Sen. Dick Durbin versus Mark Curran on ag issues

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois is the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, serving as Minority Whip. Mark Curran, an attorney and former sheriff, hopes to unseat him at the polls next month. Here is where both men stand on agricultural issues.

Durbin says that he helped implement successful crop insurance programs during his four terms on the Senate Ag Committee.

“Farmers pay a premium and they do it willingly but there is also a massive federal subsidy of this crop insurance program but it turns out that the combination of the two, the payments by the farmers, by the ranchers, and others, and the payment by the federal government has created a system with reliability and one that more and more farmers want to see extended,” he said. “Can we make it better in the future? Of course we can, and we are going to debate exactly how to do it.”

Curran suggests more tax breaks to help out small farmers.

“It’s the small independent farmer, the ones we need to look out for. We need to make sure they can compete and that all the breaks don’t go towards the big corporate farms,” he said. “I’m somebody that will fight for the middle class. That’s been my mantra, that’s what I believe in.

Despite representing different political parties, both candidates believe environmental policy is a priority.

Senator Durbin says that farmers are changing their attitude about climate change.

“There was a time when I would ask farmers who visited my office, ‘do you believe that what we do as humans on this Earth makes a difference in terms of extreme weather or all the things we’re reading about?’ and none of them did,” he said. “It’s changed, they are now engaged in the conversation, ‘what can we do in terms of environmental stewardship on the farm?’ and secondly, ‘is there profitability built into this?’”

Curran also says farmers play a critical role in land stewardship and renewable resources.

“We need cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner soil, and I think farmers can contribute in a big way,” he said. “They have through ethanol and I’d like to continue to see that done.”

Current polling from The Economist has Sen. Durbin leading Curran with a 22 percent advantage.

You can see more about U.S. Senate races that impact agriculture here.