WASHINGTON (April 23, 2007) – As Congress begins the work of reauthorizing the U.S. farm bill, more than a dozen churches and faith-based organizations have come together as the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill to urge major changes in U.S. agricultural policy aimed at reducing hunger and poverty, and promoting the livelihood of farmers and rural communities, in the U.S. and around the world.
"Passing a new farm bill is an important opportunity to reshape our agricultural policies to build a more just framework that better serves rural communities and vulnerable farmers in the U.S., overcomes hunger here and abroad, and helps poor farmers and their families in developing countries," said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Domestic Policy Committee.
The Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, which includes Christian denominations and major faith-based organizations, has developed a statement of legislative principles for farm-bill reform (see below). Members of the group currently are in the process of visiting congressional offices and sharing those principles.
"As people of faith who are also constituents, we must let our members of Congress know that we support broad reforms in the farm bill," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "We are advocating for farm policy that strengthens our rural communities and better supports farmers of modest means, people trying to put food on the table in the United States, and struggling farmers in developing countries."
Members of the Religious Working Group support a farm bill that strengthens investment in communities in rural America; ensures all Americans an adequate and nutritious diet; provides better and more targeted support for U.S. farm families of modest means; and conserves the land for present and future generations. Group members also are urging Congress to address the negative impact that current U.S. agricultural and trade policies have on people living in impoverished countries around the world.
"Over the past decade, the U.S. government has made unprecedented, bipartisan commitments to address the deadly poverty that kills one person every three seconds in our world," said the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. "Reforming U.S. agricultural policy to help farmers in poor countries sell their crops is a way to follow through on that moral commitment while also improving the financial livelihoods of farmers in our own country."
The Religious Working Group also urges critical reforms to address poverty and human need in the United States through initiatives like the Food Stamp Program, the United States' first line of defense against hunger.
"Our nation's lawmakers have a historic opportunity in 2007 to pass a farm bill. Let us work together for a bill that strengthens the livelihood of rural communities, helps lift people out of hunger and poverty, and safeguards the integrity of God's creation for generations to come," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The faith communities represented in the group believe 2007 represents a critical moment in U.S. agricultural policy, and will be working with congregations throughout the country to carry the voice of reform to the halls of Congress.
"Farming ought to be regarded as a sacred calling to take care of the land and to bring forth the food and fiber that sustains the community. The time is now to advocate for a dramatic reform of U.S. agricultural policy so that rural communities in the United States and in the developing world can survive and prosper," said the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO of Church World Service.
From God's initial command to be good stewards of creation to the Prophets' call for justice among governments and nations, people of faith in every age are called together to work for the common good. Inspired by Jesus' command to care for poor and hungry people, we join together to support policies that promote economic justice, strengthen rural communities at home and around the world, care for the land as God's creation, foster right relations among nations and achieve an end to hunger.
Broad reform of U.S. food and farm policy, including adjustments to the commodity payment programs, is important to progress against hunger and poverty in this country and around the world. The current system should be changed in ways that would strengthen communities in rural America, ensure all Americans an adequate, nutritious diet, provide better and more targeted support for U.S. farm families of modest means, and conserve the land for present and future generations. In addition, such changes are necessary to unlock the ability of small-holder farmers in developing countries, who comprise the majority of the world's hungry people, to improve their livelihoods and escape poverty.
The Working Group will urge Congress to take the opportunity presented by the reauthorization of the Farm Bill to prioritize policies that reduce hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. To this end we support the following principles for the 2007 farm bill.
The 2007 farm bill should:
Bread for the World
Church World Service
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
National Council of Churches
Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington Office
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Catholic Charities USA
Catholic Relief Services
Lutheran World Relief
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Together For Hope: The Cooperative Baptist
Fellowship's Rural Poverty Initiative