Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Action Alert: Food and Farm Policy Moving on Capitol Hill!

This week, both the Senate and the House of Representatives will be making crucial steps to advance food and farm policy. Your voice is needed now: tell your members of Congress to enact a multi-year farm bill that alleviates hunger and malnutrition, supports vibrant farms and rural communities, and protects God’s creation.

The Senate Agriculture Committee is holding its bill “mark-up” today and the House Committee will follow suit tomorrow.

For a toll-free option, you can dial 1-800-826-3688 to reach your Senators’ and Representatives’ offices.*  (Even if your Senators or Representative do not serve on Agriculture Committees, their support and encouragement are strongly needed for a positive Farm Bill outcome coming out of Committee!)

Our nation’s food and farm policies, as embodied in the farm bill, affect people from rural America to inner cities, from our local communities to less industrialized regions around the world. The farm bill is the single largest piece of federal policy impacting our food system. A good farm bill can strengthen nutrition programs like SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), help our struggling rural communities, support new and socially disadvantaged farmers, enhance global food aid to the world’s most impoverished, and encourage farming and ranching practices that protect God’s creation.

Now is the time to act. Join hundreds of other Christians today by urging Congress to pass a multi-year reauthorization of the farm bill that fights hunger, supports vibrant communities, and protects God’s creation. Write to your Members of Congress now!


Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will be marking up versions of the farm bill this week. Congress failed to pass a farm bill in 2012, and a number of important programs that promote a just and healthy food system are currently without funding. Other programs are continuing, but need the certainty provided by a multi-year farm bill.

The Senate farm bill will likely look very similar to last year's stalled bill with roughly $23 billion in proposed cuts. About $4 billion will come from nutrition programs and roughly another $6 billion from conservation programs. The rest of the major savings will come from changes to commodity and crop insurance programs.

The House bill is expected to cut deeper than last year, aiming for $38 billion in total cuts over ten years. $20 billion of those cuts will come from the nutrition title but it is unclear how the remaining $18 billion will be divided amongst the rest of the titles.

For further reading:

*Talking Points for a Call to Congress:

  • I am a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) where we are committed to food policies that ensure enough for everyone.  
  • I believe that just food policies is one of the tests of our nation and I urge you to work with your congressional colleagues to enact a Farm Bill this year that alleviates hunger and malnutrition, supports vibrant farms and strong communities, and protects God's creation.
  • Any Farm Bill you support should:
    • Alleviate hunger and malnutrition: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), should be protected from cuts and harmful structural changes. 
      • Also, Congress should sustain robust international food aid and improve the nutritional quality of food aid. 
    • Support vibrant farms and healthy communities: Congress should support programs that help beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers get started in the business of agriculture (like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program). 
      • Other farm bill programs - like the Farmers Market Promotion Program in the United States and the Local and Regional Procurement program for international food aid - help build local and regional food systems and support the rural communities at their center. 
      • These important programs should be funded and expanded in a new farm bill.
    • Protect God's creation: A new farm bill should strengthen policies and programs that promote conservation of soil and water and protect creation from environmental degradation. 
      • Conservation Compliance: the Farm Bill should require conservation compliance for recipients of federal crop insurance. 
      • By requiring basic levels of protection for soil, water, and wetlands, this conservation compact between farmers and taxpayers can help ensure that where public money is invested, our interests are protected. 
      • Funds for conservation programs, particularly those for working lands such as the Conservation Stewardship Program, are popular and should not be used to pay for other priorities.
  • In a world where there is enough food for everyone, it is shameful that there are people who live in hunger and food insecurity.  We need to promote policies that ensure that our abundant resources reach those who need them.  I support a full five-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill that fights hunger, improves nutrition, supports vibrant farms and communities, and takes active steps to protect God’s good creation.