Christian and Charitable Organizations Are Joining Right- and Left-Leaning Partisan Groups in Opposing GOP House Farm Bill

After the $1.5 trillion tax bonanza mostly for corporations and billionaires, many people thought an equally generous Farm Bill would be easy pickings.

Traditionally no major measure is crafted to unite an urban-suburban-rural coalition of supporters like the Farm Bill since it ultimately reaches the dinner of every American. From incentives for the people who grow our food to programs that feed our school children, veterans and the elderly, the Farm Bill is a cornerstone legislative achievement that demonstrates America’s strength and moral leadership.

This year, however, the House GOP has put on the table a politically motivated Farm Bill meant to placate a very small minority of Americans that the extreme wing of the Republican Party hopes will inspire turnout in the November elections. It’s partisan divide-and-conquer politics at its ugliest, which Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) believe will inspire their base voters.

The House GOP plan, however, has turned out to be a massive miscalculation. Instead of building support for their Farm Bill, Ryan and Conaway have united a coalition of opponents that perhaps anytime but this rancorous era of divisive politics would force the House leadership back to work on a more representative measure.

Political groups on the right, left, center; Christian and non-partisan charitable organizations; farming and rancher associations; social responsibility advocates; and conservationists all have found problems that they say make the House Farm Bill a piece of junk. These groups may not agree on the problems they have with the Farm Bill, but they agree that these problems are in their eyes deal-breakers.

“Providing food for those suffering from hunger is central to our Christian faith. The United Methodist Church understands this call not simply as a matter of charity, but of responsibility, righteousness, and justice,” said the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry Crowe, general secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society.

Citing cronyism, waste, a lack of local decision-making and dependence, a coalition of right wing groups including Heritage Action for America, The Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, said in a letter, “The House Agriculture Committee farm bill, which is expected to be debated on the House floor in May, is unacceptable.”

Rebecca Vallas, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund, stated in The Hill newspaper, “Rather than heed the wishes of the American people, the GOP’s plan—yet again—is to tap into ugly myths about aid programs in order to pit struggling workers against one other. That way, they can hide their continued betrayal of the constituents whose interests they pretend to represent.”

A coalition of mostly local family farm and locally grown movement members, wrote in a letter, “A farm bill that works for everyone includes both farmers and consumers. It includes individuals and families in rural and urban communities that don’t have adequate access to healthy food; young farmers and farmers of color; voices that are typically marginalized or underrepresented in the federal policymaking process; and the millions of individuals and families in every corner of this country for whom hunger and poverty are a daily reality.”

We could add many, many more groups, but you get the point. As we said when we first reviewed the House GOP Farm Bill, the measure belongs in a swill bucket.

There is still a chance that Congress can get this right. The more open-minded Senate could craft its own bipartisan bill in coming days that does what the Farm Bill was intended to do: ensure that the Americans who grow our food can provide a nutritious diet to all Americans.

The idea is to make sure no American goes hungry, not to feed a perverse hunger to cause Americans unnecessary pain.

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