Franciscans Consider Agricultural Issues: What Do the Bishops Say?

November 17, 2014

On this November, 17, 2014 Feast of Secular Franciscan St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy continues a series of posts on the U.S. Bishops Document on Agricultural issues.

As the season of harvest rolls around, let us continue our look at the U.S. Bishops’ document on agricultural issues. We have had a generalFranciscan St. Elizabeth of Hungary overview of their thoughts and gotten an idea of the focus groups addressed by this document. Now what do the Bishops have to say?

For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food states: “U.S. agriculture has demonstrated remarkable productivity and quality, thanks to the hard work, skills, and sacrifices of farmers and farmworkers. U.S. agriculture has given Americans and the world plentiful food, fiber, and other products at affordable prices. However, we live in a world where many are still hungry. We live in a nation where many family farmers are still struggling and where many have lost farms in recent decades. We live in a society where many farmworkers are still denied the opportunity to live a decent life.

We are also facing new challenges: for example, fewer people are making important decisions that affect far more people than in the past. These choices have serious moral implications and human consequences. These forces are pushing some ahead and leaving others behind. They are also pushing us toward a world where the powerful can take advantage of the weak, where large institutions and corporations can overwhelm smaller structures, and where the production and distribution of food and the protection of land lie in fewer hands.

Franciscan Sisters and guests gather around the dinner tableWith these reflections, we offer brief summaries of trends and relevant statistics. They focus more on problems than progress, more on human costs than economic achievements, more on who is left behind than on who is moving ahead. Beyond the numbers are images and contrasts that haunt us.

We know U.S. agriculture is changing in so many ways, but farmers still depend on whether it rains and on other forces of nature.

We are urged to eat foods that promote health, but most of us never think about the health and safety of those who harvest those fruits and vegetables.

We have learned that more than half of the coffee industry’s permanent labor force in Central America has lost their jobs as world coffee prices plummeted.

We celebrate the hard work and sacrifice of so many farm families and the traditional community values in rural towns. However, many of us do not realize how these virtues and values are threatened by powerful economic interests that make it more and more difficult for smaller farms and communities to survive and thrive.

These are areas which merit our study and prayer. At the next meal we eat, will we think of those who worked and perhaps even suffered to bring our food before us?


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