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.