MORE INFORMATION: Current Status of Farm Bill Legislation Senate to Begin Work

August 7, 2007
  • The Episcopal Church and its faith partners in Washington support farm-bill reform that would: (1) Restructure U.S. commodity-payment programs to ensure that they help small and medium sized farmers who rely on the land to provide for their families; (2) Reduce trade-distorting subsidies that paralyze farmers in poor countries and undermine U.S. commitments to fair trade and poverty reduction; and (3) Increase investments in key programs like conservation, nutrition, and rural development by using existing funds in the bill.
  • Current U.S. agricultural policy is broken and needs fixing. The House bill bowed to the commodities lobby and perpetuates the current system of giving large cash payments to millionaires while neglecting the bulk of American farmers who rely on the land to provide for their families. The current system also undermines U.S. commitments to fighting global poverty by paralyzing farmers in developing countries seeking to feed their families and empower their communities.
  • Under the current system, three quarters of commodity payments go to the top 10 percent of U.S. producers. Most American farm families – three in four – receive nothing from the U.S. government. Rural America supports reform because reform is good for rural America.
  • Reform of the current system is also key to the eradication of deadly poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (of which fair trade is part of Goal 8). Reform of the U.S. cotton subsidy, for example, would help 10 million African cotton farmers bring at least $90 billion in new money into their nations’ economies each year: more than the sum of U.S. poverty-focused foreign aid to Africa.
  • It is possible to pass a farm bill that is good for U.S. farmers, good for rural America, good for communities in need, and good for farmers in developing countries. A Senate package that represents meaningful reform would:

* Restructure the commodity title to make the payment system fairer for farmers in our own country and less distorting of international trade markets. Depression-era price supports should be transitioned to a modern safety net that is revenue-based and designed to protect family farmers from risk.

* Reduce direct payments and tighten payment limits in order to ensure that help goes to farmers who need it most.

* Bolster investment in nutrition programs – using existing resources from within the farm bill – in order to ensure a healthy diet for all Americans.

* Promote stewardship of the land by investing in conservation programs, including funds to focus on clean water and wildlife habitat

* Boost investments in rural development, socially disadvantaged farmers, and the McGovern-Dole school lunch program.