In response to House and Senate leadersâ release of a final farm bill package today, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, released the following statement urging Congressional defeat, or Presidential veto, of the legislation:
As we are learning more each day about the widening food crisis around the world and the deepening economic problems threatening the poor and those living on the margins at home, it is fundamentally wrong for Congressional leaders to seek passage of a farm bill that harms American family farmers and significantly exacerbates poverty and suffering around the world.
Congress has been considering the
While the legislation unveiled this week invests much-needed new money in nutrition programs that provide healthy meals to hungry people in the
First, the legislation leaves intact the deeply unjust American farm-payment system, which has been ruled a violation of international trade law for the manner in which it cripples the ability of farmers in poor countries to sell their products fairly in world markets. Experts estimate that the subsidy system bleeds at least $75 billion each year from African nations alone and contributes significantly to the extreme poverty that kills 30,000 of Godâs beloved people every day. Despite repeated calls from President Bush,
Second, and even more surprisingly, House and Senate negotiators unexpectedly slashed funding for a key program that provides meals for poor school children around the world. Known as the McGovern-Dole International Food-for-Education Program after its original Congressional sponsors, the initiative has for decades been an emblem of American generosity in response to human suffering, providing food to at least 3.4 million children in poor countries each year. This helps children â particularly girls â stay in school, improve their capacity for learning, and delay marriage and child bearing. Last year, House members debating an earlier version of the farm bill set funding for the program at $840 million over five years, a much-needed boost from its current $100 million funding level. Not only did House and Senate leaders totally negate that gain, they in fact slashed the current funding level to just $84 million. This action is simply inexplicable in the face of a worsening international food crisis. Congress cannot claim to do justice to poor families in the
âIf you offer your food to the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,â the prophet Isaiah tells us, âyour light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall be like the noonday. You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.â Sadly, the farm bill package backed by House and Senate leaders widens rather than heals the breaches in our world; and takes from, rather than provides for, the hungry and the afflicted. I urge all Episcopalians to ask their lawmakers to oppose this disastrous legislation, and call upon President Bush to reaffirm his willingness to block it from becoming law. Congress can, and must, do far better.