Thursday, April 24, 2008

Farm Bill Call in by Friday!

A call-in action about the Farm Bill! This message is from Bread for the World...
We need you to take action right away to ensure the gains we've fought so hard for over the past year and half are not lost.

Please call your representative and senators by noon Eastern time Friday, April 25, at 1-800-826-3688. Tell them we must pass a new farm bill now, and must not lose the nutrition increases and food aid changes already passed. At a time of sharply rising food prices, these increases are especially critical. Modest commodity reform could pay for these increases without resorting to tax increases or other cuts.

Read the talking points below.

[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.]


The House passed its version of the farm bill in July; the Senate did the same in December. Key representatives and senators are meeting now to reconcile the two different versions and prepare a conference report that sets out the terms of the final bill. However, conferees have been unable to agree on total funding for the bill and how to pay for it. The president has threatened to veto the bill if it includes funding mechanisms he does not approve or fails to incorporate adequate commodity program reform. The current farm bill is scheduled to expire on April 25.

Both the House and Senate bills included significant increases to the farm bill's nutrition programs, especially food stamps. These increases represented a powerful recognition of current needs in the food stamp program and food bank programs. Since then, food price inflation has accelerated, squeezing many low-income families. However, if Congress does not pass a new farm bill, we will lose the nutrition increases currently on the table. This will mean fewer families will receive the assistance they need to be assured of an adequate, nutritious diet.

Rising food prices are also having a devastating impact on poor people outside our country. Our food aid assistance is a critically important tool to help the poorest people in the world cope with the rapidly rising food prices that we are currently seeing. However, some provisions of our food aid programs cause inefficiencies that cost lives. One of the most direct changes we could make to our food aid programs is to provide the flexibility to purchase some of our food aid locally or regionally. A pilot study of how to buy food locally or regionally was rightly included in the Senate version of the farm bill. Though the original language was weakened by an amendment during the Senate floor debate, it is a good first step and should be retained in the final bill.

At the same time, the Senate- and House-passed bills do very little to make commodity programs fairer or more equitable. Neither version includes meaningful payment limits and both actually increase the most trade-distorting programs.

It's not too late to pass a final farm bill that addresses these issues. A few changes to the commodity programs would make the programs fairer for farm families of modest means while producing enough savings to pay for the nutrition increases we know are necessary. Funding is not an issue for the food aid pilot program, but conferees do need encouragement to include it in the final bill. The result would be farm bill that is better for poor people, in our own country and around the world.

See my recent interview on Bill Moyers Journal about rising food prices and the ways the farm bill could help mitigate their impact on the most vulnerable among us:

Message to Congress:

In this time of rising food prices, your statement of support for nutrition funding in the farm bill is especially critical! Modest reforms to make commodity programs more equitable could provide funds without risking a presidential veto. Please show your support for finishing the farm bill with the strongest nutrition title to help make great strides against hunger and poverty.

Key points:

Over 35 million Americans--including more that 12 million children--struggle to put food on the table.

With skyrocketing food prices, food stamp households need assistance now more than ever.

Failure to pass a new farm bill or extension of the current bill would mean that millions of low-income people will miss out on food stamp benefit increases on offer under the current conference proposals.

Modest reform of commodity programs could produce savings to redirect to low-income families through the food stamp program.

The Congress will miss a huge opportunity if they pass this Farm Bill without addressing the inefficiencies of our current food aid program. The local and regional purchase pilot program passed by the Senate should be retained in the final bill.
Calls need to be completed by: 12 noon (EST), April 25.

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of poor and hungry people,

David Beckmann
President of Bread for the World

No comments: