FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Catholic Relief Services
BALTIMORE, Md, March 7, 2012–Representatives of the U.S,. Catholic bishops and Catholic agencies that serve the poor are urging Congress to pass a Farm Bill that aids the hungry, both here and around the world, and uses scarce subsidy resources for farmers who most need them.
In a letter to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities and the National Rural Life Conference urged support for a Farm Bill that ”provides for poor and hungry people both at home and abroad, offers effective support for those who grow our food, ensures fairness to family farmers and ranchers, and promotes stewardship of the land.
“We also urge that this Farm Bill target limited resources, such as subsidies and direct payments, to those farmers and ranchers who truly need assistance to be competitive and successful,” the letter said.
The Farm Bill is legislation renewed every five years that governs federal farm and food policy.
The coalition of Catholic agencies will release more specific recommendations in the near future, but in the meantime is urging the Senate to consider several priorities:
Domestic Hunger and Nutrition:Support access to adequate and nutritious food for those in need and to oppose attempts to weaken or restructure these programs that would result in reduced benefits to hungry people.
International Food Security and Development: Protect food aid for development programs in an ironclad “safebox,” and provide sufficient resources for emergency food aid so shortfalls won’t require drawing on resources targeted for development programs. Increase flexibility by providing resources for the local purchase of food.
Conservation: Support full funding for conservation initiatives that promote stewardship of the land and environmentally sound agriculture practices.
Rural Development: Effective policies and programs are needed to encourage rural development and promote the culture and well-being of these communities.
Subsidies: Given current high commodity prices and federal budget constraints, agricultural subsidies and direct payments can be reduced overall, and targeted to small and moderate-sized farms, especially minority owned-farms. There should also be a careful consideration of the economics and ethics of subsidizing food to produce fuel.