Every five years or so, the US adopts a new Farm Bill. This massive piece of legislation sets the framework for what we eat, whether our food is nourishing and affordable, what assistance our society provides to feed hungry people, what crops farmers grow under what conditions, global grain and fiber markets, and how rural land is used.
This cycle is underway again, as the 2008 version of the law runs its course. This round of debate over food and farm policy comes at a time of intense and growing public interest in food issues. It also comes at a time of economic uncertainty for our families, communities and nation—when the concept of public investment in our future is under attack.
December 2013 Update: Protecting the earth and feeding hungry people
By Marie Rietmann, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Liaison
The House and Senate are working out differences on the Farm Bill, setting our nation’s farm and food priorities. The UCC is focusing on two issues especially: requiring conservation compliance for recipients of federal crop insurance subsidies and stopping cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps).
Basic conservation requirements to protect against soil erosion and wetland drainage have been a condition of receiving farm subsidies since 1985. This policy has dramatically reduced soil erosion on farmland and protected wetlands, keeping land productive and natural resources intact. The largest federal farm support program—crop insurance—is exempt from complying with these standards. The Senate restores this requirement and the House does not.
The House reduced SNAP nearly $40 billion over ten years, which would eliminate access for 3.8 million low-income people next year. The Senate cut SNAP $4 billion. SNAP benefits are meager – they now average a mere $1.40 per person per meal. If SNAP is weakened, our nation will have more hunger and food insecurity, worse educational outcomes, worse health, and higher health costs.
Letters to Congress signed by Justice Witness Ministries:
2013 Principles for a Faithful Farm Bill
From God’s initial command to care for 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 our faith traditions’ commands to care for poor and vulnerable people, we join together to support policies that promote local food security in the U.S. and around the world, strengthen rural communities, and care for the land as God’s creation.
Our nation’s food and farm policies as embodied in the Farm Bill impact people and communities from rural America to developing countries. In the current budget climate, the Farm Bill’s limited resources must be effectively targeted where need is greatest. Programs and policies that curb hunger and malnutrition, support vibrant agricultural economies in rural communities, and promote the sustainable use of natural resources must be prioritized.
Together, we will urge Congress to take the opportunity presented by the reauthorization of the Farm Bill to reduce hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world and encourage sustainable stewardship of our resources. To this end, we support the following principles for the Farm Bill:
- Protect and strengthen programs that reduce hunger and improve nutrition in the United States.
- Promote investments and policies that strengthen rural communities and combat rural poverty.
- Provide a fair and effective farmer safety net that allows farmers in the U.S. and around the world to earn economically sustainable livelihoods.
- Strengthen policies and programs that promote conservation and protect creation from environmental degradation.
- Protect the dignity, health, and safety, of those responsible for working the land.
- Promote research related to alternative, clean, and renewable forms of energy that do not negatively impact food prices or the environment.
- Safeguard and improve international food aid in ways that encourage local food security and improve the nutritional quality of food aid.
American Jewish World Service
Bread for the World
Catholic Charities USA
Catholic Relief Services
Church of the Brethren
Church World Service
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)
Disciples Home Missions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Disciples Justice Action Network
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
Islamic Society of North America
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Sister of Mercy in the Americas' Institute Justice Team
Union for Reform Judaism
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops