Farm Women United
National Day of Prayer for Farmers, Ranchers, and Fishermen
April 19, 2020
Farm Women United
“Taking Back Our Food Supply, One Farm Policy Project at a Time”
P.O. Box 113
Laceyville, PA 18630
March 9, 2020
Call to Prayer for America’s Farmers, Ranchers, and Fishermen
Dear Church Leader,
Farm Women United (FWU), advocates for a morally just food system that reflects God’s sovereignty over all of creation, has announced April 19, 2020, as a National Day of Prayer for Farmers, Ranchers, and Fishermen.
Because the problems oppressing farmers, ranchers, and fishermen are long-standing and too dire for those who are most grievously impacted to bear alone any longer, FWU is requesting the support and assistance of faith communities to join us in humbly petitioning God for His direct intervention in the current, worsening socio-economic crisis now overwhelming and crushing America’s traditional food producers. This is the final phase of an ill-advised policy agenda eliminating the vital rural class.
In a nation blessed with abundance and opportunity, traditional family farmers, ranchers, and fishermen face increasingly overwhelming obstacles in the production of food for our citizens. Globalization and corporate monopolies have exerted far-reaching control over the ag and food sectors. This has led to large profits at the corporate level, while bankrupting farmers. Family farm numbers continue to decline along with an accompanying reduction in food quality and, in some places, even supply.
Abundance of food has resulted in complacency. However, there are many disturbing things happening in agriculture that are largely unreported.
• Farmers are burdened with staggering debt. According to American Farm Bureau, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports “. . . farm debt stood at a record-high $409.5 billion, . . .” for 2018 (Market Intel, 1/24/19). 2019 figures have not been released yet, but no improvement is expected. A Forbes article (8/30/19) states, “2019 farm income should be in the bottom 25% of the past 90 years.” Milk price shortfalls for dairy farmers since the 2014 Farm Bill was passed have averaged at least $10 billion annually (source: Progressive Agriculture Organization), due to defective federal milk pricing policies that exclude what it costs farmers to produce milk. This has left dairy farmers dependent on demoralizing government hand-outs that, well-intentioned or not, are woefully insufficient to cover such deep financial losses. Rural communities also suffer when farmers are not paid an adequate price for their products since they depend on farmer revenue to sustain their own businesses.
• Farmers’ rate of return on their assets has been below 2% for the past 6 years according to USDA’s own Economic Research Service (ERS). Some expect 2019 figures to come in below 1 ½%.
• A handful of large corporations now control most of the US food supply.
• Intimidation of contract meat growers (farmers) by meatpackers is a fact of life. Farmers and ranchers who speak out risk losing their markets --- and some already have.
• Dairy farmers, the rightful owners of the milk cooperatives, are suffering intimidation by their own cooperative employees. Under a widely felt climate of fear, dairy farmers are not speaking out, because they face the risk of losing their milk markets if they object to how the cooperatives are being operated. Meanwhile, USDA and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) have a history of running cover for these corrupt entities.
• There has been a dramatic loss of competitive markets for farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, with many having only one outlet to market their product.
• Foreign companies are heavily invested in domestic food production, processing, and retailing.
• Farmers and ranchers have lost their equity, lost their retirement, lost their ability to pay their suppliers in a timely manner, lost their dignity, and feel misunderstood, marginalized, and scorned. They have lost their next generation of farmers, lost their hope, in some cases, lost their marriages, and some have lost their lives. They have been scoffed at by their cooperatives and “experts.” They have been ignored by politicians.
• This agricultural economic crisis affects everyone who eats. The United States exports a huge amount of food, but we import a huge amount as well. This puts downward pressure on farm-gate prices and increases our dependence on foreign food sources.
• Food travels an average of 1500 miles to get to your grocery store. Concerns remain about the prudence of a food system dependent on such long distances to the consumer with questions raised about energy use, possible impacts on weather patterns, and environmental issues.
• Increasingly, food is treated by various, questionable, industrial, “technological” processes, so that it will ship farther and store longer. Oftentimes, the nutritional value is compromised.
• Public awareness of food issues is crucial to promote public food and agricultural policies that place value on local food and traditional family farms. If changes are not made, these issues will continue to grow and threaten the ability that farmers have to feed this great nation.
• Farmers are under constant stress for reasons beyond their control, such as ongoing low farmgate prices, adverse weather conditions, new invasive pests, overbearing regulations, and more.
• Farmer suicide: According to a Farm Progress article (6/17/18), “Research by four Cal Poly San Luis Obispo agriculture communication students found that suicide rates in agriculture are five times higher than the national average-and shockingly, even double the rate for military veterans. Among the reasons: net farm income worries (the leading cause), social isolation among farmers, pesticide-induced issues, and the ever-present stigma related to mental health issues in this country . . . Other findings from the students’ report suggest: Suicide rates in agriculture are higher than for any other occupation: 84.5 per 100,000 people, according to the Center for Disease Control. Studies suggest suicide rates may be higher as some deaths are reported as accidents rather than suicides . . . Suicide rates are about 50 percent higher today than they were during the farm crisis of the 1980s.”
• The August 30,2019, Forbes article states, “National Farmers Union has seen more farmer suicides . . . Farm Progress hearing of more suicides . . . Farm Aid saw a 30% increase . . . . ‘during 2018 in calls to their farmer hotline . . . .’”
• Traditional family fishermen face many similar issues to those stated above.
Throughout scripture, an abundance of food is a sign of God’s blessing and scarcity, a sign of God’s judgment. Please participate in the National Day of Prayer for Farmers, Ranchers, and Fishermen. Pray for economic justice, and for just resolutions to the injustices being faced by farmers, ranchers, and fishermen in our country. While we are most hopeful that your church congregation will commit to praying for the urgent needs we have shared with you in this letter, this plea may lead your faith community to do more to enlarge awareness of this crisis by studying, from a perspective of faith, the multiple issues impacting not only the well-being and future of those families who actually produce the food but, also, all of us, who are the “eaters.”
Please contact Farm Women United and let us know if your church plans to participate in the National Day of Prayer for Farmers, Ranchers, and Fishermen. This will enable us to report your support to the beleaguered farmers, ranchers, and fishermen who will be encouraged and uplifted to know that you are keeping them and their special intentions in your prayers. We would also appreciate ongoing prayers as you feel led. Prayer suggestions and faith statements concerning the agricultural crisis are also attached.
Farm Women United
Mission Statement: Farm Women United seeks to maintain a serious, honest, and open dialogue, giving a voice to farmers who are the real stewards of the earth and the foundation of any free and civilized society. Farmers produce food that sustains life. We are a culture of life. Farm Women United seeks to restore cultural respect for farmers which will result in a just and equitable value being placed on the life-sustaining food which we produce and allow farmers to continue to produce food with dignity.
National Day of Prayer for Farmers
Thank God for blessing our nation with the resources and capability to produce an abundance of wholesome food.
Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.
This blessing can be taken away as a result of the corruption and greed of those who oppress farmers.
Psalm 107:33 -34
He turns rivers into a wilderness,
And the watersprings into dry ground;
A fruitful land into barrenness,
For the wickedness of those who dwell in it.
Pray that farmers would experience the peace of God’s presence.
"So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up."
Pray that farm families would experience God’s strength and protection to endure these difficult times.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Pray that farmers and their families would have mental stability.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!
For we are exceedingly filled with contempt.
Our soul is exceedingly filled
With the scorn of those who are at ease,
With the contempt of the proud.
Micah 2:2 They covet fields and take them by violence,
Also houses, and seize them.
So they oppress a man and his house,
A man and his inheritance.
Pray that farmers’ deep struggles would be understood by those around them.
"Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved."
Pray that God would raise up bold leadership that will confront industry leaders and politicians with the truth.
The Lord stands up to plead,
And stands to judge the people.
The Lord will enter into judgment
With the elders of His people
And His princes:
“For you have eaten up the vineyard;
The plunder of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing My people
And grinding the faces of the poor?”
Says the Lord God of hosts.
Pray for receptive and responsive political leadership.
If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.
Pray for economic justice for farmers.
Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
Pray that people will understand the value of local food and local farms.
So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.
Pray our land remains in the hands of free and independent American Farmers
so they can keep our nation fed.
Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God. ‘So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety.
The land is God’s and all that dwell in it, all the cattle on a thousand hills. Farmers are stewards of God’s creation and the caretakers of land and animals.
Increasingly, farmers face economic, global, and pricing pressures. Apart from farmers who are able to sell directly to their customers, a large majority of farmers, realistically, function as merely producers for a utilitarian ag economy in which they have no say over the price they receive for their products. Farmers are pushed to produce more with less.
Local food processing has been largely destroyed and replaced by national and international brands. Natural food quality and diversity have been replaced by unnatural food uniformity. Perishable food is increasingly treated by various industrial methods which violate the integrity and safety of food.
Mom and Pop stores have been replaced by national chain stores. In some places called “food deserts” the elimination of the Mom and Pop stores means nutritious food is no longer available.
Globalism has taken away protections from farmers worldwide, decimating traditional family farms. An ever-increasing percentage of our food is produced on foreign soil or by foreign workers on American soil. Our own traditional, generational, family farms have been run out of business. Farmers are broken as they feel responsible for losing these family farms.
The farming culture, where young children grow up learning important life-skills and responsibilities, is being destroyed. Appreciation for a diverse family farm system of agriculture is being lost. Along with the loss of family farms, is the knowledge that our aging farmers pass on to their children about how to produce our food.
The main streets of rural America have become ghost towns.
As farm numbers decline, so, too, does the public understanding of farmers. Many farmers feel overwhelmed, isolated, and misunderstood even to the point of despair.
Excerpts from Faith Community Statements Concerning Agricultural Policy
American Baptist Resolution on Family Farm Crisis June 1987
"The creation, including the land, water, air, and all living beings, is a gift from God. We live in a fragile relationship to the land. As we care for the land it cares for us and other living creatures. We are called to be responsible stewards—to conserve, sustain and renew the land with the hope that future stewards will also manage and enjoy.
Currently, many family farm operations in the United States are facing a severe economic crisis. The family farm involves a very large capital investment to realize a small net income. This potential income can quickly become a loss because of its vulnerability to economic, political and natural conditions.
The crisis is more than economic. It is also a crisis with psychological, social and spiritual dimensions that are having a profound impact on rural communities where farm families are the backbone. Issues of self-worth are being raised at the deepest level. Individuals, families and communities face the trauma of feelings of failure and forced change. Issues of faith and hope that sustain life’s meaning are being brought into question."
Auburn Baptist Church, Reverend Timothy Barnett 2000
The effect "...the loss of farms would have on a community is a moral one. Farmers generally raise the moral and ethical level of a community. Their families are generally stronger than average, which elevates the community...A fair base price to cover the cost of production is only reasonable. As a nation and individual communities, we are not prepared for the consequences that the loss of local dairy farmers would bring."
Agriculture with a Human Face
A Value System to Sustain an Agricultural Rural People (Catholic Bishop George H. Speltz)
"In the food and agriculture section of the U.S. Bishops’ Economic Justice for All pastoral, the bishops take the position that 'moderate-sized farms operated by families on a full-time basis should be preserved and their economic vitality protected.' (n. 233)"
"If the rural way of life is to be sustained, it must see agricultural work as eminently worthy of a farmer’s time and effort. When this value is forgotten, rural culture will be impoverished and with it the land."
"Unless the farmer is given fair prices for products, and is in other respects treated justly, he/she will be forced to compromise...values...and resort to a system of agriculture...driven by economic forces to the practical exclusion of values."
National Catholic Rural Conference 1995 Farm Bill Advocacy for a Just Farm Policy
"Infrastructure-encourage diverse and managed mechanisms for processing and marketing local/regional farm produce, capturing and retaining full production value potential at the community level..."
Lutheran Bishops’ Statement on the Farm Crisis, May 1999
"Lutherans understand that farming is a vocation-a calling- and that agriculture is basic to the survival and security of people at home and throughout the world. Agriculture provides the grain for our daily bread as well as producing the rest of our food supply. Without a bountiful and affordable food supply Americans would not enjoy the quality of life we do."
Excerpts from the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church 1996
". . . the relationship between farm products prices and incomes, farm debt and bankruptcies, forced land transfers and foreclosures, changes in the structure of agriculture, and tax policy continue to contribute to the loss of family farms... Many farmers have internalized the external cause of their losses, which has led to deep depression, spouse and family abuse, alcoholism, mental breakdown, divorce, suicide, participation in extremist groups, and, on rare occasions, murder."
Excerpts From Overture 99-8. On Advocacy for Survival of Family Farmers, Ranchers, and Rural Communities
The Presbytery of South Dakota overture the 211th General Assembly (1999) of the Presbyterian Church (U. S. A.)
"Monopolistic practices in food processing and vertical integration by processors are holding down prices to independent food producers. Food producers receive a disproportionately small share of the consumer food dollar, especially in terms of risk involved and the time the commodity is held."
For the full text of these and other church statements about the agricultural crisis, please visit www.farmwomenunited.org and click on the St. Brigid Society Page.
National Day of Prayer Press Release
Farm Women United
P.O. Box 113
Laceyville, PA 18623
For Immediate Release
Farm Women United Announces "National Day of Prayer for Farmers, Ranchers, and Fishermen"
Laceyville, PA, March 9, 2020-In light of the ongoing and worsening financial crisis facing farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, Farm Women United (FWU), advocates for a morally just food system that reflects God’s sovereignty over all of creation, has announced April 19, 2020, as a "National Day of Prayer for Farmers, Ranchers, and Fishermen." FWU is calling on faith communities, church congregations, religious associations, and individuals who are concerned about the humanitarian crisis afflicting rural America, to join together in prayer asking for God's intervention for relief of the socioeconomic suffering being endured by the families who produce America's food.
Over the past several years, these dedicated food producers have fallen deeper into financial hardship and emotional despair, with, seemingly, very little outside understanding or support. FWU is seeking prayer support, from all faiths, for farmers, ranchers, and fishermen in these difficult times, while just, long-term remedies are being sought.
Please pray for physical, mental, and emotional strength, as well as economic justice, with fair prices, for America’s beleaguered farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, who can no longer bear up under the stresses alone. They desperately need support, encouragement, advocacy, and, most urgently, prayers, as many have lost hope and are suffering despair, feeling abandoned and misunderstood.
FWU has prepared a packet of information, available upon request, to assist with this "National Day of Prayer for Farmers, Ranchers, and Fishermen." To receive this packet, please contact Farm Women United at (570) 267-7405, or email [email protected], or www.farmwomenunited.org/national-day-of-prayer.
National Day of Prayer Poster to post in area businesses or church foyers