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Crop of Concerns

Farm bill draws out Christian reformers worried about subsidies.
2007This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

A prominent Christian advocacy group has reversed its previous support for the farm bill and spent the last few months lobbying members of Congress for major reform. Bread for the World, along with more than 25 denominations, is now working to cap subsidies given to farmers at $250,000 and to channel more money into food-assistance programs. The anti-hunger organization traditionally supported the massive legislation due to certain provisions contained in the bill, such as funding for food stamps.

"After the last farm bill went into effect, we started hearing from church leaders in Africa," said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. The 2002 bill tied federal subsidies to production, Beckmann said. The excess flooded world markets and undercut poor farmers in developing countries, he said.

The farm bill was drafted in the 1930s to ensure national food security and to alleviate hunger and rock-bottom prices during the Depression. The bill comes before Congress every five years and covers areas from farm subsidies to environmental research.

Jim French, a farmer and the lead organizer of Oxfam America's agriculture campaign, sees helping poor farmers around the world as a basic faith issue.

"We need to understand that if someone is hurting, someone we would call the least of these," French said, "then we as Christians have an obligation to try to come to a better solution, so we're not hurting others."

French's farm depends on government subsidies, and he said that cutbacks would be difficult for farmers. Growers of corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton receive federal assistance. But French still advocates the change and cites studies showing population ...

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