Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bread for the World: Farm Bill update

The Farm Bill Isn't Finished

In mid-December the Senate passed its version of the farm bill. This legislation must now be reconciled with the House version through a conference. Bread for the World will continue to campaign for reform as the House, Senate and administration negotiate the final version of the farm bill next year.

Bread for the World and many religious bodies joined forces with environmental and taxpayer groups to campaign for reform of the farm bill. We have shaken up traditional farm bill politics and made the House and Senate farm bills better than they would have otherwise been. About 300 newspapers have editorialized in favor of reform, and surveys show that most voters now understand that there are serious abuses in the farm bill.

On December 14, the Senate passed a problematic farm bill that:
-fails to make farm support programs fairer
-proposes increases in trade-distorting commodity programs
These programs have a negative impact on prices and earning opportunities for poor farmers in the developing world. Savings from much-needed reforms to these programs could be better used to fund nutrition and conservation programs and help U.S. farm and rural families of modest means.

A majority of senators voted for two reform amendments (see how your Senators voted)– no more than $250,000 in annual payments per household and no subsidies to households with incomes above $750,000. But the Senate's leadership caved to a filibuster threat from Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), whose family received big farm subsidy payments worth $715,000 between 1995 and 2005.

Because Senate Democratic leaders did not want to be blamed for further delay of the farm bill, they changed the rules to require 60 votes for passage of those three amendments, rather than a simple majority. The Dorgan-Grassley and Klobuchar amendments received the support of a majority of the senators voting, but they were defeated as they fell short of the manufactured 60-vote requirement.

The best feature of the Senate bill is an increase in food assistance to hungry families, but unfortunately this increase would expire in 2012. This budget gimmick represents a false promise to millions of families who struggle to put food on the table. On the positive side, the Senate bill includes the Hunger-Free Communities Act, which requires the next administration to develop a plan for cutting U.S. hunger and strengthen community anti-hunger coalitions across the nation.

The House of Representatives passed its farm bill in July. The House also failed to curtail subsidies and raised support levels for certain crops, though it did not increase them as substantially as the Senate did. On a positive note, the House bill increased funding for:
-domestic food assistance;
-school meals in developing countries; and
-assistance to minority farmers.
The House and Senate bills do include good things for hungry people, the environment, rural communities and minority farmers, but the funding for these improvements is not secure. Congress should finance the improvements by capping subsidies to affluent farmers.

Stay tuned for future actions and developments.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Economist "Cheap No More" article addresses soaring food prices

The Dec 6th Economist has a comprehensive article about why food prices have soared over the last few years and are unlikely to come down soon. This problem is complicated and the repercussions for hunger and poverty are profound. The article covered many aspects of the issue in a thorough way. It shocked me to learn that all this expensive food and scarcity is happening during the biggest bumper crop for cereal that the world has EVER seen.

The reasons behind soaring wheat, corn and rice prices are varied and complex. They run from the usual suspects (US farm subsidies, ethanol) to the less obvious (decreased poverty in China and India means increased meat consumption which requires more grain fed to livestock). The ramifications of rising prices are also not straightforward. The problem causes hardship for providers of emergency food aid and people whose food budget is a high percentage of their income. Yet it is a boon for poor countries who can be food exporters like India, Swaziland, and South Africa. Countries like Malawi and Zimbabwe could also follow suit.

If you are interested in a big picture view of poverty and global economics, this is an article well worth reading.

Here are some exerpts...
"In every country, the least well-off consumers are hardest hit when food prices rise. This is true in rich and poor countries alike but the scale in the latter is altogether different. As Gary Becker, a Nobel economics laureate at the University of Chicago, points out, if food prices rise by one-third, they will reduce living standards in rich countries by about 3%, but in very poor ones by over 20%."

"This year the overall decline in stockpiles of all cereals will be about 53m tonnes—a very rough indication of by how much demand is outstripping supply. The increase in the amount of American maize going just to ethanol is about 30m tonnes. In other words, the demands of America's ethanol programme alone account for over half the world's unmet need for cereals. Without that programme, food prices would not be rising anything like as quickly as they have been. According to the World Bank, the grain needed to fill up an SUV would feed a person for a year."

Monday, December 24, 2007

I won't be idle with despair

A Christmas message from me (and Jewel):

If I could tell the world just one thing/
It would be that we're all OK/
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful/
And useless in times like these/
I won't be made useless/
I won't be idle with despair/
I will gather myself around my faith/
For light does the darkness most fear/
My hands are small, I know/
But they're not yours, they are my own/…
In the end, only kindness matters/...
I will get down on my knees and I will pray.

A message from Kate Maehr, Exec Director of GCFD

From Kate Maehr, Exec Director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Included in an email message to GCFD supporters...
As 2007 draws to a close, I have been reflecting on what an eventful year it has been for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. In particular, the last few months have reminded me of the importance of a community response to the needs of the hungry men, women and children in Cook County.

By now, you may know that the shelves at the Greater Chicago Food Depository and those of its member pantries are emptier than usual this holiday season. As reported in the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere, a decrease in food commodities from the federal government has made it more difficult for pantries in Chicago—and nationwide—to serve the hungry men, women and children of our community. In addition, donations of salvage products—dented cans and damaged boxes—have dipped by 42 percent since 2004. Meantime, increasing numbers of people are turning to pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in Cook County.

Despite these challenges, the Food Depository is still distributing good quality nutritious food to our neighbors in need. In fact, in the last year we distributed more than 9 million pounds of fruits and vegetables, more than 20,000 packs of food for seniors and more than 430,000 meals for Kids Cafes throughout Cook County. And the food will continue to flow into our community in the coming days, weeks and months—because so many individuals, families, organizations and corporations have responded to our call to action with donations of time, food and money.

Thank you so very much for your ongoing support in the fight against hunger in our community. We look forward to working with the entire community in the new year to ensure that even more hungry men, women and children in our community have the food they need.

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year,
Kate Maehr
Executive Director
Greater Chicago Food Depository

P.S. There is still time to make a gift that can help the nearly 500,000 men, women and children who turn to the Food Depository’s member agencies for a bag of groceries or a hot meal each year. Donate online at or donate food through our One City, One Food Drive initiative. For a complete list of donation locations, please visit

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How you can help fight hunger in the Chicago area

From the Greater Chicago Food Depository...
Help us fill our shelves
The shelves at the Greater Chicago Food Depository and those of its member pantries are emptier than usual this holiday season. A steep drop-off in food commodities from the federal government has made it more difficult for pantries to serve the hungry men, women and children of our community. In addition, donations of salvage products—the dented cans and damaged boxes—have dipped by 42 percent since 2004. Meantime, increasing numbers of people are turning to pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in Cook County. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, New York Times and Washington Post, food banks nationwide are being affected by similar issues.

The Food Depository’s response
The Food Depository is purchasing an additional 3 million pounds of food to help offset the downturn in federal government commodities. We also have been advocating strongly for a new Farm Bill, which determines the funding levels for nutrition programs for the next five years. The Farm Bill passed the U.S. Senate on Dec. 14.

How you can help
Our new One City, One Food Drive effort makes it easy for everyone in our community to donate cans of food at area Dominick’s stores and other locations. Nonperishable food donations are vital to our member pantries across Cook County. Your donations mean more now than ever before. Every one can of food will make a difference for a hungry person in the Chicago area.

Visit, our One City, One Food Drive microsite.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Obama talks the talk, but didn't walk the walk

Some Obama quotes from Iowa this week as reported by Mike Glover (Associated Press):

"Once again the lobbyists stepped in to make sure that big agribusinesses got the multimillion-dollar giveaways that they've come to count on," said Obama.

"Tom Harkin fought hard to pass a farm bill that stressed support for conservation and support for specialty growers," Obama said, contending the effort was deflected by the power of the agribusiness lobby.

"While the farm bill is a step in the right direction, I am disappointed that those who blocked payment limitations chose to put big agribusiness ahead of family farmers," Obama said. He said he "will continue to fight for meaningful payment limitations."

Amen to all of that, Mr. Obama. Nice speech. But where were you when you could have been making a difference??? We know you voted for Grassley-Dorgan, but you were gone (back making speeches in Iowa) for every other reform amendment that was offered. You even missed the final vote and stated that you would not have voted for Lugar-Lautenberg. I'm wondering how you will "continue to fight" when apparently casting your vote was not one of the methods you liberally employed. I was kinda thinking I'd like you to be my president, but last week... you weren't doing that great of a job being my senator.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poverty persists in Niles Township

I recently met the very nice and hardworking director of the NIles Food Pantry, Cynthia Carranza. She would like everyone to know about the persistence of poverty in this area despite the affluence around us. Here is a piece from the NIles township government website:


People are surprised to learn that even in our “affluent” communities there are many people, young, elderly and in-between, who do not have the resources to feed themselves or their families adequately. That is why the Niles Township Food Pantry exists – to aid those who need food, especially on an emergency basis. We want to make sure that every person has the food they need to sustain themselves, so we are always seeking donations to help the over 1,500 individuals who use our pantry every month.

Due to federal government cutbacks, we are receiving less food to distribute.

That is why we are always grateful to receive donations of the following items: turkeys, hams, roasting chickens, canned fruit, bottled or canned juice, small jars of jelly, macaroni & cheese, peanut butter, canned soups, boxed pasta dishes, pasta, boxed rice dishes, mixed vegetables, canned tuna, stuffing mix, small jars of mayonnaise, small cans of coffee, small boxes of tea, crackers, packaged cookies, gravy (dry or liquid), pie shells (dry or frozen), pie fillings, and cake mixes.

We are also asking for donations of personal care items. Often, people who need food are also in need of other basic items for their daily personal needs. These items include: razors (men/women), shaving cream, aftershave, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, soap, lotion, feminine hygiene products, tissues, toilet paper, laundry detergent, bleach, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and mouthwash.

There are numerous opportunities for groups to help the Pantry, by participating in the Hunger Walk for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, or conducting a food drive. Please contact us for more information.

We would like to thank the generous people of Niles Township.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Farm Bill round-up...thank (or discipline) your senators

So...the Farm Bill passed and here's some recap. Every motion for subsidy reform failed. Some good nutrition stuff happened, but I have no details yet (stay tuned, I've got a question into the Greater Chicago Food Depository get their perspective). Durbin voted for all reform votes. Obama was a no show for the voting except for Dorgan-Grassley which he voted in favor of. In the immortal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her Scoobies..."Where do we go from here?"

We write letters, of course! We spent a lot of time telling senators to push for reform and a strong nutrition title. Now, we can see how they voted and praise them or voice our displeasure. Bread for the World has the cute idea of sending holiday cards with your message. I think that's a stellar, green use of those extra cards you were thinking about recycling. The 37 senators (Durbin included) who voted for the very progressive Lugar-Lautenberg (FRESH amendment) especially deserve our praise and love.

Here are the sites to find the official roll-call voting records on the big 3 amendments:
Lugar-Lautenberg (FRESH) would have provided the most broad reforms to our nation's commodity payment program -- reforms which, if passed, would have saved billions of dollars to invest in nutrition programs, specialty crop programs, critical conservation initiatives and the McGovern-Dole international school feeding program.

Dorgan-Grassely was the one that had the best shot at passing. It would have ended million-dollar subsidy payments, closed loopholes in farm programs and directed the savings to increase funding for programs the country needs.

Klobuchar/Brown/Durbin would have reformed the subsidy system to prevent farm couples who clear $750,000 in net farm household income and part-time farm couples who clear $250,000 from receiving subsidies. It would have generated some modest savings to redirect into conservation, rural development, healthy foods and energy programs.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Farm Bill passed in Senate 12/14

From Bread for the World:
Yesterday, the Senate passed its version of the farm bill by a vote of 79-14. Although the bill makes improvements in the nutrition programs, the funding for those measures is temporary. Trade-distorting commodity payments were protected, despite the fact that two reform amendments received majority votes.

Statement by Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World:

"I am outraged that two amendments that would have cut payments to the wealthiest farmers in this country passed with majority votes, but were shut down by backroom shenanigans by Senate leadership. Senators who voted against these amendments did not just vote to protect wealthy special interests, they voted against helping working families who struggle to put food on the table.

Voters-and especially many Christians-are ahead of the politicians on this issue. The abuses in the farm bill have been exposed, and this issue will not just be swept under the rug.

It's the most wonderful time of the year for the farm lobby. When is Christmas going to come for hungry and poor people?

My prayer is that the president, Republican and Democratic congressional leadership can come together to improve this bill in conference. At the very least, they must find a way to make the funding improvements in the nutrition programs secure and permanent. But, they can solve that problem and many others by cutting funding to direct payments."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How would the candidates have voted on Lugar-Lautenberg?

For the first time since I don't know when, I saw a debate moderator ask the exact question on my mind. Today, in Iowa, the Des Moine Register hosted a Democratic presidential debate where the Farm Bill was directly addressed.

Carolyn Washburn, editor of the Register and the moderator, noted that every senator on the panel had missed the vote on the FRESH ammendment. She asked them how they would have voted if they had been present and why. The answers were a little surprising to me. I went from being irritated that my senator missed the vote to being glad Obama was shaking hands in Iowa. Not that it mattered in the end.

Here are the answers with some paraphrased notes on the rhetorical nays:
Dodd- yes
Obama- no...said there were things (unspecified?) in the ammendment he didn't like, but he does support subsidy caps and did vote yes on Dorgan-Grassely today
Clinton-no...said she follows Tom Harkins lead (smart statement in Iowa!). Also, noted her yes vote for Dorgan-Grassley today

The other candidates were not asked their opinion on farm policy. At least it got the Farm Bill issue a bit more press in a national forum.

Voting record for Dorgan-Grassely Amendment to the Farm Bill

Here's the nitty gritty on how the senators each voted on the Dorgan-Grassley amendment.

Obama, Clinton, Biden, and Dodd were all present and voted for it. McCain did not vote.

As an interesting and disappointing note, there were four senators that had voted for this amendment both in 2002 and in 2005 that voted "nay" today. Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and George Voinovich (R-OH) all switched their votes this year. If these four senators had stayed consistent with their voting record, it would have passed. Boo.

Dorgan-Grassely fails in Senate

From the Center for Rural Affairs:
"The Dorgan-Grassley amendment lost and will not be part of the 2007 Farm Bill. 56 yes, 43 no. 60 votes were needed to win. We'll post the individual votes in an hour or two when they are put on the Senate website."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A letter to Obama

I emailed this to Obama's office and the Chicago Trib today...
Dear Mr. Obama,

I don’'t know how else to get your attention. I’'ve written you letters about the U.S. Farm Bill re-authorization. I'’ve left you messages at your office urging you to protect poor and hungry people against the aims of the agribusiness rich to get richer. (Thank you for your eloquent responses agreeing with my views.) I’'ve sent you money to help you win the office without the help of Big Lobby Money. And yet, when the strongest measure for farm bill reform appeared for a senate vote on December were gone. In Iowa, I believe. You talk about grassroots movements and improving lives, but when it comes to voting on what could be the U.S.’'s biggest poverty fighting tool, your record listed "“not voting.”" Thank goodness Mr. Durbin didn’'t have any pressing engagements, so he could vote "“yes.”"

There are still amendments left this week to put limits on commodity payments and strengthen nutrition, food stamps and school lunch programs. Mr. Obama, I think I want you to be my president, but right now I really need you to be my senator.

(By the way, I know Ms. Clinton didn'’t vote either, but she’'s not my senator.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

FRESH Amendment failed 37-58 in Senate

The first amendment to be voted on was the FRESH amendment (aka Luger-Lautenberg). It failed 37-58. This is the one that would have completely overhauled farm subsidies. Similar to the Ron Kind amendment in the House, which was a famous non-success. This one was not actually expected to pass as it might have been the most radical one. Bread for the World folks say they are happy that they got as high as 37 votes. So, that would be the good news in this. I am irritated to report that Biden, Clinton, Obama, Dodd and McCain were not voting. Could it be they were all stuck on the same plane back from Iowa? Sadly, I doubt it.

To see how everyone voted:

There is still more action packed Farm Bill excitement to come, so don't get totally discouraged yet.

Thank you for calling your senators!

Ok, now we can stop calling. Now is time to cross fingers, pray, sing, dance, or do whatever you believe that might affect the outcome of the Farm Bill now that they are heading into debate and voting. Updates here later!

Or go to for quicker updates and you will know pretty much what I know. Unless you are watching it on CSPAN-2 for yourself.

You can still call in until 2:30PM on the Farm Bill!

You can STILL CALL TODAY up until 2:30 pm EST, when we are hearing that they will actually start voting on amendments and the farm bill. Here's the call-in information again.

Call 1-800-826-3688 (ask for each of your senators' offices) and urge them to support:
• The FRESH Amendment;
• The Dorgan-Grassley Amendment
• The Brown-Sununu Amendment; and
• Any other amendments that help make our commodity payments fairer for all farmers and provide additional funding for the Food Stamp Program.

If you want to see a video on how to call-in to your senators, here is a demonstation:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jimmy Carter supports farm bill reform in Wash Post

When a former president bothers to write an editorial, perhaps we should read it...and respond with a letter to the editor, too!

From the Washington Post..

"Congress has a moral obligation to protect American agriculture with legislation that will serve our national interests, that will feed hungry people and that does not suppress the ability of the poor to work their way out of poverty."

Amen, Mr. President.

BREAKING NEWS: Farm Bill vote TOMORROW!!!! Call in!

BREAKING NEWS: the Senate will be debating and voting on the Farm Bill TOMORROW DEC 11th!!!!

I've seen 2 very optimistic updates on the farm bill in the last 24 hrs. I'm not going to be disappointed in the length of the process if it turns out that we get some real reform in the end! The worst thing that could've happened is for the bill to be rushed through with a completely status quo result and no real debate. So, that does not appear to be happening!

The stalling was happening in the part of the process where the Senate decides on what amendments are even going to be considered. A deal has been achieved where both Reps and Dems will offer 20 amendments to the farm bill. Which should, as I understand it, be able to encompass the biggies that Bread for the World has been pushing for (Grassely-Dorgan, Lugar-Lautenberg, etc).

So call those senators if you haven't already:

1-800-826-3688 ask them to support:
• The FRESH Amendment;
• The Dorgan-Grassley Amendment
• The Brown-Sununu Amendment; and
• Any other amendments that help make our commodity payments fairer for all farmers and provide additional funding for the Food Stamp Program.

If you want to see a video on how to talk to your senators, here is a demonstation:

It's actually a beautiful little piece that I can't believe we haven't seen before! good luck!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

ONE Vote '08

Hey, look at this neato application on the site. It lets you compare the candidates' different responses to questions of global poverty. It gives little charts, but also video with them talking about their opinions. Sweet.

And there's a petition to sign, too, if you are so inclined!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Farm Bill vote next week

It appears as though the Senate may move on the Farm Bill again next week. It seems like we just had a call-in, but things are not looking up with all this stalling in the Senate. Consider this quote from the New York Times today: "As it has pressed to keep its subsidies, about $26 billion in the current bill, agribusiness has contributed $415 million to federal political campaigns since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The hungry don’t have much of a lobby." WE are the lobby for the hungry. We don't have millions of dollars at our disposal, but Bread for the World and its partners strive to influence change using tools we have abundantly: faith and voice. Please exercise your faith and voice now.

And if you spend 10 minutes making your 2 calls to your senators and want to do more, visit and write a letter to the editor. Right now, the best way to get more senators to vote for reform amendments is by writing letters to the editor in local papers. Because they are read by thousands of voters, letters to the editor get the attention of decision-makers in a forceful way. If you are in my area, know that the Pioneer Press is likely to print almost everything they get (as long as it's logical and fairly concise). If you're extra ambitious, write a letter to the NY Times in response to the article I cited:

Here's the Bread for the World info for calling in...

The Senate votes on the farm bill this week, one of the most vital pieces of legislation for struggling farmers and hungry people in our country and around the world. By asking our senators for farm bill reform, we can help improve people’s lives and, in so doing, prepare a path for justice.

Call the Capitol using Bread for the World’s toll-free number

Call your senators on Mon., Dec. 10, and ask them to support:
• The FRESH Amendment; (aka the Lugar-Lautenberg Ammendment)
• The Dorgan-Grassley Amendment
• The Brown-Sununu Amendment
The Menendez Ammendment; and
• Any other amendments that help make our commodity payments fairer for all farmers and provide additional funding for the Food Stamp Program.

Schakowsky's response to my MDG letter

At last month's "Social Justice for Social Mom's" meeting, we focused on writing to our members of congress to support the Millennium Development Goals by increasing the amount of development assistance next year. (FYI, this will be the main thrust of next year's Offering of Letters) This was Rep Jan Schakowsky's response:

"Thank you for contacting me to urge my support for increased funding for poverty-focused development assistance in the Fiscal Year 2008 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. I appreciate hearing from you, and I agree with you.

I have contacted my colleagues on the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee to express my support for a $2 billion increase in the Development Assistance Account and the Millennium Challenge Account. As the richest country in the world, I believe the US has a special obligation to fight poverty and global pandemics abroad. The US spends less than one half of 1% of its budget on foreign aid. We can do a lot more. I cosponsored H.R. 1302, the Global Poverty Act of 2007, which passed the House on September 26, 2007. The Global Poverty Act mandates that the President and the Secretary of State develop and implement a plan to further the United States' commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to cut international poverty in half by 2015. I will continue to push initiatives to end poverty throughout my time in Congress.

Again, thank you for contacting me on this important issue. Please let me know if I can be of assistance in the future.

Jan Schakowsky"

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sustainability can help reduce poverty

While we're waiting for more Farm Bill news from the Senate, here's a diversion from It combines two of my favorite things (right up there with raindrops on roses): poverty reduction and sustainability.

"The Nature Conservancy released a study today about poverty reduction and conservation. Researchers interviewed over 1,000 people from 3 different countries about the impact of marine protected areas on quality of life and income. Some villagers saw their income double as a result of conservation efforts. This is a great example of countries who are working to achieve Millennium Development Goal #7 - ensure environmental sustainability. "

How Marine Protected Areas Help Alleviate Poverty (a site containing a preview of a longer 15 min video)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

PBS profiles hunger

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, recently appeared on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly to discuss hunger in America and talk about the most recent Hunger Report put out by BFW. This brief interview touches on the status of hunger and a bit about how we are shifting from providing emergency assistance to fighting poverty itself.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Are food banks distracting us from ending poverty???

Here's something you don't see every day. A truly controversial op-ed about Food Banks. From the Washington Post comes "When Handouts Keep Coming, the Food Line Never Ends." It is a challenging look at the way our system of food banks do business. Feeding people is good, but are we really working toward ending poverty or are we just creating more demand and more efficiently handling food waste? No matter what you think about the opinion, I believe the article gives the background for why every soup kitchen worker should also be engaged in contacting members of Congress to make real changes to put themselves out of business (see links to RESULTS or Bread for the World to get involved). Here's an excerpt:

"My experience of 25 years in food banking has led me to conclude that co-dependency within the system is multifaceted and frankly troubling. As a system that depends on donated goods, it must curry favor with the nation's food industry, which often regards food banks as a waste-management tool. As an operation that must sort through billions of pounds of damaged and partially salvageable food, it requires an army of volunteers who themselves are dependent on the carefully nurtured belief that they are "doing good" by "feeding the hungry." And as a charity that lives from one multimillion-dollar capital campaign to the next (most recently, the Hartford food bank raised $4.5 million), it must maintain a ready supply of well-heeled philanthropists and captains of industry to raise the dollars and public awareness necessary to make the next warehouse expansion possible.

Food banks are a dominant institution in this country, and they assert their power at the local and state levels by commanding the attention of people of good will who want to address hunger. Their ability to attract volunteers and to raise money approaches that of major hospitals and universities. While none of this is inherently wrong, it does distract the public and policymakers from the task of harnessing the political will needed to end hunger in the United States."

Friday, November 16, 2007

What the heck is Cloture? See below for answer..

A little debate lesson from the Center for Rural Affairs blog. Short story is that the farm bill is on hold again...

"The cloture vote on the farm bill failed, so the farm bill is put on hold until at least December. Starting later today, the Senate will go on a 2 week vacation- I mean recess- for Thanksgiving,
For those who have better things to do with their time than keep up on Senate procedural terms, all “cloture” means is that the Senate has a vote to end debate and proceed to actual consideration of a bill for a set period of time, at which point there would be a vote on the bill. Since Senate procedure usually allows for unlimited debate, cloture is the primary way in which the Senate forces an end to debate on a bill and schedules an actual vote.
The key, of course, is that you need 60 votes to win a cloture vote. Not a simple majority. Since there are 51 Democrats in the Senate, they needed 9 Republicans to break with their party and vote for cloture. That didn’t happen, so now the farm bill is put on the back burner for a time- but nobody really knows how long. We’ll have more commentary later today."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Some choice words from Senator Dorgan

The Farm Bill looked like it was moving forward and then they could not agree on what ammendments to vote on...AGAIN! It is quite possible that the 2007 Farm Bill will be passed in 2008.

Senator Dorgan speaking of the lack of progress in the Senate: "If family farmers farmed like legislators legislate, there would be no food."

And then Senator Dorgan a few minutes later, "You could compare the United States Senate to a glacier, but the difference is that a glacier actually moves from time to time."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CALL YOUR SENATORS AGAIN! (new ammendment proposals)

It looks like the Senate floor debate will be lengthy. Close to 100 amendments have already been filed. Our most important amendments are scheduled to be introduced first so it is imperative that you call today if you have not already done so. The toll-free number and talking points are listed below.

Please call your senators toll-free RIGHT NOW at 1-800-826-3688. Urge them to support the following amendments to the farm bill as they come to the floor:

Lugar/Lautenberg Amendment
Grassley/Dorgan Amendment
NEW: Brown/Sununu Amendment
NEW: Menendez Amendment
Other amendments that strengthen nutrition programs
(Note: This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard; please ask to be connected to your senator’s office in order to leave your message.)

The Senate vote on the farm bill will make a critical difference in whether the 2007 farm bill will include changes that benefit hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world and make programs more fair for U.S. farm and rural families.

Here's some info on what those amendments are:

Lugar/Lautenberg Amendment: Would broaden the agricultural safety net by making a free revenue insurance program available to all farmers, saving billions of dollars to be used for nutrition, conservation, the McGovern-Dole international school meals program and more.
Grassley/Dorgan Amendment: Would cap commodity payments at $250,000 per household, helping ensure that payments are targeted to those who need them.
NEW: Brown/Sununu Amendment: Would reform crop insurance programs to bring the insurance companies' underwriting gains more into line with other types of insurance and lower their Administration & Operations ('A&O') reimbursement. No farmers would see any change in their premium costs or coverage. It would save money to reinvest in food stamps, conservation and McGovern-Dole international school feeding program.
NEW: Menendez Amendment: Would make a small cut to Direct Payments and reinvest the savings in food stamps and conservation.
Other amendments that add funding to nutrition programs: Several other amendments will likely be offered to increase funding for the Food Stamp Program and other vital nutrition programs.

The amendments would improve the Agriculture Committee's bill: providing a safety net for all farmers—not just those who grow program crops; making our commodity system fairer for smaller family farmers; and adequately funding vital needs in nutrition.

"Weed it and Reap" response

Yay! The NY Times posted a letter to the editor in response to Michael Pollan's op-ed. It wasn't mine, but that's how advocates work together. If we all send in enough letters, it proves there is enough interest in a topic to print even one. This one had a very clever NY baseball analogy and was written by the Exec Director of the NYC Coalition of Hunger, so it's fitting the NY Times chose his.
Hunger and the Farm Bill
Published: November 12, 2007
To the Editor:

In “Weed It and Reap” (Op-Ed, Nov. 4), Michael Pollan claims that environmentalists and the “hunger lobby” were bought off on the farm bill, giving our support to the harmful “elephant in the room” — agribusiness subsidies — in exchange for financing for conservation programs and food stamps, which he derides as merely “fleas.”

But blaming us for bad farm bills is like blaming long-suffering Mets fans seated in the far upper deck at Shea Stadium for the team’s overpaid players and year-end collapse.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, agribusinesses contributed more than $399 million to federal political campaigns between 1990 and 2006. In contrast, even when some antihunger groups (like mine) risk alienating donors by opposing corporate farm welfare, we hardly have an impact on this big-money debate.

Considering that the food stamp program helps more than 26 million Americans each month, it is no mere “flea.” Fighting to help millions avoid starvation, antihunger advocates take what we can get.

Joel Berg
Executive Director, New York City Coalition Against Hunger
New York, Nov. 4, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Farm Bill update/Live Blog from CFRA covers debate

The Senate still has not made much progress in the Farm Bill debate. They had to do things like approve Mukasey as the attorney gen and talk about things like sheep vaccine and toys from China. But when they do get back to business, the Dorgan-Grassley ammendment should be one of the first things they discuss. It would put a $250,000 cap on the payments any one farmer can receive in a year. This would free roughly $1 billion for other purposes (like food stamps and conservation) and slow the consolidation of farms in the Midwest.

If you'd like entertaining, frequent updates about the Farm Bill debate, visit Blog for Rural America ( a couple of people are watching the Senate feed live and summarizing for us. It seems that in 2002, debate lasted 4 weeks, so hang on! This could take a while!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bread for the World mentioned in Wash Post Editorial

The Wash post ran an op-ed on 11/7 explaining why our cotton subsidies hurt West African farmers. Bread for the World gets a nice mention. Here's the link:

I'm a donor (lender) now!

I'm very excited to say that I have officially become a lender on now. allows individuals to make $25 loans to low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world (microfinance). By doing so, individuals like you and I provide affordable working capital for the poor (money to buy a sewing machine, livestock, etc.), empowering them to earn their way out of poverty. It's a new, direct and sustainable way to fight global poverty.

Here's a great 15 min video about how Kiva works. It's from PBS' Frontline. Please check it out!

I lent my first $25 to Marta Angelo Buque. She's supposed to pay it back in 3 months. Kiva has never had a defaulted loan, so it's a great track record. This is Marta's bio:
Marta is a single mother of 2. She lives alone with her children and she runs a fish selling business. Her husband abandoned her. Martha entered the program in 2005 as a member of a group. Meanwhile the group has disbanded and she has decided to take out a loan on her own. She has many customers. If the business continues to do well, she plans to build a better house. Marta’s children are still too young to attend school. She plans to register them as soon as they are old enough.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Michael Pollan gets an LTE from me (if the NYTimes would print it)

Michael Pollan wrote another stellar article about the state of the Farm Bill and why it affects every single American. Man, I love that guy! Here's the link...
Yet there was one part that I had trouble with: "And then the farm lobby did what it has always done: bought off its critics with “programs.” For that reason “Americans who eat” can expect some nutritious crumbs from the farm bill, just enough to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it. It’s an old story: the “hunger lobby” gets its food stamps so long as the farm lobby can have its subsidies. " Hey now! Mr Pollan, you are the Dude, but let's not be hasty. I don't have a direct Pollan hot-line to talk to him, but I am a media activist. So here's my letter-to-the-editor for him, though it may never be printed:
Michael Pollan is a hero of mine. He gave us another splendid piece in “Weed it and Reap” on 11/4. However, I take issue with his insinuation that the “hunger lobby” was bought off by food stamp funding. As an active member of an anti-poverty advocacy group, I do not feel in any way satisfied with the current state of Farm Bill negotiations. ‘Irritated,’ ‘dismayed,’ ‘angered,’ or ‘betrayed’ could all accurately describe how I personally feel about it. Even if many democratic representatives were bought off, the grassroots hunger lobby wasn’t. Bread for the World sent out a call to action last week for members to urge their senators to support the Lugar/Lautenberg and Grassley/Dorgan amendments, the same amendments Pollan cites as opportunities for improvement. We stand together on this, Mr. Pollan. We are for eating and eating well.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Farm Bill Call in! Call by 11/5!

Now is the time for much-needed action on the Farm Bill. Please see the message below and make your calls!

Please call Senators Durbin and Obama by Monday, November 5, at 1-800-826-3688. Ask them to support the following amendments to the farm bill as they come up on the floor:

Lugar/Lautenberg Amendment
Grassley/Dorgan Amendment
Other amendments that strengthen nutrition programs
[Note: This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask to be connected to your senator’s office in order to leave your message.]

The full Senate will begin debating the farm bill on Monday, November 5. Votes on specific amendments will likely begin on Tuesday, November 6. Your senator has a critical voice in deciding whether our farm bill will be changed in ways that benefit poor and hungry people here at home and around the world, make programs fairer for U.S. farm and rural families and enable poor farmers in poor countries to earn their way out of poverty. Please call as soon as possible.

The farm bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee made modest changes, but did little to reform unfair commodity programs. The full Senate now has its turn to reform the farm bill. Senators have a chance to strengthen the nutrition program (especially the Food Stamp Program) and conservation and rural development programs and make the commodity programs fairer to all our nations’ farmers. It is their turn to seize the opportunity to create a more just farm bill.

*Lugar/Lautenberg Amendment: The Lugar-Lautenberg amendment would broaden the agricultural safety net by making a free revenue insurance program available to all farmers. This would save billions dollars that would be used to invest in nutrition programs, specialty crop programs (improving research and marketing opportunities for the majority of farmers, who currently do not benefit at all from farm programs); critical conservation programs and the McGovern-Dole international school feeding program.

*Grassley/Dorgan Amendment: The Grassley-Dorgan amendment would establish a hard cap for commodity payments at $250,000 per household, helping ensure payments are targeted where they are needed. The amendment would also make sure that payments flow to working farmers rather than their landlords. The money saved from capping payments to the largest producers and landowners would be redirected into nutrition and conservation programs.

*Other amendments that add funding to nutrition: At stake are additional investments in the Food Stamp Program—especially the standard deduction level. There will be several amendments offered to increase funding for nutrition programs. Senators should support amendments that build on the improvements made in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Your vote on the farm bill can help make great strides against hunger and poverty here at home and around the world. Support amendments like Lugar/Lautenberg, Grassley/Dorgan, and other amendments that put additional funding into nutrition programs. These amendments would provide a safety net for all farmers—not just those who grow program crops, make our commodity system fairer for smaller family farmers and adequately fund other vital needs in nutrition.

Key points:
- Over 35 million Americans- including more that 12 million children- struggle to put food on the table. Please strengthen and commit new resources to the Food Stamp Program.
- Current farm and rural development programs are not serving the urgent needs of rural America, where rates of hunger and poverty are higher. Please prioritize the needs of poor rural Americans as you write the 2007 farm bill.
- Current commodity programs concentrate payments at the upper end of the income scale for farmers who grow program crops, like cotton, corn, wheat, soybeans and rice. This trend has accelerated in recent years. By 2003, one quarter went to households earning more than $160,142. This must change.
- A fair and balanced farm bill for the U.S. also requires consideration of its impact on poor farmers overseas. Please ensure that our farm support programs do not make it more difficult for poor farm families in low-income countries to earn their way out of poverty.
- Make the primary focus of U.S. food aid programs the feeding of hungry people by the most effective and efficient means available and building long-term food security.
Calls completed by: C.O.B. Monday, November 5.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Farm Bill to Full Senate week of 11/5...get moving!

According to my sources in Bread for the World the Farm Bill will move to the full Senate floor sometime the week of Nov. 5th - so get ready to get hit up to make some phone calls and spread the word on what people can do to make sure poor and hungry people are best served by the legislation!

Action for IL residents: Call or write Durbin _quickly_ and tell him we appreciate his past support on reform and encourage him to keep it up. Call or write Obama with the same haste and remind him that we want subsidy reform, increased Food Stamp program support and increases support for rural development.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Millennium Development Goals progress report

I finally got my hands on a really good report from the UN Millennium Campaign about the Millennium Development Goals status in 2007. Here it is!
The director of the Millennium Campaign spoke recently in Portland about this progress. A fellow Bread for the World activist, Mike Hiland, reported on Mr. Shetty's comments at Here are some excerpts...

"The developed countries are falling short of the pledges they made in aid and debt forgiveness. Another key goal is reducing developed country agricultural subsidies and opening our markets to trade (the farm bill)."

"The positive developments include a one-third reduction in extreme poverty since 1990, and if this trend continues we will meet the goal in poverty reduction. Even in sub-Saharan Africa the number of poor has leveled off and the poverty rate has started a small decline, but we are still not on track to meet the goal here. Progress is being made in education and child mortality. We are falling short of the goals in reducing maternal mortality, the proportion of under weight children, improving basic sanitation and in the fight against AIDS.

He mentioned that the most important thing we can be doing is to demand that our leaders keep their word and meet our commitments in aid, debt forgiveness and disease prevention. He cited the key work being done by groups like The One Campaign, Bread for the World and Jubilee. Writing letters and getting the word out so more people will write letters, this was in effect our assignment and our challenge."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ag Committee Misses Opportunity. Senate fight not over yet.

The Senate is moving quickly on the 2007 farm bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee began its consideration of the farm bill on October 24 and voted the bill out of committee October 25.

The committee repeatedly expressed support for increases in the nutrition title, including the Food Stamp Program. But despite these assertions, the Senate Agriculture Committee did not find sufficient offsets to match the increases in food stamps passed by the House.

"Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee spoke eloquently about the need to do more to help the 35 million Americans who struggle to put food on their table. But their words didn't translate into changes in farm policy that would make that happen. We hope that when the full Senate takes up the farm bill, they'll follow through and make sure it reflects the values they were espousing," said Bread for the World president David Beckmann. "Small changes to commodity payment programs could make a big difference for hungry people in this country, many of whom live in rural communities."

Beckmann added, "The Agriculture Committee missed a great opportunity with the Lugar amendment." Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) proposed an amendment that would have provided additional funding for the Food Stamp Program (to increase asset limits and the minimum monthly benefit) by making a small cut to Direct Payments in the commodity title. It was defeated by a vote of 17-4. Senators Brown (D-OH), Casey (D-PA) and McConnell (R-KY) voted with Lugar for the amendment. For more information, read Bread for the World's press statement.

Bread for the World will send out an action alert early next week, once we have further details of the Agriculture Committee bill. Please check your email for the message to give your senators as the farm bill moves to the floor. Stay tuned as we work to pass a strong farm bill in the Senate!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

CROP walk this weekend

This Sunday, I'll be participating in the North Shore CROP (Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty) Walk this in Wilmette. It's a 5k walk that raises funds and awareness to fight poverty. Church World Service is the primary organization that will work with the money raised, but you can also donate directly to individual anti-pov orgs like Heifer International and CARE. Please support our efforts to end extreme poverty by visiting my donation website and making a contribution! Thank you!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reflections on the Rolling Fast

Yesterday was the day I participated in Bread for the World's rolling fast. Members fasted on different days between 9/6-10/15 to pray & fast as witness against global poverty. This was the 1st time I'd fasted for a cause instead of a holy day tradition. It was also the first time as a mom.

First off, I'll confess. I broke the fast. Early in the day. My toddler grabbed a bagel & without thinking I broke it in chunks for her and ate what she didn't eat. Ack! Not even 9:30AM! I was disappointed, but I didn't scrap the whole day. I thought about why it happened. The key here is "without thinking." Too many times, eating is a habit and not even enjoyable. Did I want it? Was I hungry? Was the bagel yummy? healthy? no, no, no, kinda. How blessed I am that food is often available to me for free! How irresponsible that I would shove it into my bagel-hole without thought of gratitude or need. The only redeeming thing is that my act stemmed from not wanting to waste. But in general, when food is eaten without thought or consious choice it leads to waste, overweightness, and separation from natural & spiritual order. Moving on, I was hypersensitive and extra prayerful. Not in the "Don't smite me" way, but the "Help us to help others" way. And it got easier.

Until lunch. I've never prepared food while fasting before. Additionally, my youngest fell asleep and missed lunch, so I had to do it twice. Each time, I was aware of how I usually eat with them, taste everything before they do, eat portions they won't. Each time, I listened to their happy smackings, tried to write my senators, & thought about parents who sacrifice every day like that. And then dinner came. By then I was irritable because I was hungry and ashamed at my irritability. When I first worked at a soup kitchen, I had the audacity to wonder why some homeless people were snappish with those trying to help. I've understood more over the years, but watching my kids eat while hungry myself gave me an emotional taste of the frustration the poor feel all the time.

Despite my failing in the morning, it was my best fasting experience. The reflections were deeper, the prayers more sincere, letters to Congress were mailed and I am even more committed to my work than before!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

President of Bread for the World in Chicago

David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, spoke at a BFW dinner in Chicago on October 4 in a program titled "Power, Politics, and Global Poverty." Members gathered to network, share Ethiopian cuisine and speak with Beckmann one-on-one.

In his presentation, Beckmann shared reasons why he is optimistic about the fight against poverty, including:
. The number of people living on less than a dollar a day has decreased
from 1.5 billion to less than 1 billion in the last 20 yrs despite an
increase in world population
. Half as many children die every day since the 1960's
. 20 million more African children are in school since the year 2000

He credited BFW as a major force in gaining US support to reduce child mortality rates and achieving debt relief to help get kids in school. Yet he credits most progress to Africans working hard to make their own lives

Beckmann ended the program noting that in the whole history of the world, it is in the recent generations that 100's of millions of people are moving out of poverty. He sees this as evidence of God moving in our time. The saving God of the bible is present in our history and we are privileged to play a role.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Millennium Promise donation gets you GOOD Mag free!

Over the past year, Millennium Promise has partnered with GOOD Magazine (about sustainability and things that matter) to raise more than $42,000 to support their work across Africa! There are just a few more days left to take advantage of this great partnership. Subscribe to GOOD by Thursday, October 11th to get a great magazine and support Millennium Promise at the same time.

Here’s how it works:

1. You pay $20 to subscribe to GOOD Magazine.

2. GOOD Magazine donates the full subscription cost to Millennium Promise.

3. You get six fabulous issues of GOOD over the course of the next year.

4. Millennium Promise puts your subscription money to good use.

To learn more about GOOD or subscribe, please check out the GOOD website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bread for the World Rolling Fast

Bread for the World has joined Jubilee USA in urging people to fast and pray as part of an international witness against global poverty and the unjust debts burdening poor countries. The international action consists of a 40 day "Rolling Fast" that takes place from September 6 to October 15 in solidarity with poor and hungry people around the world. We invite you to choose one day during that time to pray and fast. You are welcome to join me on Wednesday, October 10th or pick a day convenient for you. On that same day, contact your members of Congress and ask them to take steps that would end global poverty and cancel unjust debts.

Phone your members of Congress at 1-800-826-3688, urging them to do three things:

-Cancel the debts of the world's poor countries
-Support a U.S. farm bill that is fairer to poor and hungry people and farmers in the U.S. and in poor countries.
-Increase poverty-focused development assistance

For more information, visit

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Congress and the Millennium Dev Goals

This summary is from Bread for the World. It says both the House and the Senate have completed their versions for the bill for poverty-focused development assistance. Both versions fall short of our promised committments for development assistance (although the House versions comes closest with a $1.9 billion increase). A conference committee will be formed to reconcile the 2 versions of the bill and this is our last opportunity to influence Congress to live up to meeting the Millennium Development Goals by approving a $2 billion increase. Please read on to see how your voice can be heard.
Senate Approves Development Assistance for 2008

The Senate passed its 2008 State Department/foreign operations spending bill on September 6. The bill includes $14.21 billion in poverty-focused development assistance, an increase of $1.35 billion over fiscal year 2007.

In the spending bill passed by the House this summer, lawmakers allocated an additional $1.9 billion for poverty-focused development assistance – about $550 million more than the increase in the Senate version.

Bread for the World supports an increase of at least $2 billion for poverty-focused development assistance for fiscal year 2008 so that the United States can honor its promises to developing countries. Our country has pledged to do its part to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); we have also committed to doubling aid to Africa between 2005 and 2010.

The House and Senate versions of the spending bill contain similar funding levels for most poverty-focused development assistance programs. Bread for the World is particularly concerned about two accounts funded at higher levels by the House than by the Senate: Development Assistance and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). Both are focused on long-term anti-poverty initiatives, which are vital to ending hunger in poor countries.

The Senate approved just $1.2 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) – a cut in funding from last year and well under half of the administration's request. Such a low allocation jeopardizes the MCA's ability to fund compacts with countries that are already well along in the process of developing their plans, such as Tanzania and Burkina Faso. Sixteen senators signed on to a "Dear Colleague" letter highlighting the harm an MCA funding cut would do. The letter was sponsored by Sens. Dodd (D-CT), Feingold (D-WI), Sununu (R-NH) and Coleman (R-MN).

Congressional leadership has not yet completed the task of appointing members of the conference committee for this bill. The conferees are charged with negotiating a final bill, taking into account House and Senate versions. Thus, they are the ones working directly on any improvements to the bill, including increased development assistance funding. But every member of Congress can influence the outcome by urging colleagues who are conferees to make this funding available.

International Action
Contact your senators and representatives as final decisions are being made on international affairs spending for FY2008. Urge them to do everything in their power to ensure that Congress meets our country’s commitments to hungry and poor people around the world by approving a $2 billion increase in poverty-focused development assistance.

Points to make:
-Our country is not on track to keep the promises we have made to the world's poorest people. The United States should be providing significantly more resources for poverty-focused development assistance -- programs that reduce hunger, poverty and disease in the world's poorest countries.
-Long-term development, such as programs in the Development Assistance account and the Millennium Challenge Account, deserve increased attention so people can pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty.
-There is too much at stake for hundreds of millions of hungry people around the world for the United States not to keep its commitments.
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Poverty, health and stress

Her's a brief interview about poverty and health problems. A researcher explained that it's much more than just poor people not having access to health care, clean water or food. The effects of chronic stress experienced by the poor is the researcher's area of focus. There is the behavioral "I can't be bothered to see eat right or exercise, I have bigger problems" issue, but his research focused on the physiological stress changes that increase risk for diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, etc.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Food Stamp Challenge Rules

An exercise many anti-poverty groups suggest to raise awareness for the needs of the hungry is a "Food Stamp Challenge." That's what 4 members of Congress (including Rep. Schakowsky) did last spring. The idea is eating for a specified amt of time on a food stamp budget to gain empathy for people living that reality every day.

Here are typical rules with some "cheater's rules" that help answer questions that come up. You can do this solo, but I think great value comes in discussing the process with others and reflecting on feelings it brings out. Good luck if anyone takes this on! (As fair warning to anyone in my spring book discussion, I'm going to propose we do this during Lent!)

As a dear friend sagely observed when forced to grocery shop for his wife and 3 small kids with $17 after forgetting his wallet, "Being poor sucks!!" Precisely.

Food Stamp Challenge Rules

You can only spend $21 on food and beverages during the Challenge week.
All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out, must be included in the total spending.
Do not eat food that you already own.
Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work.

A couple other suggestions:
Keep track of receipts on food spending.
Take note of your experience throughout the week and feel free to share your experiences with others
Consider how your experience is different than that of someone who depends on food stamps every week.

Every time I talk about the Food Stamp Challenge, somebody asks me for the exceptions. What about their garden? What about their spice rack? What about coffee hour at their congregation?

These “what ifs” are a great chance to consider what it’s like for people on food stamps. So, rather than lay down a strict law about what is allowed and what is not, I’d rather you consider for yourself what’s appropriate and what isn’t and how that impacts your decision.

Here are some ways people are adapting the Challenge:

-Put a value on the food you already have in the house. If you have a few bananas around on Sept. 4, you don’t have to let them go bad. You can figure out what they would cost and put that into your budget.
-Find Free Food. I know the rules say you shouldn’t do this, but in truth many people on food stamps depend on finding ways to get some free food, whether that’s refreshments after church or samples at the super market.
-Use your garden. If you have a garden, that can be a source of some goodies, and some people on food stamps have access to a garden.
-Consider what it means when you bend the rules. If you have to bend the rules, take a moment to consider what that means. If it’s too hard for you for one week, what does that mean for people who face this every day? What ways do you have access to resources that people on food stamps don’t?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Saturday, September 1, 2007

CARE's decision to turn down US food aid

Here is an LA Times editorial that eloquently and entertainingly explains why a major poverty-relief org would turn down major federal food aid. It comes down to subsidies again...
No thanks, and keep your farm aid
Taking a stand against U.S. subsidies that help cripple Third World economies.
August 24, 2007

If a charity stops taking your money, you've got to be doing something pretty shady. Historically, you could invent dynamite, beat up striking workers, build defective Xboxes, write a column about hating dogs -- and your check would still get cashed. So when CARE, the giant poverty-relief organization, stops taking $45 million a year in indirect food aid from the U.S. government, it is a strong indicator of some impressive sleaziness going down in D.C.

One of the smartest ways to get away with sleaze is to involve farmers. Now, I like farmers, mostly because they make food, of which I am a huge fan. But they're not, as is often claimed, a cornerstone of democracy, national security or morality. They're the remnants of a job field that, because of technology, has been shrinking since its inception. Farmers are just a half-step up from fire starters and cave painters.

But the U.S. government uses our irrational, Mellencampian love of farmers to kick back taxpayer money to the giant agribusinesses, such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., that fund political campaigns. So the $45 million CARE got isn't sent to poor people in the form of something useful, like cash. Instead, it'sused to fund a complicated scheme that only a huge bureaucracy or a really dumb money launderer would concoct.

The $45 million is used to buy food from American agribusinesses, which is then given to CARE and sent to impoverished nations by way of U.S. shipping companies. This food is not delivered to poor people. Instead, it is sold on the open local market for the highest price possible.

The resulting revenue -- which is about 75% of the original aid money -- is used to fund programs for the poor and hungry. I would not be surprised if at some point the food also has to be driven back and forth across that bridge-to-nowhere in Alaska.

But that waste isn't the main reason CARE made its difficult decision, which could allow more human suffering in the near term. Neither is the fact that shipping Nebraskan corn and reselling it in Micronesia, which typically takes five months, isn't the fastest way to help people whose village has been swept away by a tsunami.

The real problem is that we're going commie all over the Third World, and it's having Soviet-style results. Every U.S.-subsidized bag of soybeans we sell to a vegetable oil company in Kenya means less demand for oil-producing crops from a local sunflower farmer. And even if that soy money builds a cool medical clinic, it's going to be a little less cool to the unemployed sunflower farmer.

This scenario is a microcosm of how U.S. corn, soy, cotton, rice and sugar subsidies drive Third World workers out of one of the few businesses available to them. Farm-subsidy rules are to capitalism what Abu Ghraib is to democracy -- only in addition to infuriating foreigners, subsidy rules also bore them.

So CARE is betting that its decision will push Congress to rethink its "buy American" aid policies. "I think people are becoming more sophisticated and understand that if we don't make economies more self-sufficient, we're just perpetuating these cycles of poverty," said Helene Gayle, CARE president and chief executive. "They're starting to understand that this doesn't help in the long run."

She may be right. CARE actually started rejecting indirect food aid more than a year ago, but it was only reported on now that the increasingly controversial farm bill is before Congress.

While Europe, Canada and the U.N. have gotten out of monetizing food aid, the U.S. has amped its program: In 1990, less than 4% of food aid shipments were put through the laundering scheme -- now almost 20% is, which has reduced the actual dollar amount of aid poor people get by 43% over the last five years. Dumping even a small amount of underpriced food can really mess up a small local market, says Cornell University economist Christopher Barrett. "A Kenyan trader told me, 'I don't mind that these guys are competing with me in the market. I just mind that they compete so stupidly. They make the markets so volatile.' " Asking aid workers to run global commodity markets makes about as much sense as letting them talk about what they do at a party.

So until the Democratic Congress gets some guts and, at the very least, approves President Bush's plan to require that 25% or more of food aid be bought locally, I'm giving money to CARE, starting with my pre-tax earnings from this column. If the government isn't willing to save Africa, I'm betting journalism money will.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Farm Bill update and Sample letter to Senate

Just an update on the Farm Bill. Very little press about it lately because Congress is still on recess. When the Senate comes back, it will begin its deliberations. Sen Durbin (D-IL) and Sen Lugar (R-IN) will be the two to watch to push for reform. Letters written to our senators now should reach them before this debate reaches the floor. Here are some example points to push for:

"The farm bill that came out of the House of Representatives did not address the inequities of the commodity payment system. Please make sure the Senate version of the farm bill:
1) reforms farm commodity payments to provide more fairness to struggling family farmers in the U.S. & in developing countries
2) includes significant improvements to nutrition, rural development and conservation."

Of course, you'd want to rewrite that in your own words. That one came from the Bread for the World. Good luck!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bread for the World Update: Support Rural Communities

A message from Bread for the World...
It’s been said that the US farm bill should actually be named the “rural development bill” because it provides much of the federal support for rural areas. As the 2007 farm bill takes shape in Congress, Bread for the World is calling for broad reform. A key component of our Offering of Letters campaign is to strengthen rural communities.

The farm bill originated during the Great Depression to help people in rural areas. Today, the goal remains the same, but the rural landscape has changed dramatically. In the 1930’s, nearly 25% of the US population worked in agriculture. Now, less than 2% of all Americans work on farms, and most rural jobs are in service industries. So commodity payment programs- a major component to the farm bill- cannot be a substitute for wider rural development efforts. To remain true to its original intent, the farm bill needs to expand its programs to support rural America in its reality today.

Hunger and poverty are more common in rural areas, and many rural counties have lost population as people move away for better jobs and services. Mines, factories and big box stores open and close contributing to “boom and bust” cycles. To break this cycle, it’s essential to promote entrepreneurship and strengthen infrastructure. In the past, funds authorized for rural water quality, firefighters and other vital services have been meager and sometimes non-existent.

There’s no quick solution for rural challenges. But many strategies show promise- from increasing entrepreneurship and attracting a diverse business base to improving access to technology. Previously, rural development programs have generally been small and low priority. Bread for the World is urging Congress to give rural development greater visibility and more resources. Only then, will more rural communities be able to find solutions that work.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"How do the hungry get to the gates of the weathly?"

Something inspirational for a change! Words to move us to advocacy. An excerpt of a sermon at the Interfaith Convocation on Hunger.
"There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. There was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores, desiring to ve fed with the crumbs, which fell from the rich man's table..." Luke 16:19-21

Deliberate pairing is part of this story. The poor man was brought to the gate of the rich man, not just once but daily. Persistent effort. Who will bring the poor, in this country and around the world, to the attention of people of plenty? Who will bring the poor to Congress? Who will bring the poor to the attention of the executive office? Who will bring the poor to the attention of the religious community? Television brings the gates of the rich to the dwellings of the poor. But how do the poor, how do the hungry get to the gates of the wealthy?

The poor are people. They sufffer the ravages of poverty: hunger, bad health. All of these things need to be addressed. In order to do that it's going to take more than an act of charity. It's going to take some drastic action. Those of us who are people of faith and claim to follow our Lord need to look at what he did. For the record says that he who was rich, for our sake became poor and dwelt among us. He did so not just for a little bit of change, but so that we might share in the fullness of life that was his and that is desired for all of us.

-Dr William Shaw, president to the National Baptist Convention, USA

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Norman Borlaug: Saved a billion people from hunger

Here's an article about Norman Borlaug who recently won the Congressional Gold Medal (after winning the Nobel Peace Prise and the Presidential Medal of Freedom) for his work developing high yield wheat hybrids, planting & soil conservation techniques that have saved many from hunger and given us the science and the technology to eradicate extreme poverty if we choose to. Congratulations, Mr. Borlaug!

Here's an excerpt:
"Borlaug's success in feeding the world testifies to the difference a single person can make. But the obscurity of a man of such surpassing accomplishment is a reminder of our culture's surpassing superficiality. Reading Walter Isaacson's terrific biography of Albert Einstein, I was struck by how famous Einstein was, long before his role in the atom bomb. Great scientists and humanitarians were once heroes and cover boys. No more. For Borlaug, still vital at 93, to win more notice, he would have to make his next trip to Africa in the company of Angelina Jolie.

The consequences of obscuring complex issues like agriculture are serious. Take the huge farm bill now nearing passage, a subject Borlaug knows a thing or two about. Because it seems boring and technical and unrelated to our busy urban lives, we aren't focused on how it relates directly to the environment, immigration, global poverty and the budget deficit, not to mention the highly subsidized high-fructose corn syrup we ingest every day. We can blame the mindless media for failing to keep us better informed about how $95 billion a year is hijacked by a few powerful corporate interests. But we can also blame ourselves. It's all there on the Internet (or in books like Daniel Imhoff's breezy "Food Fight"), if we decide to get interested. But will we? Sometimes it seems the more we've got at our fingertips, the less that sticks in our minds."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Counterpoint from a Cotton Farmer in favor of subsidies

Someone recently asked me why farmers would favor of subsidies given everything negative said against them. NPR ran a story with a cotton grower voicing his concerns:

In essence, commodity growers worry that even though prices are at a high now, the bottom could drop out. Some fear excessive reform would leave them without support. I feel there is still a lot of room for reform without eroding a middle class farmer's safety net, but there it is to present the opposing view.

LA Times Farm Bill update

Couldn't have said it better myself...Actually, I tried and couldn't....
Pelosi's bad farm bill
The House's new farm package did nothing to uproot harmful subsidies, so it's up to the Senate to dig in.
July 31, 2007

If the farm bill that oozed through the House of Representatives last week is Speaker Nancy Pelosi's idea of accomplishing Democrats' goals, we prefer the good old days of do-nothing Congresses. Pelosi, whose San Francisco district is a center of opposition to traditional farm subsidies, hammered together a broad coalition of Democrats aiming to preservethe status quo for another five years.

Democratic leaders did it by playing Santa Claus. To representatives from California and other states that don't grow the types of crops that traditionally get federal handouts, they doled out $1.6 billion for specialty crops such as vegetables and nuts. To the Congressional Black Caucus, they handed at least $100 million to help settle discrimination lawsuits by minority farmers. To urban liberals, they gave a needed expansion of the food stamp program. And to Democrats in farm states, they presented a bill that keeps in place all of the trade-distorting subsidies that made the 2002 farm bill a shameful violation of international agreements.

To pay for all this, the bill would impose a new tax on U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies. That drew the ire of Republicans who might otherwise have supported it and assured that the bill would pass on a mostly party-line vote. It also produced a veto threat from President Bush.

The added benefits for food stamp recipients and improved nutrition programs are worthwhile, but an obscure new tax that might violate international treaties is the wrong way to pay for them. Instead, the House should have phased out the price supports and loan guarantees that artificially inflate food prices in this country and make it nearly impossible for growers in poor countries to compete. So badly managed are the farm bill's subsidy programs that a Government Accountability Office investigation turned up $1.1 billion paid out over seven years to dead people.

There are three ways to undo the damage Pelosi and company have wrought. First, the Senate could craft a more sensible farm bill when it takes up the matter in September. Second, Bush could make good on his veto threat. And third, Canada and Brazil could win their cases at the World Trade Organization challenging some U.S. farm supports. Because options two and three would only confuse the issue, the best hope for real reform lies with the Senate.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Farm Bill News FAQ: "what happened?" "what's with the Dems?" "Is it over?"

In the interest of timeliness, I previously copied a few detailed articles I found that summed up farm bill news. But I've had a few very good questions that I'll try to answer concisely.

"So...what happened exactly? Did our call-ins work?"
Yes and no. The bad news is that the farm subsidy program is largely unchanged. Under this Farm Bill version, large farms will continue to get most of the subsidies while farmers of modest means will continue to struggle. Developing countries will be locked out of selling their products. The WTO may sue us over cotton subsidies. So, that didn't work. But the good news is that to get that passed, the Status Quo reps had to sweeten the pot for the on-the-fencer's by giving more food stamp assistance, nutrition stuff, rural development and conservation programs. So, that part did work. The bummer is that those nice things might not actually get funded. If the subsidy part had been cut more, the money could have come from there.

"I don't understand why so many Democrats voted against the reform amendment and for the Farm Bill. What do you think?"
Dems are having a really hard time keeping together on this one. They're trying to hold their majority and show they can run Congress effectively. A powerful "farm bloc" feels strongly about keeping subsidies high although it flies in the face of what democrats stand for. These reps are backed by large farms that eat up most of the subsidy payments and they don't want to lose support. Rep Zack Space from Ohio is an example. He's a freshman Dem rep, outspoken in saying things like "my constituents are pretty comfortable with things the way they are." Meaning: those with clout to get him replaced with a Republlican are happy with fat subsidies. Poor constituents with no influence are probably not happy at all. I've also heard some Dem reps personally receive those subsidies. A legal conflict of interest?

"Why are Republicans against the Farm Bill?"
In order to pay for the last minute adds, a tax on foreign countries- that can be used as tax havens for US subsidiaries- was put in that has the GOP against the bill. Republicans cite this as a partisan move to add taxes to what was a bipartisan bill.

"Is it over?"
Oh no. Things aren't looking great, but this thing is far from over. The White House threatened to veto if significant subsidy caps aren't in place. Bush can still do this. And the Senate debate is just beginning. The House and Senate must pass their own versions of the bill, then Congress has to reconcile the two for the final bill. Now it's more important than ever to write/call your senators about this. And if your senator is running for president, try extra hard to catch their attention. Like writing a letter to the editor with their name in it. Their printed name gets them looking more than anything!

Details on Passed Farm Bill in House

Here are more details about what finally passed in the House. The article discusses the added good stuff as well as the failed subsidy reform.
House Passes Massive Farm Bill
Tax Issue Prompts GOP Opposition
Washington Post Saturday, July 28, 2007; A01

The House yesterday passed a far-reaching new farm bill that preserves the existing system of subsidies for commercial farmers and adds billions of dollars for conservation, nutrition and new agricultural sectors.

Passage of the 741-page bill by a vote of 231 to 191, after partisan battling unusual for farm legislation, was a major achievement for the new Democratic leadership.

With most Republicans opposing the five-year bill over a tax issue, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hammered out a compromise that held together a shaky majority of Democratic farm-state lawmakers committed to the entrenched farm subsidy system, together with urban liberals and reformers seeking sweeping changes.

"This signals change and a new direction," said Pelosi, in calling for the party to stick together on the contentious vote.

The bill, which has a price tag of almost $286 billion, boosts spending on preservation of grasslands and wildlife habitat, and mandates a major study of the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a first step to restoring the bay by reducing agricultural and other wastes.

The measure updates the food stamp program, indexing benefits to inflation, increasing the minimum benefit and raising the standard deduction. Youth obesity is addressed by a program to introduce healthful snacks in schools, and more money is authorized for famine relief abroad.

In an important victory for consumer organizations, imported meat, including hamburger made from multiple animals, will be labeled by its country of origin starting in October 2008.

Pelosi also cited the bill's emphasis on credits and loan guarantees for new forms of biofuel produced from grasses and biomass. "Future farm bills will never look the same," she said.

Nonetheless, major hurdles remain before the massive legislation becomes law.

The White House, citing insufficient reforms of the subsidy system, has threatened a veto. Only 19 House Republicans supported the bill's passage because of the last-minute addition of a tax provision needed to offset the new Democratic-backed spending on food stamps and nutrition.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (Va.), the ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, accused Democrats of "poisoning the well" by adding the tax provision to what had been a bipartisan farm bill. Business lobbies, including the National Association of Manufacturers, warned that the action could discourage foreign investment and cost jobs.

Democrats said the provision merely closes a loophole that allows a limited number of U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies to avoid taxes. Aides said it is aimed at companies headquartered in tax havens such as Bermuda, with which the United States has no tax treaty. Subsidiaries avoid a tax bite by funneling earnings through European countries that have reciprocal tax-reduction arrangements with the United States.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the provision levels the playing field for "small American companies that are paying their share of taxes."

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) charged that Republicans had fixed on the tax issue as an excuse for killing the bill. "They don't want to see success," he said.

But Democrats acknowledged that the entanglement of business issues in the farm bill could cause problems down the line.

Last week, a coalition of business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable, urged Congress to reject a farm bill that did not make major cuts in agricultural subsidies, so as to expedite a global trade deal benefiting manufacturers.

Developing countries are demanding a reduction in U.S. and European agricultural protections before opening their markets to American manufactured items.

Peterson responded hotly yesterday, saying farm-state lawmakers were in no mood to appease big business. Previous trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have been tailored mainly to help manufacturers and have not been good for U.S. agriculture, he said.

In defiance of international trade rules that discourage price supports that lead to overproduction, the bill raises price guarantees for wheat, soybeans and sugar.

Pressures on Congress could increase after a ruling this week by the World Trade Organization in Geneva. A WTO panel held that the U.S. cotton industry has not adequately responded to a 2005 ruling that certain subsidies violate international trade agreements. The panel said Brazil has the right to retaliate.

The centerpiece of the bill is a web of price guarantees and direct payments going mainly to corn, wheat, cotton, rice and soybean growers in a few Midwestern and Southern states. The cost to taxpayers will be about $7.5 billion a year.

Farm organizations pulled out all the stops to defend this system, hiring lobbyists, setting up blogs attacking critics and buttonholing farm-state lawmakers. Among the lobbyists was the former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Larry Combest (R-Tex.).

The House bill includes a new concession for cane and beet sugar producers, ensuring that they will not have to cut back on their planting when unrestricted Mexican sugar imports start next year under NAFTA. The Department of Agriculture will be required to buy up volumes of sugar comparable to the imports and sell it to ethanol plants for a reduced price, at a 10-year cost to taxpayers of $1.4 billion.

In the last-minute jostling, a provision to make leaf tobacco farmers eligible for funds to promote their product abroad was stripped to avoid a floor battle with anti-tobacco forces. Rep. Bobby R. Etheridge (D-N.C.) had argued that it was a "matter of patent fairness" to tobacco growers.

Farm-state lawmakers also united yesterday to defeat an amendment by Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) aimed at preventing farmers from reaping unintended windfalls from a key subsidy, the loan deficiency payment. In 2005, the subsidy cost nearly $5 billion.

Late Thursday, an amendment by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) to reform the subsidy system garnered only 117 votes. Kind was backed by consumer, environmental, religious and anti-hunger groups.

The defection of Republicans this week forced Democratic leaders to scramble to strike deals with urban liberals to assure the final majority.

In the maneuvering, the Congressional Black Caucus came away with at least $100 million to help the USDA settle discrimination lawsuits filed by minority farmers. But the dealmaking forced a hasty search for offsetting funds.

To help pay for mandatory new spending on food for children abroad, Democratic leaders imposed a new "conservation fee" on some offshore oil and gas leases. It would recoup billions of dollars in royalties lost because of faulty federal leases with companies operating in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Find out how your Rep voted: Farm Bill reform Amendment

From the Bread for the World web site...
All year, Bread for the World's Seeds of Change campaign has focused attention on farm bill reform. Just this week, thousands of you called Washington to support the Fairness in Food and Farm Policy Amendment in the House of Representatives. Last night, the House defeated the Fairness Amendment on a vote of 117-309. To learn how your representative voted, go to If your representative voted yes, please call and thank him or her.

The Fairness Amendment would have reformed the farm bill in significant ways to reduce hunger and poverty and help farmers of modest means in this country and in developing countries. Though the amendment didn't pass, the pressure we brought for reform forced congressional leaders to add provisions to the bill that increase funding for nutrition and conservation programs that will help hungry people and promote environmental stewardship.

Most importantly, pressure for reform of the farm bill is now stronger than ever. Bread for the World members played a key role in raising awareness about the inequities of the farm bill and the needs of hungry and poor people in our country and overseas. Without our voice, Congress would not have given serious consideration to the need for reforms in the farm bill.

The farm bill debate is far from over. There are still many steps in the process of finalizing this legislation. The House is expected to vote on the farm bill itself today, Friday, July 27. You will soon find updates and analysis of the remaining House farm bill amendments on our Web site at Major farm bill decisions remain to be made in the Senate as well.

You can be proud of the intense and well-coordinated effort that our Bread for the World grassroots membership has poured into this challenging campaign. We have already had an impact, and the story is far from over.

Thanks for your hard work. Stay tuned!

Farm Bill Reform failed in house today

From today's Washington Post. Not looking good. Hard to believe that it's now looking more likely to have a veto from Bush than for Democrats to unite and help hungry people. Now the fight is on and it's likely to spill into the Senate soon.
House Rejects Farm Bill Overhaul
Effort to Revamp Traditional Subsidies Is Defeated, 309 to 117

Farm state lawmakers, allied with House Democratic leaders, last night easily defeated a proposal for a major overhaul of traditional farm programs that would have pared subsidies to big growers and spread benefits more broadly.

The 309 to 117 vote came on the first day of debate on a multiyear farm bill that was heading for final action today.

Republican support for the bill was in doubt last night because of a dispute over a provision that would tighten rules on the use of tax havens by U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies.

But key farm state Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the amendment, sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.). "It rips out the safety net for American farmers and ranchers," said Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (Va.), ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee.

The amendment was billed as this year's major challenge to an entrenched farm-subsidy system. The defeat was a setback for a coalition of environmental organizations, anti-hunger groups and religious leaders who favor shifting more funds to conservation, nutrition and other priorities while creating a more level playing field in world markets for unsubsidized poor farmers abroad.

"Change is tough in this place," Kind said. The current subsidies to farmers, he said, raise farmland prices to the disadvantage of young farmers trying to rent or buy land, while making big farmers dependent on "a government paycheck, not the marketplace."

Environmental Defense, an advocacy group, produced a study showing that more than 300 congressional districts would be eligible for increased funding under Kind's bill, but to no avail.

Kind's vision in recent months came into conflict with the pragmatic politics of Democratic leaders seeking to rebuild the party's rural-urban bonds. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged Democrats to support the farm bill.

Recalling that a similar Kind amendment garnered 200 votes in 2001, the Agriculture Committee loaded the bill with billions of dollars for nutrition programs, conservation, black farmers, and the Florida and California fruit and vegetable industries, in an effort to attract broad support. As late as 1 a.m. yesterday, Democratic leaders were adding money for nutrition programs.

About $840 million in mandatory spending was added for the McGovern-Dole food aid program, after nearly $1 billion was shifted out of government payments to private crop insurance companies to offset the cost.

The new funding was sought by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a key member of the House Rules Committee. McGovern said it was "a good thing" that the crop insurance industry would be contributing to feeding hungry children abroad.

The program is named for two former senators, not for the congressman.

The revamp effort by Kind, whose western Wisconsin farm grows corn and soybeans on 60 acres, made him few friends on the agriculture panel.

Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) said last week that Kind and his allies are "out on a limb, and I'm trying to cut if off."

Peterson suggested that Kind "was being used by the Bush administration," which favors some of the same changes.

"There was no collusion," Kind responded. "I've been working on this for six years."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Farm Bill vote on THURS. Call Now!!

This week the House will be voting on the farm bill. Last Thursday, the full Agriculture Committee voted to implement little change to the 2002 farm bill, yet called those modest changes "reform". Now is the time for your member of Congress to know that those changes are not sufficient for struggling farmers or hungry people here or around the world. We can and must do better. As a more just alternative, Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will offer the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment. Your representative's vote for this amendment is critical. It is time to support real reform and fairness in America's farm and food policy.

Please call your representative by NOON, Thursday, July 26, at 1-800-826-3688. Urge your representative to vote for the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment offered by Reps. Ron Kind and Jeff Flake. Let Congress know that the House Agriculture Committee's version of the farm bill does little to change the inequities of farm payments and it must be amended.

[Note: This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask to be connected to your representative’s office in order to leave your message.]

Read about the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment and learn why your action is so vital.

Talking points:

-The House Agriculture Committee sent out a bill that makes minimal changes, falling far short of its claims to help all farmers equitably and fairly. The Committee missed its opportunity to design a safety net that works better for American farmers and to bring the farm bill more in line with realties of rural poverty.

-The Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment addresses many concerns left behind by the Committee bill.

-The Fairness Amendment provides critical funding to strengthen nutrition programs, rural communities, conservation programs, without relying on uncertain funding from outside of the committee.

-The priorities in the Fairness Amendment reflect the priorities of most Americans—not just the few, powerful interests that have dominated the debate for decades.

-As your constituent, I urge you to vote for the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment when it is offered on the floor.

Thanks for calling today!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Farm Bill Vote in House THIS WEEK

The Washington Post reported that the not-very-reformed-at-all version of the Farm Bill was approved last Thursday and the full House is expected to vote on it next week.

Bread for the World president David Beckmann said, "Neither of the two bills presented by Chairman Peterson shows marked improvement for farmers of modest means or for the millions of hungry and poor families in this country and around the world.

As usual, people who need help the most are at the bottom of the priority list. Without a guaranteed source of funding for federal nutrition programs, the 'reform' option is no more than a wish list."

The farm bill is expected to go to the House floor before the August recess, perhaps as early as July 24. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has said that his committee will also take up the farm bill in July. So your members of Congress – whether or not they sit on an agriculture committee – need to hear now from their constituents that the version of the farm bill which comes to the House and Senate floors must contain improvements.

To take action, please see the web site for information on how to call your members of Congress. If you choose to write a letter, faxing is a better option due to time constraint!