From God’s initial command to care for creation to the prophets’ call for equal justice, people of faith are called together to work for the common good. Inspired by our faith traditions’ commands to care for poor and vulnerable people, we join with those who support policies that promote local food security in the U.S. and around the world, strengthen farm families and rural communities, and care for the land as God’s creation.
Catholic Rural Life believes farming is a noble vocation, but not simply because farmers and ranchers produce our daily food, essential as that is. Pope Francis explains in his teachings in the June 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’: “(Agriculture) is an eloquent expression of that imperative to ‘till and keep the garden of the world’ to which we have been called.”
Furthermore, our Holy Father affirms the call to all Catholics to address the needs within agriculture in his December 2016 address to the International Catholic Rural Association, of which CRL Executive Jim Ennis is the President. Pope Francis says, “agriculture is no longer considered a primary sector of the economy, yet it clearly continues to be important for policies of development and for addressing disparities in food security and issues in the life of rural communities.”
For members of Catholic Rural Life, this shapes our engagement on the Farm Bill, an omnibus piece of legislation that affects not just farm communities around the country, but urban and suburban areas as well. It is accurate to say that this comprehensive legislation is not just a Farm Bill, but a Farm-Food-Environment-Energy-Rural Development bill.
The current Farm Bill, authorized in 2014, expires at the end of September 2018. As this deadline draws near, members of both the U.S. House and Senate are crafting final legislation for a new five-year farm and food security bill. There is still time for the public to urge their elected officials to target limited funds and resources where need is greatest.
For the Catholic community, this means a Farm Bill that does much more than set policies for commodity production. We believe it also needs to help secure adequate nutrition for all, support the livelihoods and dignity of family farmers, promote sustainable stewardship of farmland and waterways, and help vulnerable farmers and rural communities both at home and in developing countries.
To this purpose of once again making farming a noble vocation, we offer the following:
- Principles for a Common Good Farm Bill
- Protect and strengthen food assistance programs that reduce hunger, especially among women, children and infants.
- Promote investments that combat rural poverty and strengthen rural enterprises.
- Provide a fair and effective safety net for farmers when prices, incomes or yields fall to unsustainable levels.
- Establish commodity payments and crop insurance subsidies that benefit small- and medium-scale farmers; limit the amount of payments to mega-farms.
- Strengthen policies and programs that promote conservation and protect natural resources from environmental degradation.
Urgent Need to Raise Our Voices
We will continue to advocate for a fair and just Farm Bill with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Charities USA, and Catholic Relief Services, among others.
Catholic Rural Life is also a long-time member of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), so we coordinate our advocacy efforts with the policy positions of the sustainable agriculture community.
These are important positions to promote as we move forward in improving the next farm bill for the common good.