An appeal for the little guy - Word&Way

An appeal for the little guy

By Bill Webb, Word&Way Editor

A number of Christian organizations — Baptists among them — are getting behind a House of Representatives initiative known as the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment. The sponsors include Democrat Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona.

bill webbAdvocates claim the amendment helps ensure that Congress will pass a meaningful farm reform bill that will change the way the government relates to farmers and will result in benefits for the poor in the United States and around the world. Supporters say meaningful reform will aid America’s struggling family farmers, rather than increasingly shift farm payments to conglomerate farm operations.

Christian hunger advocate Bread for the World is helping spearhead the legislation, which it regards as a significant improvement over the farm reform bill proposed by the House Agricultural Committee. That proposal falls short of real reform and represents only modest changes to the 2002 farm bill, according to Bread for the World.

The amendments advocates are calling for concerned citizens to contact their representatives in Congress by noon on Thursday, July 26, if possible, and urge them to support the amendment.

“This week, the House will be voting on the farm bill,” according to Bread for the World. “The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee will offer the committee’s version of the farm bill, and it does little to help struggling farm and rural families in the United States, or hungry people here and around the world. It leaves largely untouched our current commodity programs, which concentrate payments in the hands of a few relatively affluent people, some of whom do not actually farm. The committee’s farm bill would also do nothing to change policies that make it more difficult [for some farmers] to sell their crops and feed their families.”

The hunger organization maintains that the vote of representatives is critical “to farmers of modest means, struggling rural communities and hungry people in America and to farmers in developing countries….”

The key reforms in the Fairness in Farm and Food Pol­icy Amend­ment, according to Bread for the World include:

• “A fair and reliable safety net for farmers. This amendment replaces depression-era price guarantees with a modern revenue-based safety net developed by USDA experts that better protects family farmers from declines in crop prices and crop yields at a lower cost.”

• “Support for working family farmers. The amendment denies farm program payments to households with average annual adjusted gross income greater than $500,000 (half the limit stipulated in the committee’s bill) and limits annual payments to $250,000 per persons.”

• “Crop insurance reforms. The amend­ment reforms our government-subsidized crop insurance program to ensure insurance agents and companies are assuming their fair share of both costs and risks.”

• “A gradual reduction in direct payments. Direct payments have become a program whose benefits are skewed toward large landowners rather than an effective risk management tool for farmers. The amendment slowly lowers direct payments for some commodity crops, especially those expected to see high market prices for the life of the next farm bill. Limited resource farmers are exempt from cuts and modest incentives would encourage farmers to invest payments in rainy day accounts.”

Savings in the program would help bolster nutrition programs through $5.6 billion over five years to increase benefit levels, update outdated asset rules in the food stamp program and strengthen emergency food assistance. Students from K-12 and senior citizens would benefit from funding to provide them fresh fruits and vegetables.

The amendment also is intended to promote improved land stewardship, support socially disadvantaged farmers, boost development in rural areas and enhance school lunches for hungry children overseas.

Because of their faith, our readers are concerned for those most easily overlooked. Here is a chance to support legislation that can make a real distance within our state and beyond. A toll-free number — 1-800-826-3688 — will connect callers to the Capitol switchboard, where they can ask to be connected with their representative’s office. Call now.