Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Catholic Bishops on Farm Program Payment Limits

- from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs, - payment limits exerpts from a rural issues update on farm programs -
by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops -
to see a full copy of the statement go to -


When the 2002 Farm Bill was passed, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) were critical of the projected $180 billion budget outlay for ten years, an 80 percent increase from the previous farm bill. The Conference was specifically concerned about Congress’ failure to target federal income support to those who needed it most, such as small and medium-sized farms. Despite the enormous price tag, several provisions in the Farm Bill, supported by the USCCB and the NCRLC, addressed inadequate hunger policies and the needs of rural communities. These provisions included: restoration of food stamp eligibility to legal immigrants; increased funding for conservation programs; innovative programs to assist new and beginning farmers and ranchers, and various rural development programs.

USCCB Position

The USCCB continues to advocate on behalf of farm policies that enable our nation to maintain an agricultural system of diverse, family-owned and operated farms. “Policies and programs are needed that encourage rural development, promoting and maintaining the culture and values of rural communities. These should include policies that encourage a wide range of economic development strategies, especially by fostering the entrepreneurial spirit of rural people and investing in their education and training. They also should include policies that promote and support farming, support the efforts of farmers to establish cooperatives and other cooperative ventures, and encourage widespread diversity in farm ownership.

Limited government resources for subsidies and other forms of support should be targeted to small and moderate-sized farms, especially minority-owned farms, to help them through difficult times caused by changes in global agricultural markets or weather patterns that destroy crops. Agricultural subsidies often go to a few large producers, while smaller family farms struggle to survive. Rather than simply rewarding production, which can lead to surpluses and falling prices, government resources should reward environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices. Because of rising land prices, the cost of sophisticated equipment, and the difficulty of making a living, government resources are also needed to help new farmers and ranchers enter the field of agriculture.” (From 2002 Pastoral Statement, For I was Hungry And You Gave Me Food)

(June update)… Senator Grassley and others will bring forward an amendment to decrease or eliminate cuts to food stamps and conservation by passing a payment limitation reform amendment, bringing about the long-anticipated major farm policy showdown of the year. This promises to be an extremely contentious debate and should take the rest of the legislative session to resolve.

Office of Social Development & World Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
(202) 541-3000

For more information about the payment limitations issue or how to help the Center for Rural Affairs and our allies win this fight - contact
John Crabtree,,
402-687-2103 ext 1010

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action


  • At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good for the Catholic Church. Good for the Bishops. I am glad to see the Church step out on this issue, we need more of that.

  • At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am not catholic, but I know the priest in my town. Where can I refer him to get information about this issue? For that matter, where can I refer my minister?

  • At 8:14 PM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    I would first encourage you to speak with both your minister and the priest in your town and discuss the possibility of them focusing on this issue as a moral issue - but one that if not addressed, could lead to more depopulation of rural communities and more hardship on those remaining. The fact remains that a very small portion of farmers are getting enormous amounts of federal dollars.

    I would suggest trying to pull these two men of faith together around the table to discuss the possible ramifications should payment limits not be imposed. There is strength in numbers and I would encourage you to pull together a few key people within both churches to discuss this critical issue.

    I would be more than happy to talk with them, or more in depth with you for that matter. National Catholic Rural Life (515) 270-2634 is also an excellent source on this issue and many others as well. As always, feel free to contact me at the Center for Rural Affairs, Kathie Starkweather, - or call 402-687-2103 ext. 1014.

    Editor's note - One additional point, across the board cuts in the ag budget would mean cuts in conservation, rural development, and food stamps as well as other nutrition programs - in other words, if payment limitations are not enacted Congress will make cuts that hurt family farmers, rural communities, and disadvantaged children and families. The faith community has a long tradition of supporting all of these programs and food and nutrition programs for the less fortunate in our society in particular.

    The person asking the question also mentioned their minister. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the United Methodist Church have also supported farm program payment limits and merit mention as points of contact in the faith community.

    ELCA Rural Ministry Desk - Sandra LaBlanc - 1-800-638-3522 ext. 6556

    One contact within the United Methodist Church is the Legislative Advocate in Iowa - Lana Ross - (515) 974-8900

    Post a comment here or contact Kathie for more information, or, feel free to contact me, John Crabtree,


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