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US bishops weigh in on farm bill, lament proposed cuts to food stamps

Catholic World News - July 11, 2012

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), joined by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC), has weighed in on the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 as the House of Representatives begins to consider the measure.

On June 21, the Senate, in a 64-35 vote, passed a version of the bill that will cost an estimated $969 billion over ten years. Sixteen Republicans and 46 Democrats voted for the legislation.

“We ask that you support a Farm Bill that provides help for poor and hungry people both at home and abroad, offers targeted support for those who grow our food, promotes stewardship of the land and helps rural communities prosper,” the joint USCCB-CRS-NCRLC letter stated.

The letter’s signatories—including Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace—praised the House Committee on Agriculture for proposing to allocate $400 million annually for Food for Peace non-emergency programs and called for increased funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

The signatories also criticized a proposed reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps). “At this time of economic hardship and continued high unemployment, the Committee should protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people,” the signatories stated. “To cut programs that feed hungry people in the midst of economic turmoil is unjustified and wrong.”

“We remain concerned that conservation and rural development programs continue to receive significant cuts,” the signatories added. “Full funding for conservation and rural development programs is essential to promote stewardship of creation and help rural communities thrive.”

Finally, the USCCB, CRS, and NCRLC called for a reduction in agricultural subsidies.

“Agriculture subsidies should be reduced overall and crop insurance should be targeted to help small and medium sized farmers, especially minority owned farms, over larger industrial agriculture,” the signatories stated. “Government resources should help those who truly need assistance and support those who comply with environmentally sound and sustainable agriculture practices. Savings from reductions to agricultural subsidies should be used to support hunger and nutrition programs that feed poor and vulnerable people.”

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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jul. 11, 2012 1:12 PM ET USA

    Where are the Christians who actually go out and minister to the poor, the way St. Frances Cabrini, St. Katherine Drexel and so many others did a century or more ago? While I am not opposed to government food programs per se, I am concerned about giving the poor a carte blanche to purchase liquor, gamble and neglect their children.

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