Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bread for the World Calls 2008 Farm Bill "Half a Loaf"

Washington, DC, May 14, 2008--Bread for the World president Rev. David Beckmann issued the following statement today concerning the 2008 Farm Bill that is expected to pass both houses of Congress this week and is also expected to be vetoed by President Bush:

"The 2008 Farm Bill represents half a loaf. Congress has increased funding for vital domestic nutrition programs but has failed to substantially reform the U.S. agricultural system.

"We rejoice that additional funding has been given to nutrition programs especially in light of the growing global hunger crisis that is hindering the efforts of struggling parents to feed their children. We celebrate the increases to the Food Stamp Program and funding for food banks. We are happy that the bill authorizes the Hunger Free Communities grant program, which will enable community-based organizations to work together to plan and implement local strategies to end hunger. We are also encouraged that it contains a pilot program that allows for the local purchase of food aid from sources closer to the countries in need.

"But we are missing the other half of the loaf--substantial reform of the commodity programs. Congress has failed to make our commodity programs fairer and more equitable. The bill does little to target subsidies to where they are most needed, but continues to concentrate payments to the largest and wealthiest landowners.

"This missing half has long-term and pernicious effects on global agriculture and trade. Current policies have helped stymie agricultural development in poor countries, leaving millions of people mired in poverty and helping to create the current hunger crisis worldwide. Rather than respond to the new reality of global agriculture, the 2008 Farm Bill locks the United States into another five-year protectionist system that hampers the desperate efforts of small farmers to feed their families.

"We celebrate the important and urgent increases in nutrition funding. But we deeply lament the lack of serious reform of agricultural subsidies in this bill. Many will praise the 2008 Farm Bill as 'the best we can do.' We think the United States can and should do better. Therefore, with a heavy heart, we have chosen a middle of the road stance as the bill moves toward final passage.

"Our stand on the 2008 Farm Bill comes from a Biblical imperative that calls for a 'harvest of righteousness' (James 3:18). We will keep on working to reform the farm bill until it truly serves the needs of poor farm and rural families and all people around the world who struggle to feed themselves and their children."

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