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Farm Bill Recieves Support from Religious Groups

Their biggest gripe is all the money that goes to large wealthy farmers. A broad coalition of advocates is pressuring Congress to cut off farm payments to Ohio farmers. Between 2003 and 2005, crop growers got one billion dollars from the government. Advocates said they want more money to help the poor.

David Beckman is a lobbyist with Bread for the World. A wide array of religious bodies and religious agencies are clear now that this Farm bill needs broad reform, Beckmen said. Nearly 60% of the Farm bill pays for food stamps and other assistance. Both the House and Senate bills would boost funding to $460 million to pay for emergency food for low-income families. Beckman said that is still not enough. The average food stamp family is still going to be living on a dollar per person per meal and what really alarms us is that the increased funding for food assistance programs is temporary, he said. More than one million people in Ohio rely on food stamps. And now Second Harvest Food Bank said food banks will likely run out of resources in the next two months. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown is trying to get Congress to approve $40 million in emergency food aid nationwide. Cleveland and Columbus and Cincinnati food banks in the presiding officers in the city of Baltimore, food banks all around this country are running short of food. Grocery stores are contributing less this year and the government has not done its part, the senator said. In most years the government buys surplus food to help farmers and support prices. It is then donated to food banks. But because prices have been high and farmers are doing well there is less surplus food. Brown said the longer it takes Congress to pass the Farm bill, the tougher it is to feed the poor. We are the wealthiest people in the world yet we cannot feed our own people. This is an emergency. This is an outrage, Brown said. The Senate spent one month arguing over which Farm bill amendments to debate. Democratic leadership fought off amendments that were not relevant to the bill. Columbus Republican Patrick Tiberi voted against the House version of the Farm bill because he said it spends too much money on programs that are not related to farming. The farm bill should primarily deal with farming issues and over the years it has kind of become a vehicle for a lot of things that have nothing to do with farming, Tiberi said. Religious and anti-hunger groups this year have a more organized lobbying effort that includes TV ads like this one. It depicts a large wealthy farmer dressed in a suit and a small farmer wearing a flannel shirt and boots. Call your senators tell them the Farm Bill needs reform. Unfair subsidies hurt family farmers and cheat taxpayers, it reads. But religious groups are up against big farm lobbyists who oppose payment reforms. Reverend Earl Trent of the National Progressive Baptist Convention says the Farm bill has become a moral issue for him. It is seldom that issues legislative issues become a clear cut choice as greed vs. need and the privileged few versus the modest majority but real reform of the Farm bill is such an issue, Trent said. Senators are expected to vote on the Farm bill this week. It would then go to conference committee. Senator Brown is trying to get his food bank legislation through the Senate more quickly than that.