Sarah Monteiro plants broccoli at Sisters Hill Farm in Stanfordville, N.Y.
The federal farm bill now moving through Congress could bring a lot of good into the world — if done well. The proposed legislation must address outdated agriculture policy, assist family farmers and help hungry people at home and abroad. It also needs to help the environment, which sometimes takes a thrashing from agriculture. This is a chance too good to miss.
Leaders of four Catholic organizations this month asked lawmakers to remember the common good when marking up the legislation.
“This is a crucial time to build a more just framework that puts poor and hungry people first, serves small and moderate-sized family farms, promotes sustainable stewardship of the land and helps vulnerable farmers and rural communities both at home and in developing countries,” said a letter from several U.S. bishops and aid agency directors.
This Catholic coalition has outlined five sensible priorities for the farm bill:
• It must maintain support for supplemental food purchasing aid for low-income families — what we used to call food stamps.
• It should protect funding for international emergency assistance and food security development projects.
• The bill ought to sustain subsidies for farmers — but only those who truly need assistance and who comply with environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices.
• It’s essential to promote programs that conserve water, energy, soil and wildlife habitats.
• Rural communities and small towns are the backbone of the social and economic life of America. Effective policies and programs are needed to encourage rural development and promote the culture and well-being of these communities.