Last week, a couple interesting events were happening in the world of food and agriculture. One was the failed vote in the U.S. House of Representatives for a new farm bill. Many observers were stunned, and I’m sure House leadership was, too. I mean, why would they bring their own legislation to the floor to be voted down?!
According to media reports, an intense blame game broke out right after the bill was rejected in a 195-234 vote. Republicans said they were ambushed by Democrats who promised they would deliver votes, and then failed to do so. Democrats said Republicans should not have added hard-line amendments to the food stamp program. They only have themselves to blame, Democrats said, given that nearly a quarter of Republicans voted no.
The House Agriculture Committee must be pulling their hair out about what to do next. No doubt they are checking with Big Ag lobbyists to come up with a game plan. For now, it looks like the farm bill may have to wait a few months for politics to finish its posturing game.
Pope Francis greets UN FAO conference participants
The other event took place in Rome at the convening of a UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference.
Pope Francis took the opportunity to greet agricultural ministers and policymakers from around the world. He wanted to thank them for work in responding to those most in need in “receiving their daily bread and finding a dignified place at the table.”
The Holy Father stated that the difficult circumstances many people find themselves have to do with food security, continuing conflicts, climate change, and the preservation of biological diversity.
“All these situations,” the Pope said, “demand of FAO a renewed commitment to tackling the many problems of the agricultural sector and of all those living and working in rural areas. The initiatives and possible solutions are many, nor are they limited to increasing production.”
Pope Francis went on to say that while current levels of production are sufficient, millions continue to perish from starvation, an act he said was “truly scandalous.” The Holy Father called on the international community to find a way for everyone “to benefit from the fruits of the earth.”
While back on the Farm Bill, we wait
Perhaps our elected officials here in the U.S. can find some truth in the words of Pope Francis and rededicate themselves to completing a new farm and food bill.
I join in the sentiments of those who believe that our agriculture sector stands to suffer from the bill’s failure in the U.S. House. There is much to be reformed, but it appears nothing can move forward in the ongoing political climate. For our farm and food policies, there is no clear plan for what will happen next. All we know is that the deadline for the expiration of the current stopgap farm bill is Sept. 30th.
So I wonder: Does the message of Pope Francis help us as people of faith to resolve in our own minds and hearts what needs to be done? In his recent remarks, he clearly emphasized the need for an evaluation of the current living situation that places the human person and human dignity at the forefront.
“This, I believe, is the significance of our meeting today: to share the idea that something more can and must be done in order to provide a new stimulus to international activity on behalf of the poor,” the Pope said.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis told the FAO participants that the Catholic Church will continue to support them in their work of addressing the needs of the poor and suffering. “The Catholic Church, with all her structures and institutions, is at your side in this effort, which is aimed at building concrete solidarity,” Pope Francis said.
Let’s keep this in our own hearts and mind in advocating for a just and fair Farm Bill by the end of this year.
Interested in Food and Justice and how this plays out in the global econmic system?
See our faith-based study guide on Food Security and Economic Justice.