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A letter to members of Congress from Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons

Advocating for a comprehensive Farm Bill, Parsons appeals to the witness of the 220th General Assembly (2012)

July 26, 2013

Louisville

On Friday, July 26, 2013, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, the Reverend Gradye Parsons, sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to complete a comprehensive Farm Bill that ensures access to food for hungry people, provides an ample safety net targeted to those small and mid-sized farmers who most need it, builds up rural communities and their economies, and protects the integrity of God’s creation through robust conservation programs and sustainable agriculture. 

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history not only of providing food and shelter for those in need in our local communities, but also of supporting a strong public-private partnership, where government ensures that vulnerable populations have access to a strong social safety net maintained by our collective commitment to the common good.  As a church, the PC(USA) has also long supported strong, rural communities, sustainable agriculture, and the promotion of conservation on working and vulnerable lands.

Last year, Congress allowed the Farm Bill to expire, even though it has historically been a strong bipartisan bill, drawing support not only from Democrats and Republicans, but also from those representing rural and urban districts. 

“Indeed, it would be more fitting to call this bill our Food Security Bill,” the letter reads in part, “because its implications are much broader than farm policy.”

The Stated Clerk’s letter urges Congress to maintain the symbiotic connection between the programs that provide food to hungry people and the programs that support food production. He also appeals to the witness of the 220th General Assembly (2012), which directed the Stated Clerk and the Office of Public Witness to “orient their advocacy and programs concerning agriculture and food supply in accordance with the following principles and goals: renewability, sustainability, resilience, minimized carbon emissions, participatory research and decision-making, revitalized rural communities, strong local food economies, security of food supply, ethical treatment of animals, and fair and dignified treatment of persons working throughout the food chain.”

For more information on the PC(USA)’s witness around healthy food and healthy farms, visit the official blog of the Office of Public Witness and the website of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

The full text of the letter:

July 26, 2013
The United States Congress
Washington, D.C.

Dear Members of Congress:

I write on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to urge you to complete a comprehensive Farm Bill that ensures access to food for hungry people, provides an ample safety net targeted to those small and mid-sized farmers who most need it, builds up rural communities and their economies, and protects the integrity of God’s creation through robust conservation programs and sustainable agriculture. 

With respect to current political debate, it is essential that the nutrition title be brought back into the larger Farm Bill.  It is no accident that the Farm Bill connects food production with hungry people and stewardship of our fields and rivers.  Long-term food security for our nation demands that the three be interconnected and considered together.  Indeed, it would be more fitting to call this bill our Food Security Bill, because its implications are much broader than farm policy.

In 2012, the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) directed me and our Office of Public Witness, in Washington, DC, to “orient [our] advocacy and programs concerning agriculture and food supply in accordance with the following principles and goals: renewability, sustainability, resilience, minimized carbon emissions, participatory research and decision-making, revitalized rural communities, strong local food economies, security of food supply, ethical treatment of animals, and fair and dignified treatment of persons working throughout the food chain.”

The same Assembly stated our conviction “that protection of the environment is a vital part of the Christian faith,” and supported the Land Institute’s Fifty Year Farm Bill, which proposes the perennialization of crops and protection for biodiversity, with the goal of social and ecological sustainability.

Hunger, food production, and care for our natural environment are inextricably linked.  We need a Farm Bill that ensures that food reaches hungry people, safeguards the environment, revitalizes rural communities, protects the security of food supply, enables strong local food economies, and empowers a sustainable agriculture movement.  I urge you to stop using the Farm Bill as a tool for partisan conflict and enact legislation that meets our calls to stewardship, sustainability, and the common good.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact Leslie Woods, Representative for Domestic Poverty and Environmental Issues in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness at (202) 543-1126 or leslie.woods@pcusa.org

Sincerely,

The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

  1. Our stated clerk not only advocates according to the guidelines given him by our General Assembly but also offers a cogent and biblically sound argument for doing so. So, if all advocacy is opinion, he supports this opinion well (in my opinion, of course).

    by Dick Sindall

    July 30, 2013

  2. John, with all due respect please reread the third paragraph of Parsons' letter. He acted as directed by the 220th General Assembly, not according to his own opinion.

    by Mark

    July 30, 2013

  3. These communications by the Stated Clerk irk me. While I am not indicating dissatisfaction with advocating for the hungry nor the "small-medium" sized farmer, where in Scripture or even in the excesses of General Assemblies is it written that these must go together in the same piece of legislation? They do not so belong is my opinion, which in this case is all that Rev. Parsons' expression is -- his opinion.

    by Rev. John A Johnson

    July 26, 2013

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