Friday, May 18, 2007

Farm Bill and Hunger

This Sunday our annual Bread for the World Offering of Letters will focus on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill. Letter writing will take place immediately following the service during coffee hour.

The following are some excerpts from an article by Leslie Woods of the PC(USA) Washington Office about why the Farm Bill is so important. The complete article can be found here.

The Farm Bill authorizes some of the country’s most important tools for fighting hunger in the U.S. and -- unlike its name implies -- it does not affect only American farmers. In fact, the Farm Bill touches the life of almost every person living in the United States, and many who live in the global community. Perhaps it would be more aptly named the “Comprehensive Food, Land, and Trade Policy Bill.”

Folded into the broad reaches of the Farm Bill are topics that range widely -- from anti-hunger measures like the Food Stamp Program, to government subsidies for farmers and policies that affect international trade agreements, to programs designed to protect the environment. The Farm Bill also governs international food aid policy, as well as plans to promote development in rural communities in the U.S.

Many are concerned that current farm policies are unsustainable and unjust, both in the global economy and environmentally.

The commodities program, for example, was originally intended as a safety net for family farmers. However they increasingly benefit large farms and agribusiness, leaving small and mid-size farmers without that important safety net.

Current Food Stamp benefits average $1 per person per meal and the household monthly minimum benefit is as low as $10.

The 2007 Farm Bill should:
• Increase investments that combat rural poverty and strengthen rural communities;
• Strengthen and expand programs that reduce hunger and improve nutrition in the United States;
• Strengthen and increase investment in policies that promote conservation and good stewardship of the land;
• Provide transitions for farmers to alternative forms of support that are more equitable and do not distort trade in ways that fuel hunger and poverty;
• Protect the health and safety of farmworkers;
• Expand research related to alternative, clean and renewable forms of energy; and
• Improve and expand international food aid in ways that encourage local food security.

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