As an estimated 828 million people endure chronic hunger and 45 million children suffer acute malnutrition globally, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is asking the faithful to prioritize timely passage of the 2023 Farm Bill. The five-year omnibus bill includes vital international programs that address immediate hunger needs and support long-term solutions. The existing Farm Bill expires Sept. 30.
CRS says the Farm Bill “oversees international programs that address hunger and its root causes.” Among those programs:
- The McGovern-Dole Food for Education, which provides free, nutritious school lunches for millions of children who might not otherwise have a daily meal.
- Food for Peace, which has provided emergency and developmental support to more than 4 billion people around the world since 1954.
- Farmer-to-Farmer, which enables U.S. volunteers to help train and support farmers in other countries so they can adapt to climate change and improve their harvests.
A bill introduced June 22 in the U.S. House for inclusion in the Farm Bill “would effectively end critical U.S. programs designed to fight global hunger and build communities’ resilience,” CRS states in its call to action (https://tinyurl.com/4sn6f8fw). “This is a dangerous proposition for millions of people — especially children.” How so?
The American Farmers Feed the World Act “would make the Food for Peace non-emergency programs inoperable” and “would increase the number of people experiencing hunger around the world,” CRS says. Furthermore, the proposed legislation would result in “The return to a 1950s ‘ship and dump’” model, which “is outdated and inefficient. It creates dependencies and distorts local markets — putting farmers and producers out of business.”
“These programs make up a small portion of Food For Peace Title II but play an integral role in proactively preventing future crises,” says InterAction, a U.S.-based alliance of international NGOs and partners. “Evidence shows that these programs are a good use of taxpayer dollars — every $1 invested in building people’s resilience saves $3 in more expensive humanitarian aid and losses that dig families into a deeper hole.” InterAction says that communities with strong food systems are more stable and more likely to become trade partners of the U.S. and reduce potential threats to U.S. interests (https://tinyurl.com/bdemxe5z).
House members who introduced the American Farmers Feed the World Act want to see the purchase and donation of American commodities as the program originally intended. “This bill puts a stake in the ground: it’s a noble thing to feed hungry people, and we should use American commodities to do it (https://tinyurl.com/u8hdjh3w).” CRS firmly believes “The global hunger crisis will not be resolved by more in-kind food aid alone. Farmers and producers in food-insecure countries need to be able to feed themselves.” CRS, which carries out the commitment of the U.S. bishops to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas, has worked tirelessly to provide people with food in an emergency but also to collaborate with them on self-sufficiency and resiliency. They work with farmers in drought-plagued countries to maximize water efficiency and to plant crops that can sustain the arid conditions.
“Agricultural trade practices with poorer countries must be fair and must seek to protect the dignity of farmers in those countries. An important moral measure of the global agricultural system is how its weakest participants are treated,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states in its document on Catholic Social Teaching and Agriculture (https://tinyurl.com/mrxcuent).
The authors of the proposed legislation that CRS and other NGOs oppose, say the Food For Peace Programs lack transparency and accountability. If that criticism is true, Congress can address it without dismantling international aid that benefits immediate needs and facilitates people’s ability to sustain themselves and to thrive.
Two Iowans serve on the House Agriculture Committee — U.S. Reps. Randy Feenstra (feenstra.house.gov) and Zach Nunn (nunn.house.gov). Senators Charles Grassley (grassley.senate.gov) and Joni Ernst (ernst.senate.gov) serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Please contact each one to express support for the 2023 Farm Bill and its international aid programs that provide emergency and ongoing resources to address hunger, its root causes and to build resiliency.
In his 2009 encyclical, “Caritas In Veritate: (“Charity and Truth”) the late Pope Benedict XVI called for making “the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are more readily available at the local level, while guaranteeing their sustainability over the long term as well. All this needs to be accomplished with the involvement of local communities in choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural land.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor