When I say Farm Bill, what do you think of? Probably government payments to farmers to keep them from planting! That made sense years ago when grain crops were used mostly for food, and prices occasionally went way down when supply dwarfed demand. But now that crops are being used for bio-fuels demand remains steady. There’s much less need to keep prices stable through “crop supports.”
There still is a need for a Farm Bill, however, and the present one runs out this September.
Last weekend my wife and I attended Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a gathering of 55 Christian groups who heard from experts in sustainable agriculture about what a new Farm Bill should contain–for the good of the whole world, not just the United States. Basically, the following:
- Support for food insecure citizens (those who aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from.) One in five U.S. children is food-insecure, one in six adults. That’s unconscionable in the world’s richest nation. Presently, SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, feeds hungry people. In another blog post I’ll explain why it’s not only morally right to keep SNAP well funded, but economically right too, because this will keep long term health costs down for our country.
- Support for small farmers. Few young people these days are going into farming, and the number of farms is drastically decreasing. In part this is due to the conversion of farmland for urban development; but also, large farms are putting small family-owned farms out of business. There are a number of reasons why this is not a healthy trend for our country or the planet. Again, more about this in an upcoming post.
- Support for sustainable agriculture programs that train farmers how to prevent water pollution, preserve the fertility of soil, and preserve hedgerow and pastureland habitats for wildlife.
At the end of the Ecumenical Advocacy days my wife and I, along with a Roman Catholic sister, visited the offices of Delaware Representative John Carney and Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper. About 750 other conference delegates from all over the U.S. visited their legislators. We’re going to make the Farm Bill a front burner issue going into the autumn. We urge you to get savvy about this crucially important legislation, and write, or maybe even visit your representatives, to express your moral and economic concerns.