Christian activists highlight the need for justice in Western farming

By staff writers
January 8, 2007

Bread for the World, a national Christian anti-hunger network, plans to distribute thousands of educational kits to churches around the USA urging churchgoers to lobby members of Congress to change federal agricultural and nutrition programmes in favour of the world’s – and the country’s – poor.

The kits, running under the title “Seeds of Change”, include a handbook, a DVD and church bulletin inserts. The overall goal, say the organisers, is to generate 150,000 letters to key members of the US Congress.

As with some American environmental initiatives, the campaign will consciously reach into the evangelical community – where leaders are working to broaden what has been a narrow moral agenda in recent years.

Bread for the World says that the message behind their campaign is that America has a moral obligation to change the way it subsidizes farmers. The agency says that the Bush administration should put more money into conservation, nutrition and rural development.

“What we have learned is that the current system does not work for rural America,” declares the Rev David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

He continues: “Disproportionately, the money in the farm bill is going to a relatively few people, mostly prosperous people. Some of the same things that would make the farm bill better for rural America also would make it better for rural Ethiopia.”

Bread for the World has around 56,000 members, including churches from 45 Christian denominations. It also is part of a coalition called the Farm and Food Policy Project, whose participants include the Centre for Rural Affairs, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Environmental Defence and the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

A 15-page statement released in December 2006 pulled together a number of reform proposals that have been floating around for several years, including tighter limits on an individual farm’s subsidies; “green payments” that reward farmers for improved conservation practices; and subsidies tied to changes in revenue instead of production.

The coalition also wants to lever more money for the domestic nutrition programmes that are part of the farm bill, including food stamps. The average food stamp benefit is now one dollar per person per meal.

The overall idea, says Bread for the World (, is to benefit poor communities across the world, but also in the USA – the richest nation on earth, which is massively divided between the prosperous and the impoverished.

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