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US bishops backing small farmer opposition to Free Trade

The Catholic Bishops in the United States are preparing a statement on agriculture that includes support for crop subsidies that preserve the livelihoods of small farmers and their workers.

Support for the subsidies is likely to be viewed as contentious in a global context because it flies in the face of Free Trade agreements with other nations, including Australia and many Third World countries, whose farmers are seeking access to the lucrative US market for their more competitive products.

The document is titled For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food: Catholic Reflections on Food, Farmers and Farmworkers. It will be tabled during the US Bishops' forthcoming meeting in the second week of November.

It outlines principles on agriculture policy and domestic and international trade issues. The action program it suggests includes targeting crop subsidies to small and moderate-size farms, keeping a watchful eye over the use of genetically modified crops, and increasing the pay of farmworkers, most of whom are immigrants.

The draft document observes that the "increasing concentration and growing globalisation" of agriculture are having the effect of "pushing some ahead and leaving others behind".

The US Bishops advocate an agricultural system that provides access to safe and affordable food, is broadly owned, supports the family farm and rural communities, protects the dignity of those who labor in the agriculture industry, and promotes the responsible stewardship of God's creation. They argue that what happens in rural America is "of critical importance to the quality of life for the rest of the United States and the world".

U.S. bishops to consider statement on agriculture (Catholic News Service)

US Conference of Catholic Bishops | Media Advisory: USCCB Annual Meeting, November 10-13, Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill | Agricultural Issues
Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
Forget FTA without agriculture, say farmers (The Age 28/10/03)
Bishop calls on politicians to address rural unemployment (5/9/03)
Seven steps towards regional equity (Catholic Welfare Australia 28/8/01)
A Just and Peaceful Land: Rural and Regional Australia in 2001 (Social Justice Statement) PDF
Fixing the rural/urban divide in Australia (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 24/9/01)
Parliament of Australia (Senate) - Jobs for the Regions: A report on the inquiry into regional employment and unemployment
Regional Unemployment Disparities (Dept of Economics, University of Melbourne
Catholic lobbyist says Telstra cuts will heighten rural disadvantage (28/5/03)

29 Oct 2003