U.S. Bishops
Religious groups, leaders advocate U.S. Farm Bill reforms

.- As Congress begins the work of reauthorizing the U.S. Farm Bill, more than a dozen Christian churches and faith-based organizations have banded together to form a Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill.

The coalition is urging Congress to adopt major changes to domestic agricultural policy, that they might help reduce hunger and poverty worldwide, as well as promote the livelihood of farmers and rural communities in the U.S. and abroad.

The Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill has developed legislative principles for farm-bill reform. They include:

  • Increase investments that combat rural poverty and strengthen rural communities
  • Strengthen and expand programs that reduce hunger and improve nutrition
  • Strengthen and increase investment in policies that promote conservation and good stewardship of 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 farm workers 
  • Expand research related to alternative, clean and renewable forms of energy
  • Improve and expand international food aid in ways that encourage local food security
Members of the coalition currently are in the process of visiting congressional offices and sharing these principles.

“Passing a new farm bill is an important opportunity to reshape our agricultural policies to build a more just framework that better serves rural communities and vulnerable farmers in the U.S., overcomes hunger here and abroad, and helps poor farmers and their families in developing countries,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn in an April 23 press release.

Bishop DiMarzio is chairman of the Domestic Policy Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The USCCB is among the nine signatories to the legislative principles for farm-bill reform. Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference are among the nine organizations endorsing the reforms.

Coalition members also are urging Congress to address the negative impact that current U.S. agricultural and trade policies have on people living in impoverished countries.

Lutheran Bishop Mark Hanson said lawmakers have a historic opportunity in 2007 to pass a farm bill that “strengthens the livelihood of rural communities, helps lift people out of hunger and poverty, and safeguards the integrity of God’s creation for generations to come.”

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