Policies that Help

About The Farm Bill

Half the world’s population relies on agriculture to make a living. Most poor or extremely poor people around the globe (i.e., those living on less than $2 or $1 per day) live in rural areas, so agriculture reform is a primary means for alleviating poverty.

Federal farm programs began during the Great Depression when one-quarter of the U.S. population lived on farms. For generations, the federal government has guaranteed minimum prices to farmers and allowed farmers to sell some crops to the federal government when markets were poor. Loan deficiency payments or subsidies for certain commodity crops like corn, wheat, rice, cotton and soybeans are the most common guarantees. The current structure, however, excludes or leaves behind many small farmers and ranchers who must compete with larger producers and wealthier farmers.

What We’re Asking For

The reauthorization of the Farm Bill provides an opportunity to reshape our current, broken agricultural policies to build a more just framework that better serves small and medium-sized family farms in the U.S., promotes good stewardship of the land, helps overcome hunger at home and abroad and helps vulnerable farmers and their families in developing countries. It also provides an opportunity to strengthen and improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamps Program), a key part of the fight against hunger in the United States, and to strengthen international food security aid programs for starving people abroad.

A remarkable Catholic partnership (USCCB, Catholic Rural Life, Catholic Charities USA, and Catholic Relief Services, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul) will urge Congress to adopt policies that support domestic farmers, promote rural development, and reduce hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

Help us offer a united, constructive, and active voice in the debate about how U.S. farm policies affect hungry people, domestic farmers, food producers and consumers, and promote conservation of creation.

  • Support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) and other emergency food assistance programs;
  • Support food aid for hungry communities abroad in response to famine and disasters or other causes of food insecurity, and to support development;
  • Increase support to developing countries to assist them in increasing their investments in agricultural research, extension, rural infrastructure and market access for poor, small farmers;
  • Ensure that agriculture supports are targeted to owners of small and medium-sized farm and ranch operations by urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enforce and strengthen payment limitation provisions;
  • Support initiatives and conservation programs that reward farmers and ranchers who practice responsible stewardship of their land and common waterways;
  • Monitor USDA’s implementation of provisions aimed at assisting beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers;
  • Continue to review farm subsidies program to eliminate practices that do not comply with international trade obligations and that disadvantage poor farmers in other countries;
  • Prioritize the right of the poor in the United States and in the developing world to adequate access to nutritious food, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture practices that protect farmland, natural resources and wildlife for future generations.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Even before the recession, Americans were having a difficult time making ends meet. Now, more and more families have to choose between necessities, including food.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) puts food on the table for over 40 million people each month, most of them children and seniors and people with disabilities. It provides low-income households with electronic debit cards that can be used at most grocery stores and some farmers markets for healthy and nutritious foods. SNAP represents a commitment to eradicating hunger in America, giving struggling families an opportunity to get on their feet.

  • As the reauthorization of the Farm Bill proceeds, there will likely be attempts to reduce SNAP benefits. Instead of reducing nutritional assistance, Congress should consider redirecting agriculture subsidies away from wealthy and industrial farmers to smaller farmers in need and to hungry people.
  • Nutritional assistance is a vital piece of the safety net because it can respond to economic downturns rapidly.
  • The food stamp program is both efficient and targeted, so waste and fraud are very low.
  • It is wrong to target reductions in nutrition assistance to poor children to pay for tax cuts or deficit reduction.