LEXINGTON, Ill. — Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth spoke of her legislative record and platform going forward if elected during the recent Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable candidate forum.
Duckworth and Republican challenger Kathy Salvi spoke separately at the Illinois Farm Bureau-hosted event at the Schuler Farm.
“Agriculture is the cornerstone of our state’s economy and a core of who we are as a state. For generations, our Illinois farmers and ranchers have helped feed and power our nation, and I’m working hard to ensure that you can continue to do so for generations to come,” Duckworth said.
She reflected on her first experience with agriculture when moving to Illinois 30 years ago and working for American Farmland Trust.
“My job was to go out and convince farmers to set aside a small parcel of land and try some no-till farming,” she said.
When Duckworth participated in the candidate forum six years ago, she said her constituents could count on her to push for economic policies that serve everyone and securing the resources needed to grow businesses and bolster local economies.
“I’m really proud to say that I’ve kept that commitment,” she said.
Duckworth went on to note her efforts during the first term, beginning with biofuels.
“I’ve been an outspoken leader in the Senate for incentivizing and expanding the use of American-grown biofuel and biodiesel, because when given the choice between supporting Illinois farmers or foreign oil producers, I’m going to choose Illinois farmers every single time,” Duckworth said.
“It’s why we need the year-round sale of E15. I pushed for it and I’m glad that President Biden issued a temporary waiver on E15 use this summer, but that’s not good enough. I’m going to keep working as hard as I can to make it permanent year-round E15.”
Over the past year, Duckworth said she helped introduce the Home Front Energy Independence Act, to make E15 available year-round and establish an E15 and biodiesel tax credit, and the Next Generation Fuels Act.
She also stressed the importance of having a strong and consistent Renewable Fuel Standard.
“I will always continue to oppose any efforts to lower the RVOs,” she said, discussing renewable volume obligations.
“This is critically important because you need that base demand you know that you can plan for so you can make the investment you need to sustain production and know what’s in front of you. This yo-yoing back and forth, back and forth, 15 billion gallons, 12 billion, 15 billion, 11 billion gallons, this is wrong.”
Duckworth also said she opposes small refinery waivers and pushed back against both the current and previous administrations when there were efforts to lower ethanol requirements through waivers.
“It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, I will always do whatever I can to ensure that we’re upholding the promises made to farmers,” she said.
Duckworth called the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act “the most significant investment in biofuels since the RFS program was created.”
“One of my top priorities when we were working on this bill was making sure energy incentives included biofuels and I’m very proud to say that we got it done. There’s $500 million in there for biofuels,” she said.
“This $500 million is going to provide significant support for infrastructure improvements for blending, storing, supplying and distributing biofuels. It establishes a sustainable aviation fuel tax credit, and it extends credits for biofuels, as well.
“This isn’t just a win for us here at home. Strengthening biofuels is a matter of national security. I feel very strongly that strengthening ag is a matter of national security.”
Duckworth said her interest in the nation’s energy sector dates back to her experiences nearly two decades ago in Iraq.
“That was a war fought in part over foreign oil. American boys and girls bled and died because our nation said this was important and they went and I went willingly. But the fact is we shouldn’t be fighting over foreign oil. We shouldn’t be having to cozy up to countries like Saudi Arabia with their human rights violations just because they control oil,” Duckworth said.
“I don’t want us to become a nation that exists in a place like Eastern Europe does, forever beholden to Putin. We can’t be that. And a strong ag sector that can feed America, a strong ag sector that can grow and fuel America with biofuels is critically important to our independence and our ability to lead the free world.”
Duckworth is a member of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, working on international trade partnerships.
“I went to Taiwan and South Korea earlier this year to highlight how Illinois is uniquely positioned to increase partnerships as a hub of agriculture, manufacturing, technology, energy, and our state is poised for greater investments to increase exports with international partners,” she noted.
“I was proud to give Illinois a voice internationally and I’m going to keep pushing for these efforts.
“We’ve already seen how my advocacy will help bring investments to Illinois because after I met with LG (Chem) twice this past year they just announced a partnership with ADM in Decatur for the U.S. production of plant-based solutions like bioplastics.
“That plant-based solutions for bioplastics is what’s going to take ethanol from being already fuel efficient and bring it to a carbon negative status.
“If we can really refine carbon capture and sequestration, put the access carbon into the ground, underneath us right now in Illinois is a limestone layer topped by a bedrock layer that would keep carbon underneath, we can actually in this state produce net carbon negative fuel and it’s going to come from ethanol.”
Looking ahead to the new farm bill due in 2023, Duckworth wants input from Illinois farmers and ag organizations.
“My priorities for the next farm bill include protecting and improving farm safety net programs like the commodity support programs, federal crop insurance, disaster assistance programs, as well as supporting export market developments like the Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program. That’s where we’re going to grow as a nation,” Duckworth said.
“As we’re trying to compete with China and other nations, this is where we can grow and strengthen because we have the advantage with this great nation, its fertile lands and its farmers.”