The letter was signed by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
Also signing the letter were Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services; James F. Ennis, executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference; and Sheila K. Gilbert, president of the National Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The letter was sent to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Agriculture Committee; as well as Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Agriculture Committee.
The religious leaders discussed the Farm Bill, which is the main agricultural and food policy guide for the country. It provides funding for a number of programs and regulations in the food and agriculture industries, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, previously called food stamps.
At the end of September, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 – which previously governed agricultural policy – expired. Members of Congress recently restarted discussions on a 2013 Farm Bill, after a previous attempt to pass legislation failed in June amid disputes over decreasing funding to SNAP.
The signatories urged the Farm Bill Conference Committee to consider the poor as it tries to create a bill that will pass Congress. They voiced "serious concerns about using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or other programs that serve poor and hungry people, to find savings in the Farm Bill."