FCC releases report on Broadband Strategy for Rural America
While the country made the complete switch this weekend from analog to digital broadcast television, many parts of rural America are waiting for broadband services. Michael J. Copps, Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman, has released a report concluding that all rural Americans must have the opportunity to benefit from broadband services. It provides a starting point for developing policies on extending broadband to rural areas.
The report can be read at http://wireless.fcc.gov/outreach/index.htm?job=broadband_home
Affordable Health Insurance Elusive in Rural America
Family farmers and ranchers are considered small business owners and do not qualify for competitive health insurance rates. You can hear the challenges faced by Iowa farmer Linus Solberg in a story that aired this past weekend on National Public Radio.
You will also hear from Larry Harbour, an entrepreneur and rural small business owner in Nebraska. Larry is one accident away from losing it all. Insurance would cost his family at least $24,000 per year, so he and his wife go without.
Small business is the backbone of rural America, and Center for Rural Affairs Research Director Jon Bailey reports in the story that if you work for or own a small business, you are more likely to have inadequate health insurance, or none at all.
Midwest Rural Assembly
Midwest Rural Assembly set for August 10-11
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
As a sponsoring organization, NCRLC is excited about the Midwest Rural Assembly happening August 10-11 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This regional meeting will build on the policy work of the National Rural Assembly and link grassroots groups and community leaders with members of Congress and USDA staff. This is also an opportunity to share information and strategies to advance a sustainable rural development agenda for the greater Midwest region.
FYI: Besides a sponsoring organization of the Midwest Rural Assembly, NCRLC also participated in last summer's National Rural Assembly. That Assembly's founding document, the Rural Compact, and its Policy Opportunity Snapshots (pdf) have helped to raise both the visibility and the volume of our grassroots efforts with Congress and the new Administration.
Should the Church be involved in agriculture policy?
Farm Bill Summary
Farm Bill - Joint Letter to Congress
National Catholic Rural Life Conference Names New Executive Director
Ennis passionate about sustainable agriculture, ingenuity of rural people
Des Moines, Iowa -- Today Most Reverend Ronald Gilmore, president of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC), named James F. Ennis, executive director of the Des Moines-based nonprofit Catholic organization. "We look forward to Jim Ennis’ professional experience, business skills, and faith experience to help NCRLC apply the teachings of Jesus Christ for the social and economic development of rural America," said Gilmore, Bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas.
Ennis is currently Director for Food Alliance Midwest, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based affiliate of the national Food Alliance. Food Alliance operates a sustainable agriculture certification program for farms, ranches, and other food-based businesses interested in using ‘sustainability’ and related claims to differentiate and add value to food products, and to protect and enhance brands. Operating within 8 Midwest states, the program has grown under Ennis’ leadership from four farms in 2000 to over 75 certified farms and processors throughout the Midwest in 2007.
Ennis has over 18 years of marketing and project management experience, leading cross-functional teams in marketing both food and consumer products with The Pillsbury Company and The Clorox Company, respectively. Ennis earned an MBA degree, with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Davis, where he studied agricultural and managerial economics.
"I’m as passionate about sustainable agriculture as I am about the Catholic faith," said Ennis who spent six years in Christian ministry to college students including two years as a missionary assistant in Lusaka, Zambia in the late 1980s. "I look forward to providing spiritual, educational, and advocacy leadership to NCRLC as we support the ingenuity of rural people to shape their own destinies and lead lives of dignity," he added.
Ennis follows Br. David Andrews, CSC, as executive director of the organization that has been the rural voice of the Catholic Church for 85 years.
Key to Farm Bill Reform -- Who is a Farmer?
Farm Bill Payment Limits Fail
Please express your thanks to Senator Byron Dorgan for proposing the amendment and your disappointment to Senator Kent Conrad for opposing this reasonable attempt to target farm bill payments.
THE LATEST UPDATE ON THE FARM BILL; CALL YOUR SENATORS NOW
The full Senate is discussing and voting on The Food and Energy Security Act (HR 2419), the version of the Farm Bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee in November. We urgently need your help in supporting (1) reforms in commodity supports to help smaller and moderate-scale farmers and (2) critical funding for Food Stamps and emergency food assistance.
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED: Please call your senators at 1-800-826-3688.
[Note: This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask to be connected to your senator’s office in order to leave your message.]
MESSAGE: As the farm bill is debated in the Senate, ask your senators to
1) Support the Dorgan-Grassley Amendment to cap commodity payments at $250,000 per household.
2) Support fair competition amendments ensuring a strong Livestock Title.
3) Support amendments by Feingold-Menendez and Brown-Sununu that puts additional funding into nutrition, conservation, and rural development programs.
After many delays and false starts, the full Senate is voting on specific amendments to the farm bill. Your senators have a critical voice in deciding whether our farm bill will be changed in ways that benefit poor and hungry people here at home and around the world, make programs fairer for U.S. farm and rural families and enable poor farmers in poor countries to earn their way out of poverty. Their vote of support for the key amendments listed above is critical. Please call as soon as possible.
The Senate now has its chance to make agricultural programs fairer to all our farmers and livestock producers, and to strengthen the nutrition programs (especially the Food Stamp Program). This is the Senate’s opportunity to create a more just farm bill.
* Dorgan-Grassley Amendment: Would establish a hard cap for commodity payments at $250,000 per household, helping ensure payments are targeted where they are needed. The amendment would also make sure that payments flow to working farmers rather than their landlords. The money saved from capping payments to the largest producers and landowners would be redirected into nutrition and conservation programs.
* Livestock Title for fair competition: The Senate is amending the Livestock Title with significant reforms that are supported by sustainable agriculture and fair market advocates. These provisions will benefit independent beef and hog producers and provide contract protections for poultry growers. NCRLC is backing amendments by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).
* Feingold-Menendez Amendment: Would reduce the amount of direct payments to very large farm operations and re-direct funding to conservation, rural development, and nutrition programs for the needs of many.
* Brown-Sununu Amendment: Would reduce the amount of funds going into crop insurance programs and re-direct funds to nutrition and conservation programs.
SOME KEY POINTS:
Current commodity programs concentrate payments at the upper end of the income scale for farmers who grow program crops, like cotton, corn, wheat, soybeans and rice. This concentration trend has accelerated in recent years. This must change so that small and mid-size family farms receive necessary farm safety-net supports.
A fair and balanced farm bill for the U.S. also requires consideration of its impact on poor farmers overseas. Please ensure that our farm support programs do not make it more difficult for poor farm families in low-income countries to earn their way out of poverty.
Over 35 million Americans -- including more than 12 million children -- struggle to have sufficient food in their homes. New investments made in the Food Stamp Program of the Senate bill are not secure and will be taken away in five years. Please ensure that Nutrition Title improvements do not sunset in 2012.
Current farm and rural development programs are not serving the urgent needs of rural America. Ask your senators to prioritize the needs of vulnerable rural communities as they vote on the 2007 farm bill.
Make the primary focus of U.S. food aid programs the feeding of hungry people by the most effective and efficient means available and building long-term food security.
Action Alert: Farm Bill Priorities
Call Your Senators Today
Ask Them to Support Amendments that Feed the Hungry and Target Farm Supports to Those Who Need It Most
The Senate will be voting on The Food and Energy Security Act (HR 2419), the version of the Farm Bill approved by its Senate Agriculture Committee last week. We urgently need your help in supporting critical funding for Food Stamps and emergency food assistance; reforms in commodity supports to help smaller and moderate scale farmers; as well as support for conservation programs that benefit all rural communities.
Immediate Action Required:
Call Senator Byron Dorgan and Senator Conrad (click for contact information.) Urge our Senators to:
Vote YES on amendments that provide additional funding for Food Stamps and for emergency food assistance (TEFAP). The Senate Agriculture Committee-approved bill contains $1 billion less in new investments for the Food Stamp Program and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) than the House-passed bill (H.R. 2419).
Vote YES on the Dorgan-Grassley amendment, which ensures support for U.S. farmers who need it most. Today 66 percent of commodity payment programs go to 10 percent of our nation’s farmers, the biggest and most affluent. Urge the Senate to pass a fair commodity title that better targets payments to those who need them while closing loopholes that have permitted the powerful to collect multiple payments. The status quo, which directs the majority of payments to large and wealthy agribusinesses while leaving behind the majority of farm families, is unacceptable.
Vote YES on amendments that reduce trade-distorting subsidies. Our brothers and sisters who till the land in developing countries, where three-quarters of the population rely on small-scale farming for their livelihood, are struggling to survive in an increasingly global market that stymies their efforts to feed their families and work their way out of poverty.
Support the Food Aid provisions of the bill. Support the committee bill which provides for a “safebox” with no waivers, and sets aside $600 million of PL 480 Title II resources for development programs. We must protect Title II resources that address chronic hunger, in order to mitigate future emergencies and to help the poorest reach long term food security. Oppose attempts to weaken Committee-passed provisions on Food Aid.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services have been working together to seek a new kind of Farm Bill that reflects a commitment to feed the hungry at home and abroad, to offer effective support for those who till the land, while promoting fairness and equity for farmers and ranchers. We especially support efforts to target agriculture resources to those who need help the most rather than those who need it least.
The 2007 Farm Bill was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 2419) this summer. The Senate expects to begin voting on its version of the Farm Bill the week of November 5. The bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee makes important investments in conservation and includes key provisions for beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers. However, more needs to be done to address the inequities in farm supports, especially programs that are trade distorting and that harm farmers in developing countries. While ensuring a genuine farm safety net, savings from greater fairness improvements need to be used for nutrition assistance to low-income people, conservation and rural development.
We will continue to work for fairness and justice in our food and farm policies as the Farm bill moves to conference committee for final passage, possibly before Thanksgiving.
The U.S. Bishops have stated that "the primary goals of agricultural policies should be providing food for all people and reducing poverty among farmers and farmworkers in this country and abroad." (For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food: Catholic Reflections on Food, Farmers and Farmworkers). See letters on USCCB’s 2007 Farm Bill priorities at: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/agric.shtml.
Click here for a pdf copy of the Action Alert.
Farm Bill Out of Committee -- Conrad's Take
National Catholic Rural Life Conference Seeks Director
The nonprofit, membership-based National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) is seeking an Executive Director. Applications are invited immediately. The Executive Director has overall management responsibility for NCRLC and its four pillars of advocacy, outreach, education and spirituality. NCRLC is based in Des Moines, Iowa and currently has a staff of four. The executive director is expected to have experience in rural pastoral life, sustainable agriculture and food policy. Fundraising and program development are important elements. He/she reports to a national Board of Directors. Full job description at www.ncrlc.com.
Send a cover letter, your resume and salary history by November 12, 2007 to:
Sr. Christine Pratt, NCRLC Search Committee, 537 Lime St., Fremont, OH 43420
Or email to email@example.com
Letter on Farm Bill
North Dakota 101
An Orientation to the Northern Plains for Clergy from
October 8 - 9, 2007
Maryvale at Valley City
Sponsored by the eleven member denominations of the
North Dakota Conference of Churches
For All New or Experienced Clergy, Church Workers, and Their Spouses
Effective ministry in any setting requires a knowledge of the people and the place — the history, culture and realities of life in the area. Whether you are new to the ministry or have years of experience, North Dakota 101 is designed to help you gain a greater understanding of North Dakota, its people, and life on the Northern Plains. Speakers include representatives from a variety of fields and veteran pastors who will share their knowledge of North Dakota. This annual event is an enlightening experience and opportunity to meet others from around the state who face similar challenges.
For more information, download the brochure or contact the North Dakota Conference of Churches at: 701-226-8037; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conrad Farm Bill Meetings
Hillsboro Farm Bill Meeting
Lynn Kritzberger Farm
¾ of a mile west of the 104 Interchange off I29
Tuesday, August 28 at 2 p.m
Mandan Farm Bill Meeting
Kevin and Yvonne Schmidt Farm
5105 Hwy 1806, Mandan
Wednesday, August 29 at 10 a.m
U.S. House of Representatives Passes Historic Farm Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives today passed a new Farm Bill that makes historic investments in fruit and vegetable production, conservation, nutrition and renewable energy while maintaining a strong safety net for America's farmers and ranchers.
"This Farm Bill is about much more than farms. It is about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and increasingly the fuel we will use. It assures that we will have a safe, strong food supply now and for years to come," Chairman Peterson said.
"I am proud of the balanced and forward-looking Farm Bill that we have passed supporting conservation, nutrition, rural, renewable energy, labor, and farm country."
Important highlights of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) include:
. Investing more than $1.6 billion in priorities to strengthen and support the fruit and vegetable industry in the United States. A new section for Horticulture and Organic Agriculture includes nutrition, research, pest management and trade promotion programs.
. Implementing Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for fruit, vegetables and meat after years of delay.
. Expanding the USDA Snack Program, which helps schools provide healthy snacks to students during after-school activities to all 50 states and continuing the DOD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides a variety of fresh produce to schools.
. Strengthening and enhancing the food stamp program by reforming benefit rules to improve coverage of food costs and expand access to the program with additional funding support.
. Including key provisions that invest in rural communities nationwide, including economic development programs and access to broadband telecommunication services.
. Providing farmers participating in commodity programs with a choice between traditional price protection and new market-oriented revenue coverage payments.
. Strengthening payment limits to ensure that people making more than $1 million a year (adjusted gross income) can't collect conservation and farm program payments and closing loopholes that allow people to avoid payment limits by receiving money through multiple business units.
. Extending and making significant new investments in popular conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, and many others.
. Making important new investments in renewable energy research, development and production in rural America.
. Rebalancing loan rates and target prices among commodities, achieving greater regional equity.
. Establishing a new National Agriculture Research Program Office to coordinate the programs and activities of USDA's research
agencies to minimize duplication and maximize coordination at all levels and creates a competitive grants program.
. Protecting and sustaining our nation's forest resources.
The House of Representatives passed the 2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) by a vote of 231-191. The Senate must now consider the Farm Bill.
The 2002 Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2007.
ND Conference of Churches to Host Conference with NCRLC Speaker
FAITHFUL STEWARDSHIP: CLIMATE & ENERGY
MEDINA - “Faithful Stewardship: Climate & Energy” will be the topic of the annual Rural Life Convocation to be held on August 19 – 20, sponsored by the Rural Life Committee of the North Dakota Conference of Churches.
Tim Kautza, a science and environmental specialist with the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) will lead the convocation. Kautza, who was recently named NCRLC’s interim executive director, brings 30 years of natural science experience with a masters degree in education to faith issues and parish ministry. Kautza will lead discussions of the principles of faithful stewardship and energy, and personal, community and societal stewardship opportunities.
Also serving as a resource person for the event will be Renee Gopal of Ashley, ND, who is the Project Coordinator of the Prairie Climate Stewardship Network. She will introduce the work of the newly formed non-profit organization in the state which is seeking to build public and private support for climate stewardship initiatives in the Northern Plains and to increase public understanding of global climate change. Gopal is the former executive secretary of the North Dakota Conference of Churches.
The Rural Life Convocation which is conducted annually by the Rural Life Committee of the North Dakota Conference of Churches, focuses on issues of concern to the rural faith community. “No matter how we understand the issues of energy and the global climate, we recognize that this is a matter of stewardship for the faith community,” according to Pastor Karl Limvere of Medina, who chairs the Rural Life Committee. “As stewards of creation, we have a responsibility to both better understand our impact upon the global environment and to take appropriate actions so that future generations will be able to enjoy the fullness of the creation we have been given.”
The event will be hosted by the Zion United Church of Christ in Medina. Persons interested in participating in the Rural Life Convocation are asked to contact: Lisa Jacobson, Executive Secretary, NDCC,. PO Box 123, Mandan, ND 58554. Telephone 701-226-8037 email@example.com. Registration forms will also be available from many local churches. A $50 registration fee covers meals, room, and materials.
Karl Limvere, Chair
Rural Life Committee, NDCC
PO Box 725, Medina, ND 58467
Farm Bill Update from NCRLC
The House Agriculture Committee continues its markup of the Farm Bill and expects to complete this process before the July 4th recess. During this coming week, the House subcommittee on General Commodities and Risk Management will complete their work, followed by full committee markup scheduled for June 26-28. House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) is guaranteed floor time for the week of July 16th.
The House encourages the public to follow the development of the Farm Bill. The House Ag Committee has created a webpage (http://agriculture.house.gov/inside/2007FarmBill.html) where you can get updates on the Farm Bill process and read markups of subcommittee work.
The Senate version of the Farm Bill is expected to come to full committee during the latter part of July. Senate hearings on the Farm Bill are found at http://agriculture.senate.gov/
The National Catholic Rural Life Conference continues our effort to provide information and perspectives on farm and food policy. Visit http://www.ncrlc.com/FarmBillCampaign.html
------------------------------- FAITH GROUPS VISIT CONGRESS ABOUT FARM BILL
On June 10-12, church groups and members of Bread for the World gathered in Washington, DC to advocate for a Farm Bill that helps reduce hunger, supports family farms and protects the environment. Hundreds of advocates from around the country walked the halls of Congress to let their representatives know that it¹s time for a new farm bill.
For those unable to make it to Washington, you can still be a part of this effort. First, visit www.bread.org and learn more about their efforts to serve the needs of those who hunger. Second, visit the advocacy website of Church World Service "Sow Justice for Family Farmers -- and send letters to your representative and senators: http://capwiz.com/churchworld/issues/alert/?alertid=9872046&type=TA
Finally, stay tuned through NCRLC e-bulletins to further advocacy days in the weeks ahead, including the voice of Catholic groups involved in many aspects of the Farm Bill -- from nutrition and food aid, to commodities and trade, and on through conservation, bioenergy and rural development programs.
Br. David Andrews, CSC to Step Down as National Catholic Rural Life Director
Br. David Andrews, CSC, executive director of NCRLC since 1994, has announced his resignation to the President and Board of NCRLC. He will complete his service on May 30th. During his 13 years as executive director, Br. Dave advanced the work and presence of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference to the Church, rural America and global efforts supporting family farmers and rural communities.
In his letter to the Board, Br. Dave said he deeply appreciates his many years serving within NCRLC as Executive Director, which followed ten years as a member of the Board of Directors and its committees. "I've also had the benefit of working with outstanding bishops at many levels, at the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, at the Holy See, and generally in my many travels. I hope you will always convey my gratitude to our bishop leaders. I appreciate the work that has been rendered on behalf of this notable ministry of NCRLC."
Br. Dave expressed his "appreciation of the wonderful staff with whom I've been working for these past years." NCRLC currently has six staff members in the Des Moines office and a seventh member based in Baltimore, Maryland. The Board of NCRLC plans to appoint an interim director and will begin a search for a new executive director after June 1st.
Br. Dave is looking forward to a sabbatical when he formally departs at the end of May. He plans to relocate to the Chicago area and, among other activities, serve more fully as the Coordinator of Peace and Justice for his Congregation of Holy Cross. Br. Dave will also remain involved in various commissions and networks as part of his abiding commitment to sustainable livelihoods in rural and agricultural communities.
As is usual for his work as NCRLC executive director, Br. Dave has a busy travel schedule over the next few weeks. If you would like to express your appreciation for his many years of service, you can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to 4625 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50310.
Senate Field Hearing on Farm Bill
Farm Bill Town Meetings
• 9:00 am Lisbon --Eagles 6410 Highway 32, Lisbon, ND
• 3:00 pm Napoleon -- Downtowner Steakhouse 310 Main, Napoleon, ND
• 10:00 am Mohall -- American Legion Hall 807 Highway 5 E, Mohall, ND
• 4:00 pm Parshall -- Legion Hall Main Street, Parshall, ND
• 9:00 am Dickinson -- Gate City Bank Community Room, 204 Sims, Dickinson, ND
• 4:00 pm (3:00 pm MST) Flasher -- 21 Club 110 6th Avenue West, Flasher, ND
• 9:00 am New Rockford -- Dakota Roadhouse 381 1st St S, New Rockford, ND
• 3:00 pm Drake -- KC Hall Cedar Street, Drake, ND
• 9:00 am Park River -- Legion Hall 820 5th Street, Park River, ND
• 3:00 pm Portland -- KT Hall 719 Bennett Avenue, Portland, ND