Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Support a Fair Farm Bill


Take Action While Your Senators are Home for the Memorial Day Recess and Urge Them to Support a Fair Farm Bill!

Tell your Senators that our nation needs to feed the hungry, preserve God's creation, support small family farmers and help rural America thrive!
During the Memorial Day recess take the opportunity to visit, call, or write your Senators and urge them to support a Farm Bill that will help feed hungry people here at home and abroad, support growth in U.S. rural communities and promote stewardship of God’s creation. The Senate will vote soon on its version of 2012 Farm Bill and their decisions will impact the lives of hungry people at home and abroad and the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in partnership with Catholic Relief ServicesCatholic Charities USA, and theNational Catholic Rural Life Conference, have identified some positive provisions in the bill that we support as well as some provisions that need improving. We ask you to set up a district meeting with your Senators and urge them to support policies in the Farm Bill that:
  • Oppose cuts or harmful changes in domestic hunger and nutrition programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) that will harm hungry and vulnerable people;
  • Maintain funding for the Food for Peace Food Aid program to combat chronic hunger and provide nutritious foods to poor and malnourished families overseas;
  • Preserve funding for overseas anti-hunger programs that provide resiliency in the face of emergencies and are funded through the Food for Peace development “safe box”;
  • Fully fund important conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other programs that promote stewardship of God’s creation;
  • Preserve funding for rural development programs such as Value-Added Producer Grants, the Rural Micro-Entrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) and other programs that helps rural communities thrive and;
  • Redirect subsidies to small and medium-sized farms, especially minority owned farms and ranches that truly need assistance. Savings from reductions should be used to fund domestic nutrition and international assistance programs.
Current Situation & Background: Senators will be home in their districts for the Memorial Day recess starting on May 25. We anticipate that when they return to Washington they will finalize and vote on the Senate version of the Farm Bill.
The Senate is considering Farm Bill legislation that will reduce agriculture funding over 10 years by $23 billion. This includes over $4 billion in proposed cuts to the food stamp (SNAP) program and over $6 billion in cuts to conservation programs. At this time of continued unemployment and high levels of poverty, the Senate should oppose cuts to effective and efficient anti-hunger programs that help people live in dignity.
The Senate’s proposal calls for ending some subsidies (direct payments) and this is a step in the right direction.  Further reductions and re-directing subsidies that disproportionately go to larger growers and agribusiness are still needed. Savings from cuts to subsidies should be used to support hunger and nutrition programs that feed hungry, poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad.
The bishops acknowledge that reducing future unsustainable deficits is important but remind Congress that their decisions are not just economic in nature but are “political and moral choices with human consequences.” As pastors and teachers they offer several moral criteria to help guide difficult budgetary decisions. Read their recent letter on potential SNAP cuts here.
Last October in his Address on the Occasion of World Food Day 2011, Pope Benedict stated that “liberation from the yoke of hunger is the first concrete expression of the right to life.” The U.S. bishops join the Holy Father in asserting that food is a fundamental human right. In, For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food,” the bishops wrote, “the primary goals of agriculture policies should be providing food for all people and reducing poverty among farmers and farm workers in this country and abroad.” The U.S. bishops urge Congress to join them and other Christian leaders by forming a “circle of protection” around programs that serve hungry, poor and vulnerable people.