396 farms in Lake County, “there are 72,000 in Illinois. Farming drives the Illinois economy.

“It’s a difficult year for farmers and I’m somebody that believes very much in the number one export of America and that’s produce and we need to keep it going. And coming from Illinois I’ve got to have Illinois farmers’ backs and I absolutely will. I’m somebody that expects to be very attentive to their needs, their concerns.

“I have faith-filled world view, natural law world view, but that’s not to say that pollution and other sins of mankind don’t exist and that we’re beyond affecting the atmospheric temperature. I’m not someone that’s ruled out global warming as a possibility that we’ve played some role in that.”

He supports ethanol and believes in free trade that’s fair trade.

With regards to federal regulations, in his role as an attorney he has prosecuted both on behalf of administrative agencies and defended clients before administrative agencies.

“Administrative agencies can be what we call the deep swamp. Career government officials that come in and if they have a reason or not even a reason sometimes, they can come in and make life very, very difficult for the individual farmer,” Curran said.

“We need that balance, somebody like me who understands that when an agency writes their own rules, when they enforce and act as a judicial branch, as well, they can be out of control. I’m somebody that’s very attuned to that and will definitely push back on that regard.”

A question-and-answer session led by IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. followed his opening statements.

Global trade is an important part of the agricultural economy. Can you expand on your comments about free and fair trade and trade agreements?

I think the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was a good deal for Illinois farmers and we need to explore that. I’m not someone who’s taking any money from lobbyists. So, when I go to Washington, D.C., I’m going to be the lobbyist on behalf of the Illinois farmer. I’m going to be the guy that fights for deals and legislation that helps the farmer.

Global farming is becoming more and more competitive as South America moves in terms of technology and gets better and better and gets more adept at farming. So, we’ve got to fight hard for Illinois to make sure that we can get our prices at a good number.

I’ve been asked about subsidies and carbon credits. I’m in favor of all of those because produce is so important from a national security perspective, No. 1, and in terms of aid that’s a beautiful thing that we produce so much.

I’m wide open. I’m all ears and very much believe that I need to take care of the farmer and make sure that Illinois continues to be a strong agricultural state.

How should those carbon credit dollars be distributed? Is it through agribusiness, other entities or for farmers in general or those that provide the carbon?

Preferentially you’d like to see it go directly to the farmer. I think one of the reasons why that’s critical now is when we’re talking about carbon credits we know we’re talking about more administrative rules and more government dictating how you farm. So, to offset that we have to make sure the farmer is able to continue to meet the bottom line.

Really this is not about aid, per se, this is about a federal government that has an agenda, some issues it’s right on, some it’s wrong on, but every time it comes in and intervenes in the life and the business of a farmer it should be doing everything it can to make sure the farmer stays afloat.

Over the years we’ve seen reductions in federal money for agricultural research and development programs. What is your position on agricultural research priorities going forward?

I think it’s critical. As we produce more and more we have a greater dependence on antibiotics, pesticides and all types of things that are pumped in that historically were not an issue. We just need to make sure that when we’re doing that that we continue to be safe with regards to farming. The research also helps answer the question of is there anything that we could be doing more efficiently, as well. It’s critical from both perspectives.

We’ve heard Social Security is going to run out of money in six or seven years. What are your thoughts on Social Security?

I don’t think that there’s any support for major changes in Social Security or Medicare. It may come at some point that we need additional revenues. It can’t be on the middle class, it can’t be on the farmer. It would maybe be on the wealthiest corporations, is that something we need to look at.

So, even in President Trump’s prior fiscal year we had a $1 trillion budget deficit. It looks like it’s going to be a $5 trillion deficit with the coronavirus. This spending is crazy and we have to get it under control. It’s not fair to future generations; it’s not fair to our children and grandchildren. There’s not going to be big changes in Social Security and I’m somebody who believes it’s a promise.

Farmers have been utilizing various practices such as no-till and cover crops to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous losses. What are your thoughts on the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and the role Illinois agriculture can play in that?

I think one of the problems with America is that the biggest have eaten up everybody else, you look at the banks, you look at the food producers, you look at the oil companies, what have you, and I think the more the merrier. So, when we have farms that are looking at different alternatives in terms of tilling and everything else, we need to make sure that they’re afloat. I’m interested in them and I think we have a vested interest in making sure that there are more farms and not less farms and not everything is going to be controlled by large equipment and what have you.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I have a very, very, very good chance of winning this election. Dick Durbin is in the race. Willie Wilson is a third party candidate who has run as a Democrat is going to peal off votes. For the Illinois farmer I think it’s a great thing that we have change. Dick Durbin has been in that leadership role for a long time and he’s No. 2 in the U.S. Senate. His primary allegiance has been with the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, it has not been with Illinois and it has not been with the Illinois farmer.

I’m not going to be there with any real PAC money, any real corporate money, I’m going to be somebody that is going to fight for Illinois and my word is gold. You can look at me, you can study me and people will see that Mark Curran has been consistently the person he is here today, that he will fight on behalf of all of Illinois, and a big part of Illinois obviously is agriculture.

I look forward to working with all of you, I look forward to achieve the balance of having the federal government assist farming, but at the same time not being on farmers’ backs with regulations that make no sense and make it hard to compete. I know from year to year that farming is a roll of the dice whether you’re going to be in the black or not.

At the end of the day the farmers works very, very hard to bring to our table what is desperately needed and that the margins are very tight. I’m attuned to all of that and I look forward to working with all of you.

About Mark Curran:

Curran was born in Pittsburg and graduated from Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois. He earned a bachelor of arts in business from Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama, a juris doctor from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law, and attended law enforcement and leadership courses at Boston University and Northwestern University.

He began his career as a state prosecutor in Lake County in 1990, rising to senior felony prosecutor. He then served as prosecutor with the Illinois Attorney General from 1999 to 2002. In 2002, Curran went into private practice, concentrating in civil and criminal litigation. He served as Lake County sheriff from 2006 to 2018, and resides in Libertyville with his wife, Irene, and they have three children.