Last year, the 107th Congress passed the 2002 Farm Bill which sets agriculture, rural development and nutrition programs for the next six years. Overall, USCCB and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) were critical of Congress' failure to target support to those who needed assistance the most. Specifically, the new Farm Bill did not include these important provisions: payment limitations on commodity support programs, a ban on meatpacker ownership of livestock, and contract fairness protection for poultry and livestock growers. Despite these economic justice failings, there were several provisions supported by USCCB and NCRLC that were included in the Farm Bill and address inadequate hunger policies and dilemmas facing rural communities. These welcomed provisions are: restoration of food stamp eligibility to legal immigrants, increased funding for conservation programs, innovative programs to assist new and beginning farmers and ranchers, and various rural development programs.
The USCCB continues to advocate farm policies that enable our nation to maintain an agricultural system of diverse, family-owned and operated farms. The Conference believes that a broadly-based agricultural system is best suited to ensure stewardship of the land, diversity of plants and animals, food security, viable and healthy families, and respectful appreciation of God's creation.
There may be efforts to introduce provisions that were left out of the 2002 Farm Bill. These include payment limitations on farm subsidies, support for micro-enterprise programs, and a ban on packer ownership of livestock. We will monitor these efforts throughout the appropriations process and vigorously support adoption of these programs.
We are particularly concerned that the President has requested Congress to reallocate $332.8 million from conservation and nutrition programs to other provisions within the USDA budget. In effect, this would reduce the funding for some of the programs we supported in the Farm Bill, for example the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). While we understand how difficult it is to balance budget shortfalls, we believe conservation and nutrition programs should be fully funded.
What You Can Do
Contact your Senators and Representative and let them know that in their funding decisions, resources should be targeted to:
Owners of small or medium farms struggling to feed their families and support their local community
- Farmers and ranchers practicing responsible stewardship of their land and common waterways
- Women and children who need adequate nutrition
- Legal immigrants who have been denied eligibility for Food Stamps
For Further Information
Andy Rivas 202-541-3190; (fax) 202-541-3339; email@example.com
Robert Gronski, NCRLC, 515-270-2634; firstname.lastname@example.org.