Saturday, July 7, 2007

Confusion about Africa and the Farm Bill

It's come to my attention that some areconfused about what the Farm Bill can do for Africa. The Farm Bill issue is separate from helping Africa with debt relief or foreign financial aid. The Farm Bill CANNOT give money to Africa directly. It's potential for good or harm has to do with how we set up our pricing structure for commodities and how much of them we produce.

Federal subsidy money is only granted to farmers who grow cotton, wheat, soy beans, corn and rice. This encourages farmers to grow these 5 crops specifically. By offsetting the cost of production, the US allows the selling price to be artificially low since it creates a glut of these crops AND it makes the farmers investment in it cheaper than real production cost. Therefore, we export them at prices so cheap Africans can actually buy them and have them shipped across the globe for a cheaper price than just growing it there in Africa. But growing commodities are precisely what many Sub-Saharan Africans are trying to do just to feed their families and survive as they have no manufacturing industry to support them. Our system is beating them to the punch and they can't sell their product in their own countries.

By supporting subsidy reform, we can do things like lessen the amount given to big agri-business and redirect it to programs like Food Stamps or rural development. Then you get a double-whammy of good for the help the hungry here in the States by giving them the money and you enable Africans simply to earn a just and reasonable price for the crops they work hard to grow. This is why we say it is "an issue of justice, not charity."

Monday, July 2, 2007

So you want to write a letter...

Some of you I have talked to recently are about to write a letter to Congress. Here's a refresher on what Bread for the World recommends and what has been going on most recently with the farm bill....

Bread for the World advocates farm bill reforms that will:
-provide more targeted and equitable support for U.S. farmers;
-strengthen communities in rural America;
-provide an adequate, nutritious diet for hungry people in this country;
-remove obstacles to poor farmers in developing countries working to earn their way out of poverty.

Two great bills have been introduced that would accomplish many objectives. The bill introduced by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the Food and Agriculture Risk Management for the 21st Century Act (FARM 21), was introduced in the House on June 14 as H.R. 2720. The bill would set up a procedure to transition the nation's farmers from existing commodity payment programs to alternative forms of support, and would increase funding for the farm bill's nutrition title and investments that strengthen rural communities. Earlier, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced a similar bill in the Senate as S. 1422.

Good news: The House subcommittee responsible for rural development made good proposals, including a $20 million per year program for rural entrepreneurs and small businesses. Plus, the House subcommittee responsible for nutrition recommended strengthening the Food Stamp Program

Bad news: The House subcommittee responsible for subsidies recommended against any changes to subsidy programs

Next Steps for Congress: Recommendation goes back to full House Ag Committee for review. Later this year, the farm bill will go to the House and Senate floors.

Action for YOU: Write your senators and rep to make sure they're aware that this fight is going on and which bills you want them to support. Right now is a key time to do this before it gets to the open House and Senate floors.

THANK YOU FOR READING! I know it's dry, but it's important!