What to ask legislators?? ADM asking State of Illinois for $$$ to relocate in Illinois
October 8, 2013 (posted to food-and-farm list-servs on Oct. 4, 2013)
Advocates for Urban Agriculture (Greater Chicago)
Illinois Local Food and Farms Coalition (Illinois)
Good Greens (USDA FNS Midwest Office – serving 6 states: OH, MI, IN, IL, WI, MN)
Illinois Farmers Market Assn. (serving all 300+ Illinois markets)
COMFOOD (international list-serv based at Tufts University – Boston, MA)
Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (national organization based in Ames, Iowa)
Food Policy Network (national forum based at Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, MD)
Thanks for the responses to my question about what to say to our Illinois state legislators who might be considering ADM's request for yet another government subsidy — this time to move their headquarters. Below are the raw responses.
Synthesizing these responses, I would recommend that "local food" advocates ask their legislators the following questions. Again, this learning can apply both to Illinois residents and people in other states:
ILLINOIS: QUESTIONS TO ASK ILLINOIS LEGISLATORS
1. How did ADM get a public hearing on their request for Illinois funds to help them relocate in Illinois?
2. Given that the Illinois General Assembly is not in session, how and why do these public hearings get scheduled?
3. Who in the Illinois General Assembly is responsible for scheduling such hearings?
4. How much did that public hearing cost the State of Illinois?
5. How can local foods advocates get such a public hearing on funding various "local food" programs in Illinois, including funding the Illinois Local Food, farms, and Jobs Council?
6. What other questions about the operations of the Illinois General Assembly and about getting the attention of other State of Illinois officials should the Illinois local food advocates be asking?
QUESTIONS FOR LEGISLATORS IN OTHER STATES. Similar questions can also be asked in other states. My experience in Illinois has shown me that legislators are very happy to help educate constituents about the legislative process. Sometimes we don't even know what to ask for — a hearing, a bill, a resolution, a meeting, a rule tweak?
1. GENERAL: How to move the local food agenda up on the state's priority list — for $$, for attention, etc.?
2. SPECIFIC. If ADM makes a public request for $$$ to move to some other state, local food advocates in that state can ask their legislators the same questions Illinois people should be asking.
Maybe we need a "Just Say 'No Home' to ADM" campaign in every state until they're willing to sit at the "local foods" decision-making table and commit to following core "local foods" principles..
ADDITIONAL AREA OF INVESTIGATION. ADM'S investment in their home community
(compared with other large corporations)
Per the suggestion by Respondent #2, it would indeed be interesting to compare the local investment that ADM has made in Decatur over 40 years compared with the local investment that State Farm Insurance has made in Bloomington-Normal, especially in the area of local foods. I know for a fact that State Farm helps to fund the downtown farmers market. I do not know the amount of investment, but Respondent #2 seems to be suggesting that State Farm has given a lot back to the Bloomington-Normal community.
State Farm's community-mindedness also extends to Chicago, where they have been operating a large cafe and meeting space in a very densely populated area of Chicago (Lincoln Park). The cafe is called Next Door and offers free meeting space to all kinds of groups, coaches, classes, etc. It's become a real community center and the coffee is not bad. I believe they are using their presence to tap into financial issues and trends of the next generation. They also provide free answers to financial and insurance questions. Check out: https://www.nextdoorchi.com/
PS If an Illinois legislator would like to get additional perspective from Respondent #1, I can help to facilitate that connection.
Respondent #1. A senior staffmember of a national non-profit located in Chicago:
Yes. We're opposed to this. There are lots of reasons and lots of ways to message it, but the most basic one is this: corporate tax breaks are really "expenditures"; they need to be measured against all of the competing expenditures in the state budget in terms of the state's priorities (health care, human services, education, accessible tuition at the universities, public safety, state parks, etc). ALL of those priorities have sustained deep and damaging cuts during the present fiscal crisis. And the parts that haven't been cut have simply been stiffed by late payments. In that context, to even ask for this kind of expenditure and expect it to be taken seriously is pretty outrageous. They haven't even tried to make the case that this expenditure is a priority, nevermind that it outweighs other priorities. They go straight to the blackmail.
Respondent #2. A staffmember of a large non-profit in Chicago (with a national reputation).
A lot of the economic development literature these days says that the best way to attract businesses is to attend to the local assets, including schools, parks, culture, healthcare, etc.
Just the other day somebody reminded me what a dump Decatur is, so it's not surprising that they want to get out of Dodge, although it would be interesting to see what sorts of local investments they've ever made and to compare them with, say, State Farm in Bloomington.
Respondent #3. Kelly Pierce, Chicago area
My experience has found that opposing alone isn’t as successful as other approaches. Let’s face it. ADM is as big as it is because people buy lots of processed food and feedlot meat. Often ignored proposals from the alternative perspective, such as urban ag or local food might be taken more seriously now so lawmakers can feel what they are doing is balanced. What are some legislative proposals from our side that have been developed that could be advanced?
Your message is a little misleading. ADM has grown significantly in Decatur with corresponding job growth. The newspaper articles suggest the community has benefited from this growth. Now it is a global company and needs the benefits of a large city region, such as major airports, and high level expertise in such areas as technology, finance, and marketing.