Oxfam Calls for Real Farm Bill Reform: Urges House to Support Fairness Amendment

By lmcfarlane

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Washington, DC — On the eve of the 2007 Farm Bill floor vote in the House of Representatives, international agency Oxfam America joined a broad and diverse group of public interest organizations and faith groups in support of an amendment to the Farm Bill that would deliver “real reform.”

“Anyone who asserts that the Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill represents real reform probably still believes that climate change is a hoax,” said Jim Lyons, Oxfam America’s vice president for policy and communications. “Under the Committee bill larger, corporate farms continue to reap the greatest benefits while family farmers here and abroad must continue to struggle.”

The “Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment” introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) would shift funds from trade-distorting subsidies to other priorities, such as food stamps, conservation, and programs that help minority and socially disadvantaged farmers. It will help America take important first steps on a new course toward real reform of family farm and food policy, according to the agency.

The Farm Bill put forward by the House Agriculture Committee keeps in place trade distorting commodity subsidies, falls short of correcting existing inequities for minority and beginning farmers and does little to limit handouts to large corporate farmers, according to Oxfam. Most egregious are generous provisions for large cotton producers in the form of a new “Step 2” program, storage payments, unparalleled loan rates and target prices, and the removal of limits to the loan program.

“Can a bill that continues to provide taxpayer subsidies to large farms with incomes of up to a million dollars a year be hailed as reform?” said Lyons. “The Agriculture Committee has squandered the opportunity to make a real investment in rural America, America's family farms, protecting our environment, and improving our energy security. Clearly this is a victory for the status quo."

Joining Oxfam in support of the amendment are members of the faith community as well as organizations from both sides of the political spectrum, including the Environmental Working Group, the ONE Campaign, the National Black Farmers Association, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Bread for the World, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Environmental Defense, American Dietetic Association, Club for Growth, the United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The groups support the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment because it reallocates subsidies from the rich to a reinvestment in rural America, family farms, to feed the poor, to improve our environment and promote energy security; reaches more farmers, serves more families and supports the needs of rural communities without raiding the treasury; and demonstrates that REAL reform -- the kind of reform that THIS CONGRESS was elected on -- is possible if the political will is there.

The entire House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Committee bill tomorrow, just in time for Congress’ scheduled August recess. The Senate is to consider its own version of the Farm Bill in September. As the Farm Bill deliberations move forward, Lyons says it’s important for voters to remind their Representatives that the farm bill isn’t just about farming.

“This bill isn’t just for farmers,” said Lyons. “This farm bill is the most important poverty vote and the most important environmental vote that the Congress will make this year. It is essential for Democratic leaders to demonstrate that, contrary to popular myth, they don’t need to tax and spend to serve the broader interests of all Americans, just the courage to enact REAL reform.”

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