October 24, 2007
WASHINGTON, DC â€“ As the United States Senate prepares to begin marking up the 2007 farm bill today, an alliance of U.S. faith groups called upon Senators to adopt reforms designed to reclaim the farm billâ€™s historic moral identity as a covenant with small- and medium-sized farmers in the U.S., and a source of hope to people in need at home and around the world.
â€œFairness and opportunity for farmers in times of need were the fundamental values upon which Congress built the first farm bill in the 1930s,â€ said the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. â€œTodayâ€™s farm policy has abandoned those values. 2007 is the year for Congress to put fairness and opportunity back into U.S. farm policy and establish a new covenant with rural America and those in need at home and around the world.â€
“Our country needs a fresh, new approach to the farm bill, one that helps people who need it the mostâ€”U.S. farmers of modest means, struggling rural communities, hungry people and farmers in developing countries,â€ said the Reverend David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World. â€œThe demand for comprehensive reform is mounting from many people of faith and both sides of the aisle.â€
â€œI pray that Congress understands that the future of rural America is no longer inextricably linked to farming, as is reflected in small towns throughout South Dakota that are struggling to survive,â€ said the Reverend David B. Zellmer, Bishop of the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. â€œWe need increased investment in rural development, conservation, and nutrition; these are the programs that are most meaningful to rural America.â€
â€œThe General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has expressed concern that payments are going to the largest, wealthiest farms while leaving behind the majority of farm families,â€ said the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). â€œWe urge the Senate to pass meaningful commodity program payment limits such as those proposed by Senators Dorgan (D-ND) and Grassley (R-IA).â€
“If we fail to provide real reform to trade distorting commodity programs, then our subsidized export is not food, but poverty for the developing world,” said the Reverend Dr. Earl Trent Jr., Executive Director of Mission for the Progressive National Baptist Convention.
“We have a historic opportunity with this legislation to reduce hunger and poverty both here in the United States and in some of the world’s most impoverished countries,â€ said the Reverend Jim Wallis, President and CEO of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. â€œIt’s time for our Senators to show courageous leadership to enact reforms that serve the common good.”
â€œWe can and must do more to address the plight of struggling family farmers,â€ said the Most Reverend Ronald Gilmore, President of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. â€œHave we honestly done enough to target farm supports to those who need it most?â€
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Group Identifies Common Ground between Evangelicals and Progressives On Divisive Cultural Issues
October 9, 2007
Washington â€“ On Wednesday, October 10, Third Way and a group of leading national Evangelical leaders will hold a press conference to announce the introduction of Come Let Us Reason Together, a new paper that for the first time charts a path forward to unite progressives and Evangelicals on the most polarizing cultural issues of the day. Faith in Public Life, a strategic organizing and communications resource center for faith leaders dedicated to expanding the values debate, will co-host the briefing.
Evangelical leaders in attendance will include Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, pastor of Northland Church, leader in the Evangelical creation care movement, and one-time President-Elect of the Christian Coalition; Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and columnist for Christianity Today, the leading Evangelical magazine in the United States; Dr. Randy Brinson, Founder and Chairman of Redeem the Vote; and Joe Battaglia, President of Renaissance Communications and a leader in Christian broadcasting.
The Third Way paper includes an original analysis of the most up-to-date polling on Evangelicals and a corresponding report on how progressives and Evangelicals can bridge the cultural divide. The paper also outlines new, common-ground approaches on the toughest cultural issues, including abortion, gay and lesbian issues, the treatment of human embryos, and the role of religion in the public square.
Come Let Us Reason Together Press Conference
Rachel Laser, Third Way
Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter, Northland Church
Dr. Robert P. Jones, Third Way
Dr. R. Randolph Brinson, Redeem the Vote
Dr. David P. Gushee, Mercer University
Joe Battaglia, Renaissance Communications, Inc.
Katie Barge, Faith in Public Life
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Mayflower Hotel â€“ Senate Room
1127 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036
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PRESS CONFERENCE TOMORROW AT NOON
Anticipating a veto by President Bush of the SCHIP legislation on Tuesday, congressional leaders from both parties and prominent religious leaders will participate in a press conference to speak to the very conscience of our nation about the need to override the veto in the Senate and the House. The religious leaders represent millions of faithful people who support expanding health care coverage to all of Americaâ€™s children, particularly the most vulnerable. Over the past few weeks, Sojourners, the largest national network of progressive Christians, PICO (Pacific Institute for Community Organizations) and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have been working together to mobilize thousands of clergy across the country to support passage of the SCHIP legislation.
Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan
Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri
Congresswoman Heather Wilson, R- New Mexico
Religious Leaders Participating:
Rev. Jim Wallis, Executive Director of Sojourners and best-selling author of Godâ€™s Politics
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS â€“ Executive Director, Network, a national Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Father Ray East – Executive Director, Office of Black Catholics, Archdiocese of Washington
Rev. Wes Granberg – Michaelson-General Secretary, Reformed Church of America
Dr. Glenn Palmberg-President of the Evangelical Covenant Church
Rev. Sharon Watkins , General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Heyward Wiggins, PICO National Network and others.
Where: U.S. Capitol, Room S115 (NOTE; Mult-box may not be available)
When: Tuesday October 2nd 12:00PM, Noon
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Roll Call Ad Bolsters Values Message to Congress on Eve of House Floor Vote
(Washington, D.C.) â€“ As the 2007 Farm Bill heads to the House floor tomorrow, Christian leaders are calling upon Members of Congress to reform the bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee to redirect resources to those who need them most. In last-minute lobby efforts and an ad that will run in Roll Call tomorrow, they are urging members to support reform amendments like the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment, sponsored by Congressmen Kind (D-WI) and Flake (R- AZ).
â€œThe Fairness Amendment is the only farm bill proposal that approaches justice,â€ said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. â€œIt will make our nation’s farm policy work for farmers in the 21st century and help people who struggle to feed their families.â€
â€œThe Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee fails to reflect our most deeply held biblical and moral values of fairness, equity, and justice,â€ said Rev. Jim Wallis, Editor and Executive Director of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, â€œCongress is faced with a real test of moral leadership in changing currently unjust policy that props up the wealthiest farmers and landowners at the expense of struggling family farms and people living in poverty at home and abroad. The Fairness Amendment provides desperately needed reform to improve conservation, nutrition, rural development.â€
Leaders agree that the Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee harms poor farmers around the world.
â€œIt undermines the livelihoods of American farmers and violates the global consensus on fair trade and fighting the extreme poverty that kills 30,000 of God’s people each day,â€ said The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
“If we fail to provide real reform to trade distorting commodity programs, then our subsidized export is not food, but poverty for the developing world,” Rev. Dr. Earl Trent, Jr., of the Progressive National Baptist Convention said.
“We can and must do more to address the plight of struggling family farmers,â€ said the Most Rev. Ronald Gilmore, Bishop of Dodge City, Kansas and president of National Catholic Rural Life Conference. â€œHave we honestly done enough to target farm supports to those who need it most?”
Specifically, the House Agriculture Committee-passed bill:
* cuts $1.8 billion from the nutrition title improvements approved by the Nutrition subcommittee
* increases payments to the largest farms
* fails to meet the needs of struggling farms and rural families in the US
* fails to reform trade distorting commodity programs that paralyze the efforts of farmers in poor countries to feed their families and earn their way out of poverty
* restores a controversial cotton subsidy ruled in violation of our existing international treaty obligations
* fails to provide increased funding and access to programs that protect God’s creation.
â€œThe House Agriculture Committee’s bill is unjust: it maintains the status quo on a commodity system that does not support the majority of farmers in the US, while harming farmers in poor countries,â€ said Rev. Philip Hougen, bishop of the Southeast Iowa Synod Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. â€œMembers of Congress are now faced with a moral choice, and we urge them to support real reform of US agriculture policy, as encompassed in the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment.”
Intensive lobbying efforts of organizations participating in the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill have included nearly 1,000 lobby visits, and more than 85,000 letters and 8,000 phone calls to Members of Congress.
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Christian Leaders Keep Pressure on Congressional Leaders as Ag Committee Heads into Mark up
(Washington, D.C.) Just hours before the House Agriculture Committee begins debating the 2007 Farm Bill today, prominent religious leaders of numerous denominations gathered on Capitol Hill to call for reform that reflects American values of fairness and equal opportunity.
â€œOur nationâ€™s farm policy needs to be guided by a strong moral compass,â€ said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. â€œAn equitable system would not pour federal dollars into the largest farms in America without addressing the needs of those who need help the most.â€
Leaders of Christian denominations and major religious advocacy organizations called not only on members of the Agriculture Committee, but also Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders in Congress, to ensure that a reform-minded bill reaches the House floor.
â€œThe House leadership must begin to address this bill from a moral perspective, which transcends the typical as-you-go-politics that have sustained U.S. agricultural policy,â€ said Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Church of Washington, DC.
This morning, the group sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and other leaders in Congress, stating that the Farm Bill should:
â€¢ Reform the commodity program to significantly reduce payments that distort prices and supply in ways that violate U.S. commitments and harm farmers in poor countries.
â€¢ Make U.S. farm policy more equitable by strengthening help to poor farmers.
â€¢ Strengthen the food stamp program by increasing the benefits to reflect current costs of living and removing administrative barriers to access.
â€¢ Increase investment in rural communities with the greatest need, create new programs that assist rural entrepreneurs and promote small business development.
â€¢ Expand funding and access to conservation programs.
â€¢ Increase international food aid and ensure that the first Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger by one half is achieved by 2015.
â€œThe moral measure of U.S. farm policy is its ability to lift up those living in poverty, those struggling to make ends meet and earn a decent living,â€ said Father Andrew Small of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Small also discussed the intensive lobbying efforts of organizations participating in the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, which have included:
â€¢ Orchestrating more than 700 lobby visits to legislatorsâ€™ D.C. and home state offices.
â€¢ Generating more than 85,000 letters sent to Congress and more than 8,000 phone calls.
â€¢ Mobilizing Faith Farm teams in 38 states to write letters to editors and to contact their members of Congress by telephone and postcard.
â€¢ Placing an ad calling for reform in Roll Call (when the bill comes to the House floor).
“We urge the Agriculture Committee and the leadership to work for a bill that helps farmers both here and in other parts of the world, that supports rural economies, that protects the land from harm, and that ensures that all people have enough to eat,â€ said Rev. Dr. Theodore F. Schneider, Bishop of the Metropolitan Washington, DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The leaders also discussed the centrality of Christian faith and values in their position on the farm bill.
â€œA prominent story in the Christian scriptures tells of Jesus feeding those who were hungry,â€ says Sister Simone Campbell, Director of NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. â€œWe urge Congress to follow the dictates of Jesus and all other spiritual leaders â€“ give healthy food to those who are hungry.â€
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