WOODSTOCK – U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, met with a collection of farmers Friday at the McHenry County Farm Bureau to hear their concerns.
Farmers in attendance spoke about their struggles competing with larger corporations, illegal immigration, and exporting goods to other countries, among other issues.
Harvard farmer Harry Alten said he wanted it to be easier to bring temporary foreign workers legally into the country without the fear of having their Social Security number being counterfeited.
“First of all, we have to shut down the illegal work force,” responded Kirk, who is from Highland Park. “I’m for building a wall, doubling the size of the Border Patrol.”
Kirk recommended that people have the opportunity to upgrade their Social Security cards with photos and bar codes, similar to military IDs. People would have the option to upgrade their card for $10. The cards would be hard to counterfeit.
“We would see a tremendous drop in the ability of the immigration fraud ID criminal organizations, many who operate in the Chicago area,” Kirk said.
There also were questions about how smaller farmers can stay in business while competing against larger corporate farms.
Kirk reiterated that he was against raising the estate tax, sometimes referred to as the death tax, from 0 percent to 55 percent.
He said he wanted to make sure that there were markets for people’s goods.
“We know that U.S. agriculture is one of the main industry sectors that supports the trade balance of the United States,” Kirk said. “So why has it been we’ve gone two full years with no progress on the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and ... South Korea?” Kirk said.
“Colombian products already enter the United States duty free,” Kirk added. “The sole effect of a free trade agreement with Colombia is to reduce barriers to U.S. exports, and yet big labor doesn’t want any free trade agreement to go through, which hurts rural incomes.”
Kirk also spoke about how people will vote twice for the Senate seat. A federal court ruled that the state needs to have a special election to finish the term that was vacated when President Obama left the U.S. Senate.
Kirk is running against Alexi Giannoulias, a Chicago Democrat and current state treasurer, in both Senate elections.
Kirk said he expected key bills to come up during the lame-duck session of Congress immediately after the election, but before the new Congress meets in January. He expects a value-added tax to be considered, as well as a bill that would eliminate the secret ballot in union elections and an omnibus appropriations bill.
He said that if he won the election to finish the Senate term, there would be 42 Republican votes. Democrats need 60 votes to break a filibuster.
“The lame-duck session should be to only do the ministerial legislation necessary to keep the government running until the new senators and representatives elected by the people can take office,” Kirk said. “There is something unseemly about dozens of members who have just been defeated making major decisions.”
Ann Hughes of Woodstock, who was among the 15 audience members, also spoke at the forum.
“We have to have a change of attitude in Washington,” said Hughes, a former state representative.
“This country cannot afford to keep raising taxes, to solve every problem everybody thinks government has an answer for. ... We need less government. We need clean and streamlined systems. We need to be able make decisions for ourselves.”