Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Urgent action for farmers, environment!

I got this email today from Bread for the World. It's for California people, but the legislation it refers to affects everyone (so insert your own senators' names):

Message: Please call Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer by 9 am California time on Wednesday, March 21, 2007, at 1-800-826-3688. Urge them to vote yes on the Grassley-Dorgan Amendment to save $1.1 billion by limiting farm commodity program payments.
[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.]

Background: This week the full Senate will debate the budget resolution that passed out of the Budget Committee last Thursday, March 15. Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Dorgan (D-ND) will introduce an amendment to the resolution to save $1.1 billion by limiting commodity program payments. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that limiting payments to $250,000 per farm per year would save $1.1 billion over 10 years. The amendment will commit these savings to other USDA accounts, with roughly one-third allotted to energy and rural development, one-third to conservation programs, and one-third to nutrition programs. So this amendment should help protect God's Creation and improve nutrition for hungry people here in California.

Key points: Current commodity policies are often said to be necessary to protect U.S. farm and other rural interests but in reality do little to help the most vulnerable people in rural communities. Most commodity payments go to large landholders, doing little to help small and mid-sized family farms or struggling rural families.

From 1995 to 2005, the top 2 percent of recipients of farm payments received 35 percent of all payments. The average payment for that group totaled $903,324. The bottom 80 percent of payment recipients received 12 percent of all payments, with an average payment of $7,749. By placing tighter limits on commodity payments to farmers, this amendment would reduce the advantage that the biggest farms now enjoy.

Twelve percent of the rural population is employed in manufacturing and 56 percent is employed in services. The farm bill devotes only a tiny fraction of its resources to meeting the needs of the vast majority of rural Americans.

The money saved from capping payments to the largest producers and landowners should be redirected into conservation, rural development, and nutrition programs. These additional resources will help to build strong and sustainable rural communities and improve nutrition program like the Food Stamp Program, our nation’s first line of defense against hunger.

Please call Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer today (Tuesday) or early tomorrow (Wednesday).

And so here's the email I sent (yes, I fear the phone, it's a phobia and I'm sorry) to my senators - feel free to plagiarize me!

Dear Senator,

I am a California resident (Pasadena) who is deeply concerned about issues surrounding farming, subsidies, and commodity payments. I am not content with the current system, which (according to my research) keeps most farmers in a cycle of poverty, drives down prices of food so that other countries can't compete, and fattens the wallets of major corporations (who make seed and fertilizer) with my tax dollars. You will be receiving many letters this year from my friends whom I plan to corral around the upcoming farm bill renewal. We are asking that you make decisions that will improve life for hungry people and farmers (not corporations!), both here in California and around the country and world. We will do our part by supporting farmer's markets, CSA's, and coops, but the world-wide situation will not change without government leadership.

My understanding is that if you vote yes on the Grassley-Dorgan Amendment it will save $1.1 billion by limiting farm commodity program payments and putting funds into arenas that will help the environment and smaller family farms. The amendment should help protect God's creation and improve nutrition for hungry people here in California. Plus, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that limiting payments to $250,000 per farm per year would save $1.1 billion over 10 years. Sounds like a big win for everyone!

The money saved from capping payments to the largest producers and landowners should be redirected into conservation, rural development, and nutrition programs. These additional resources will help to build strong and sustainable rural communities and improve nutrition program like the Food Stamp Program, our nation's first line of defense against hunger.

Thank you for your fine work and your strong example for women like me who are your partners in changing the world!

Anastasia McAteer
My address
Master of Divinity Student, Fuller Theological Seminary

1 comment:

A deacon, by the grace of God, said...

Thanks for this. It's news to me.