WASHINGTON (CNS) — A proposed $16 billion cut in the nation’s Supplemental Nutritional and Assistance Program is “unjustified and wrong,” said a joint letter from the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic and international justice committees, leaders of Catholic Relief Services and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.
The cuts in SNAP, once known as food stamps, “will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and struggling workers,” said the July 10 letter, addressed to Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Texas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the committee’s ranking Democrat.
“At this time of economic hardship and continued high unemployment, the committee should protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people. To cut programs that feed hungry people in the midst of economic turmoil is unjustified and wrong,” the letter said.
“A just farm bill requires shared sacrifice by all but cannot rely on disproportionate cuts to essential services for hungry, poor and vulnerable people,” it said.
The letter was signed by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace; Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency; and James Ennis, executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.
The letter critiqued the Agriculture Committee’s Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act. The full committee was meeting July 11 to consider the more than 100 amendments to the measure; a vote had not been scheduled as of mid-day. The bill must pass out of committee before the full House can consider it.
The Senate passed its version of the farm bill in late June; it contained only $4 billion in SNAP cuts, which Senate Agriculture Committee members said could be achieved by rooting out waste, fraud and abuse.
Any differences between the House and Senate versions would have to be resolved by a joint House-Senate conference committee. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30.
The letter from Catholic leaders lauded the House Agriculture Committee’s work on international food security and development, saying that it “wisely allocates” $400 million annually for Food for Peace non-emergency programs to help combat the underlying causes of long-term hunger in the poorest countries.
And, while criticizing the SNAP cuts, the letter said an increase in Emergency Food Assistance Program funding “will help churches, charities and food pantries serve hungry people in our communities.”
The letter said full funding for conservation and rural development programs “is essential to promote stewardship of creation and help rural communities thrive. The (Agriculture) Committee draft maintains funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, reauthorizes the Rural Micro-Entrepreneur Program and promotes broadband access in rural communities. However, we remain concerned that conservation and rural development programs continue to receive significant cuts.”
It also called the proposal to eliminate direct payments in farm subsidies is “a positive step.” Agriculture subsidies, the letter said, “should be reduced overall and crop insurance should be targeted to help small- and medium-sized farmers, especially minority-owned farms, over larger industrial agriculture.”
Government resources, it added, “should help those who truly need assistance and support those who comply with environmentally sound and sustainable agriculture practices. Savings from reductions to agricultural subsidies should be used to support hunger and nutrition programs that feed poor and vulnerable people.”
“The farm bill affects us all, but most significantly, those who are hungry, living in poverty, and those trying to maintain farming as a viable way of life,” the letter said. “We join other Christian leaders in insisting ‘a circle of protection’ be drawn around essential programs that feed poor and vulnerable people, serve small and moderate-sized family farms, promote stewardship of creation and help rural communities both at home and abroad prosper.”
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Masses, devotions, rallies mark U.S. Church’s ‘fortnight for freedom’
NEXT: Some military chaplains feel religious freedom challenged, says bishop
Share this story