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Guest Blogger: "A Chance to Help Those Who Need It Most" by David Beckmann

(Photo by Robin Holland)

We'd like to thank Rev. Beckmann of Bread for the World for his additional thoughts on aiding America's hungry and his hopes for new farm bill legislation.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Rev. Beckmann are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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A Chance to Help Those Who Need It Most

Rev. David Beckmann
President, Bread for the World

I have been reflecting on the increasing challenges our nation’s low-income families face in their struggle to have enough to eat each day, especially in light of the negotiations going on in Congress for a new farm bill.

This week, with congressional conference committee members now named, we are presented with a renewed opportunity to get the farm bill back on a path to genuine reform. We have until April 18 to reach an agreement – or extend it further -- before the 2002 farm bill expires.

To deliver a farm bill that contains genuine reforms, congressional negotiators must be guided by two principles – principles that transcend politics-as-usual and are aimed at helping those who need it most.

The first is that the new farm bill must reform current commodity programs to establish a more equitable system of support. These will target U.S. farmers of modest means – who truly can use the help -- and will ensure a level playing field for poor farmers in developing countries, who comprise the majority of the world’s hungry people.

The second is that the new farm bill must redirect the billions of dollars in savings generated by genuine reform of commodity programs to strengthen our country’s nutrition programs, including the Food Stamp Program, our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. The savings must also go to support farms and rural families of modest means, through rural development programs and enhanced conservation.

My reflection was heightened by the sobering statistics about what’s on the dinner tables of the lowest-income Americans – and what is not – which translates, for me, into a rallying cry that Congress do what’s right and just.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the monthly grocery costs for a typical low-income family shot up 7.2 percent in 2007 – a three-fold increase over the previous year. But, the average family’s allotment of food stamp benefits grew by less than five percent. We also know that most people can only stretch their food stamp benefit to the third week each month.

Last year, the number of households participating in the food stamp program increased 5.6 percent. This year, with our economy in deep trouble, it’s going to get worse. The latest report says that probably 28 million Americans will receive food stamps by the the end of 2008, a million and a half more than 2006.

That’s why we need to reform commodity payments in the farm bill. Without such a reform, the farm bill will continue to direct money to millionaire farmers instead of meeting the basic food needs of low-income Americans.

The congressional conference committee can, and must deliver a farm bill that, at the very least, keeps the nutrition programs at the House-approved level of $11.5 billion over 10 years. It is reprehensible to keep subsidizing prosperous farmers when food stamp recipients are getting squeezed by skyrocketing food prices and the ailing economy. This is our chance to help those who need most – our hungry and poor fellow Americans.


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Comments

I am from Ethiopia,no father,no income 7 in number for our family my mother has no job we donot have who thought us.
Please shall I get ajob or apportunity learning i am the first for my family 23 years old.
I pray you in the name of Jesus christ.

Dear; tender hearted ones out there,

Feel free to email me and ask any questions or reports you want, This is a VERY real situation that I am in and do not know where to turn next. I have a very rare illness a type of Vasculitis that will allow me to live in Canada my country only six months the other 6 coldests months, I cannot breath and walk or talk I LITERALLY go into strokes. The M:R. I. of my brain shows 12 small ruptured veins. PatHoy`s secretary as well as the manager of the brain injury association in Chatham-kent have writen on my behalf to O.H.I.P. and others to get me financial help ALL to no avail.

We have managed with a little help to go out of country for 5 yrs now and accumulated $30,000 in debt. When we return this yr. to Canada from Colombia South America, we will have to declare bankruptsy and loose our car. I AM NOT ASKING FOR FINANCIAL HELP TO COVER OUR DEBTS THAT`S TOO MUCH TO ASK!!! Only one yr. more of life. PLEASE!!! This costs $5,000 for both plane fairs for my husband and I and transportation of taxis and buses and an apartment and some medical needs. THIS WOULD MEAN THE WORLD TO US!!! AND TO KNOW IN ADVANCE!! It is stress that can speed my illness!
We have a ^HUMAN`S RIGHT COURT ORDER FOR THE RIGHT TO LIFE^from COLOMBIA, SOUTH AMERICA!!! IMAGINE THAT!!! I AM A CANADIAN NOT A COLOMBIAN! The help for specialists and M.R.I.`s and some drugs but not everything.
PLEASE If you cannot help at all direct me through email to the people who will help me. I spent over 25 yrs in the volunteer work. It feels SOO good to help others but it feels sooo humiliating to be the one in need and asking.

Sincerely, Leah Diaz

Barack Obama should consider enlisting Emma Coleman James, Georgetown University professor in government and finance and a recent Bill Moyers Journal show guest, to be part of his administration. She is brilliant!

i have alots of economics problem with my familly

so much food goes to waste daily...grocery stores and restaurants dumping food when it could go to food banks and shelters. not in florida anymore! this 11 tear old kid in florida got a bill passed that may change all of that.
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/food/orl-jack1308apr13,0,6924963.story

Monopoly capitalism is a failure. A successful political economy would be able to offer everyone a healthy diet under a sustainable regime while stabilizing population. The paradox is that we still possess the resources and the know-how to do this, but will not.
Once necessities are taken care of we could entertain discussion of entrepreneurship and profit as reward for service to the commomweal. What have the big execs done for the planet lately? An ocean of Greenwash? First things first. As Linda Verde (of Austin, Tx.) says,"Keep it simple, Stupid!"

C. Kimble,

Please note that politicians may or may not own any farms. But rest assured, that the corporate farms own the politicians.

The political process is rigged in favor of corporate money. You and I must change it. We must prohibit corporate money in any political process. We must change the notion that a corporation is a "legal person" with a voice as loud as its bankroll.

Unfortunately, the playing field probably won't be leveled until there is blood in the streets.

C. Kimble,

Please note that politicians may or may not own any farms. But rest assured, that the corporate farms own the politicians.

The political process is rigged in favor of corporate money. You and I must change it. We must prohibit corporate money in any political process. We must change the notion that a corporation is a "legal person" with a voice as loud as its bankroll.

Unfortunately, the playing field probably won't be leveled until there is blood in the streets.

The "Economic Stimulus Package" will put a few dollars in everyone's pocket. I suggest that those of us, who can afford to, contribute all or part of it to the local food bank. To stimulate the economy, the money must be spent. Do your patriotic duty and spend it helping the needy.

C. Collins, you are copping out and making excuses for sitting on your hands. Immigrants illegal or otherwise,in need of food, came here to fill the jobs that you wouldn't. They work for wages that aren't enough to feed their children. You sound like a lot of neocon "Christians" that have forgotten that Jesus taught us to raise up the downtrodden, not cast them aside.

Besides, would you deny "Americans" your help for fear that a few crumbs might fall into the "wrong hands"? Shame.

Let the politicians march to their own drummers. You and I must still do the proper thing for our fellow man.

Best wishes and deep silent prayers for our troubled world.

I'm sure we've all heard about what is going on in the world due to increases in food prices ( esp. rice ). Naturally as food prices increase, some or all of this increase will be passed on to consumers. This will increase the number of people on food stamp programs as they will progressively be able to afford less food.

My point however is that don't make the cure worse than the disease. The only way we can increase the food stamp program is by taxing ( or increasing the debt ) on everyone else ( easy solutions like taxing the rich are Ok, but probably will only be able to cover the deficit - it is time we faced the fact that extra expenditures will come a good part from us - the middle class ). Once we get that into focus we realize that although the plight of the poor is bad, let's not make everyone else more poor to cure it.

Naturally I'd be in favor of Farm Bills that cut subsidies to the farmers ( often doing pretty well nowadays ) to help the poor. But many bills in congress are promoted using false means: you take a bill we would all be against ( like corporate subsidies ) and you marry it to something most people can't refuse ( like milk for children ). That is a false dilema. It comes straight out of Marketing 101.

I am also a Bread for the World member and have been advocating about the Farm Bill for almost a year now. I am satisfied to see the emotional response here of so many viewers. If you were outraged by the information in this Journal, consider becoming engaged in the fight against hunger. As mentioned before, www.bread.org is a great source of information from Bread for the World. We are a Christian advocacy group yet we are an inclusive organization (we have members and staffers of other religions). For those desiring a more secular flavor of advocacy, visit www.results.org. Both orgs alert their members to key legislation timing and educate about how individuals can work together to make change.

This show was a blockbuster! So much I -and millions of Americans are not aware of... I can only hope that it IS possible to produce a rational, just Farm Bill that corrects the problems and serves our democracy honorably.
This show, and the Frontline show on Health Care must be seen by Americans to equip them to make decisions on these critical aspects of our lives.

All those who want to help Ms. Walker but don't know how can probably find a Ms. Walker in their own community & help her.

Your excellent program made me sick at my stomach & discouraged enough to consider turning off my TV, tossing out my newspaper, turning off NPR & burying myself in the fiction section of the library. I have just about had it, and I have little hope that the American people will act to bring about a change in this country. I'm ready to wash my hands of it in despair & just sit back and watch it die.

I think David Beckmann (Bread for the World) is a good man who is kidding himself. The policy makers don't want to end hunger. They are for whoever can fund their re-election. He said, "...because American voters get it." I don't think American voters get it - or they wouldn't put the same bast**** back in office time & time again.
And Bill mentioned Marie Antoinette. Well, we know what it took to get rid of her. Do we need a French Revolution? Maybe so. I don't think things will change until people are in the streets - and I don't think America has the guts for that anymore. We want our big screen TV's for our Super Bowls & our fast foods & our gated compounds.

This expose reveals how Fat Cat Farmers scam the system of Billions of Our tax dollars, build McMansions on land that they're paid Not to grow rice on, and made a killing in huge payouts due to the Shuttle Disaster when pieces of the space craft fell on their "farmlands" ...while real, hard-working farmers can't make ends meet, and have to fight to keep the Trans- Texas Corridor from taking their land and their towns by "Right of Imminent Domain"! With NAFTA our "cheap," Subsidized Corn is being exported to Mexico with the immediate result of driving more than 100,000 poor Mexican Farmers off their land because they can't compete with with U.S. subsidized corn prices. No wonder where these poor people will have to go....
Please, today, add your own comment to Bread for the World's Letter to our Representatives in both the House and Senate.
Following is my recommen- dation For a Fair Farm Bill with a healthy economic stimulus:
This Farm Bill must include an Industrial Hemp Clause that allows our American farmers to grow Industrial Hemp, i.e. The Industrial Hemp Act of 2007 sponsored by Congressmen Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich!
I’m a baby-boomer who learned in the 70’s the true meaning of the term “Appropriate Technology,” as addressed in E. F. Schumacher’s book, "Small is Beautiful, ECONOMICS AS IF PEOPLE MATTERED." Both Schumacher and Buckminster Fuller viewed the Planet as a Living Spaceship with a Closed System which had to be Properly Maintained by Humans. Using Dirty Fuels like Coal, Oil, Gas, and Atomic Energy is Not Appropriate when we have geothermal, oceans and wind to power energy in some places, volcanoes and Sun in other places. Almost everywhere on "Spaceship Earth" People can grow HEMP for food, fuel, fiber, Oil, plastics, paint, paper etc. Some American Indians be- lieved every generation must live for the next 7 generations. All we have to do is KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid !!! CLEAN - GREEN - BIODEGRADABLE -ORGANIC - ECO FRIENDLY - APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY! AND WE WANT IT IN THIS FARM BILL NOW!

Waiting in Texas to Retire from the Airline Industry and Become an ORGANIC HEMP FARMER.....
Linda Verde
Austin, Texas

I am currently taking a Permaculture Design Certifcation Course. Permaculture is about building and establishing sustainble systems like food production that is local and sustainable.

Currently there are over 400,000 certified Permaculturists. but we need more.

Our current agricultural system is broken severely. Our food sources should not be so tied to supply and demand as we need this to live.

We have to get back to LOCAL economies.. LOCAL production. Everyone needs to learn how to garden again. Find out in your community how Community gardens are working to help make your community more stable with regards to food needs.

Starvation is not a lack of food issue. It is a improper use of design and production methods. We have lost control of the means of producing food. We are reliant on market forces and agribusiness to provide for us. We need to reclaim that. We can.. but we have to do it now. There are solutions out there.

There is a saying "beware of falling food". This was in reaction to the Food Drops in Africa where starvation is common. Dropping food on planes and food pantries are only bandaids. We have to move beyond that concept and reclaim our ability to produce food ourselves. It is within our grasp.. there are tools out there. We merely have to work with them.!
Namaste
Caelidh
Cincinnati

It seems that the system is overwhelmingly broken. There is just too much corruption, too much greed (look at the housing crunch, did anyone care that the client couldn't pay? No, they just wanted their commissions and their bosses wanted the numbers on their books to sell later). Everything is too expensive for the average worker. That's why we're in the crisis we're in now. As long as politicians protect big business the little guy will never get ahead.

Re: When are republicans going to understand that in a capitalist system...

They won't! The first and the only thing that a true capitalist understands is ROI. Done! If he/she doesn't, then he/she gets smashed by the competition. These are the basics. What is maybe less obvious is that the current level of globalization allows them to live (buy real estate), invest and do business (exploit the workforce) all around the world. Basically, whenever there is an occasion, they don’t really care about us - an expensive US workforce that doesn't bring them desirable ROI in this country any more.
Are we doomed? I think so, unless we understand that the era of Great American Concept of Capitalism died with the 20th century... and vote accordingly.

When are republicans going to understand that in a capitalist system; the consumers are just as important as the manufacturers? People have to have sufficient wages in order to buy the products that manufacturers produce.
Economics is the life blood of the society. Without the efficient exchange of goods and services; the society bleeds to death. Everyone is concerned that children are provided with the necessities of life. Yet they ignore the fact that the children suffer when their parents cannot care for them properly.
Why do people vote for republicans when they know that they have a record of ignoring people's needs?
People get a few extra bucks in their pocket and they think they are above caring about those in need and vote against their own best interests as well as against the quality of our society. People need to have sufficient wages to support Good Government and a Quality Society.

In reference to the final moments of "help US"...
In the future, I beg of BMJ not to show things like interviewee Tom McGarry (mustachioed gentleman who lost his job due to defense cutbacks) lighting up a cigarette laid over tape of him bemoaning the quality of food that he is given. As a food bank volunteer, small-fry philanthropist, economics student, amateur lobbiest/campaigner/voter for progressive minded candidates, and as an American...that visual made my blood boil. How dare he take food from the mouths of children and the elderly when he clearly has the means to take less and how dare he do so on national television with so little shame. I applaud PBS and BMJ for showing the reality on the ground and I expect nothing less, but oh how I wish he'd had the decency to wait 45 seconds to light up. Perhaps kicking the habit would free up some spare change for "good" food, Tom.

In response to C.Collins' concern over "illegal aliens", many illegals are here because they were hungry too...remember NAFTA? It made farming untenable for nearly a million Mexican farmers. Hunger feels the same no matter who you are, and true compassion doesn't have boundaries.

Under Title I more than 90% of the $11.3 billion average annual payout, goes to producers of corn, cotton, wheat, rice, soybeans and sorghum, with just 10% of farms receiving 74% of these subsidies. Fruit and vegetable growers and the vast majority of small and mid-sized farms get nothing. While these crops are overproduced and sell on global markets at below production cost, most U.S. corn and soybeans, as well as sorghum are fed to animals at corporate-owned and vertically integrated industrial food animal production facilities, giving them a hefty financial advantage at tax payer expense. (Although corn has also been increasingly used in ethanol production). Animal production, in addition to contributing to 18% of global warming, horrific animal suffering, extreme water usage and poor human health, also consumes an inordinate amount of grain making it an unworthy beneficiary of tax payer dollars.

Overpopulation and irresponsible reproduction habits are issues that need to be seriously addressed as well. We're consuming our finite supply of resources at an alarming rate, over polluting the planet and creating an environment for serious shortages and increased poverty.

Blake Barton Renfro: Did you ever stop to think that what has changed since 1880 is not the number of wealthy farmers, but the number of chattel slaves, sharecroppers, dirt poor laborers and children they use for production. It was never these hungry hostages who clamored for legislative advantage, and when government money came down it might have their name on the voucher, but the Bigman got it by debt peonage or fraud. both Richard Hofstadter and Nell Painter miss the point that America has always been a rigged system, siphoning wealth upward. You and Beckmann are missing it too.
Ulla: I hope the hormones in hotdogs drive your endocrine system bonkers, so that when you and your expensive camera homeland to face-eating Iceland they will think you are an old man Hobbit. Girl, have you never seen a factory farm with the manure lagoons, raw legged animals in misery. Try taking some pictures of the underpayed bedraggled immigrants who butcher our meat. Maybe yours is only a joke-post from some wise guy suggesting a horny girl is in love with a bratwurst.
Ivan Brugere (freegan): Writing a thesis or disertation about dumpster diving sounds interesting. I am intrigued. Do freegans eat meat or just day old pastries? I agree that good food should not be trashed, but fresh would be better. Why should I have to eat garbage just because I'm poor? I guess I operate like you freegans do, except I housesit and clean out affluent people's pantries. I've eaten so much walnuts, pistaccios and pecans lately I'm starting to get tongue blisters.
All you people who are looking for that one old lady in New York: There's probably a busload just like her in your community, maybe one in your family. I know how safe it seems to help remotely and soothe your scabby conscience, but people need love and caring up close as much or more than material help. Can anyone tell me about TIMEdollars, about Community Exchange? Stop shopping and start living!

I appreciate David Beckmann’s optimistic and pragmatic solution to end hunger and address the issue of poverty in America. Finally, someone has put this into a global perspective; perhaps, this is a sign of the times. However, we should also keep in mind the history of the farmer’s lobby in American history. Richard Hofstadter, in his work The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F. D. R. (Vintage, 1955), examined how Populist sentiments of the 1880’s and 1890’s were achieved by the Progressives. Hofstadter argued that, by the late nineteenth-century, farmers were fully integrated into a global economy and embraced an entrepreneurial spirit, just like the leading industrialists of the age. Yet, they attempted to maintain a separate identity by embracing an “agrarian myth,” depicting themselves as, “the innocent pastoral victims of a conspiracy hatched in the distance” (p. 35). In the Progressive era, as urbanization increased and farms decreased, “a congenial political climate made it possible for a number of old agrarian reform proposals to be realized.” Farmers, once the enemies of big business, accepted the benefits of an industrialized economy. Hofstadter concluded: “For over a century, when farmers were in a majority, the ideologists of agrarianism had appealed to majority rule and to the idea that there is an inherent and necessary relation between agrarianism and democracy. The political efforts of farmers had been efforts to secure or underwrite broad popular democracy…Now, as the agrarian sector of the economy shrank, farmers ceased to think of majority rule and began to rely increasingly upon minority action….One of the most striking features of twentieth-century politics has been the way in which the farm population has gained in political striking power with its relative losses in numbers, growing more cohesive, more vocal, more effectual almost in proportion as it has been progressively more outnumbered.” (pp. 115-116).

Many historians have disagreed with Hofstadter’s rather harsh assessment of the Populists and Progressives. Recently, Nell Painter discussed her work Standing at Armageddon, on The Journal, which takes a decidedly different approach than Hofstadter. Regardless of the scholastic battles, we should all appreciate Hofstadter’s visionary scholarship. Long before “globalization” and “geo-politics” became the buzz words of bloviating bloggers, The Age of Reform probed the American economy, examining how the influence of agriculture went far beyond America’s borders. Our contemporary challenge to balance democratic free trade with respect to the developing world is not a new issue. Fortunately, David Beckmann realizes that hunger is a global issue, and it is our responsibility to fix the crisis. Richard Hofstadter recognized the power of the farm lobbyists in 1955. When will we correct the problem?

There will be a revolution when the middle-class can no longer afford the latest video toys. We've got a ways to go before their kids know real hunger, as is happening in Haiti, etc. When people have had enough, revolution can happen suddenly. Then watch out!

Thank you for airing this program. I felt chagrined and angry at the same time knowing that our tax dollars are being "pick-pocketed" by millionnaires at the expense of our most vulnerable Americans and small farmers who are instrumental in providing locally sustainable agriculture so necessary to our food security. We need to flood our elected officials with mail letting them know that it is time to de-institutionalize greed. If letters don't work, perhaps voters will be heard if we organize around the concept of not voting for any incumbants next election.

I have been blogging about farming and food for 2 years.
I hope to bring people back to the land with my photography.
I am so happy to see that people are starting to care about the plight of small farmers. There is hope after all!

April 13, 2008
The U.S.D.A. and the Congress members who overlook it are criminals. I am a victim of fraud committed by U.S.D.A. officials in Wisconsin and subsequently covered up by U.S.D.A. officials in D.C., the Congress and the media. Contact me for details. Thanks.

I applaud Bill Moyers and
David Beckmann, for thier
dedication in enlightening
America on our greed in this
country of need.
I am a child of the depression, and remember
going without meat, butter,
fruit etc. Our parents did
not have food stamps or hand
outs of any kind. We grew
our food and canned for the
winter. Baked our bread,
and gave to those less fortunate. It seems like
the wealthy only focus on
more wealth and subsides.
All intended for those who
are in real need. Why are
these issued addressed in
the political areana. We hear about poverty, and
the indirect wasted in our
country , not where our money is being spent, in
unscrupulous ways , hidden
as helping the poor farmer.
Not the rich landowner and
not we are thinking of the
horse owners as well.

I applaud Bill Moyers and
David Beckmann, for thier
dedication in enlightening
America on our greed in this
country of need.
I am a child of the depression, and remember
going without meat, butter,
fruit etc. Our parents did
not have food stamps or hand
outs of any kind. We grew
our food and canned for the
winter. Baked our bread,
and gave to those less fortunate. It seems like
the wealthy only focus on
more wealth and subsides.
All intended for those who
are in real need. Why are
these issued addressed in
the political areana. We hear about poverty, and
the indirect wasted in our
country , not where our money is being spent, in
unscrupulous ways , hidden
as helping the poor farmer.
Not the rich landowner and
not we are thinking of the
horse owners as well.

Beckmann is living in a dream world. "Government subsides are OK for emergencies"? We've got a better system in Canada. It's called "supply management" & it doesn't pay millions to the wealthiest farmers. (Which isn't to say it hasn't got its own problems.) What does Washington call it? "Subsidies", "socialized farming", "unfair competition". To which I say, look in a mirror.

Beckmann got one thing right, though. So long as subsidies in the U.S. persist, there is no chance of farmers in Africa, who aid groups are making futile efforts to help, getting out of the quicksand. And so long as aid groups are putting a ceiling on the death rate, excacerbating poverty, & helping the population explode (which they are, & it is), the situation will assuredly not get better.

Make a note: Malthus warned there were three ways to cure overpopulation--war, famine, and plague. We've added a fourth--genocide. The 'smaller is better' lobby, like Malthus, is ignoring the _sole_ solution proven to work: rising standards of living. Aid to Africa is working diametrically _against_ that. And the green zealots won't see it. They've got far less excuse than Malthus. So have you.

So when is the media going to step up and make this one of the main topic on ever Americans agrenda.
We are being rape daliy, yet the major media companies continue to refuse to bring this information out in the Light.
And we say that we are people of Faith, maybe that faith is TRUE GREED

I was sickened by the farm subsidies to landowners with our hard earned tax dollars, while my native city New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast still lies in ruin. This is a travesty. The other part of the program talked about "free" money going to people who suffered no loss after the Columbia accident and yet the people who suffered after Hurricane Katrina have received little or no help. We need to change our corrupt government. I believe that real campaign finance reform is the only hope.

Why isn't the land that's being funded by typical bush white house corruption and self serving, at least being used to produce needed grain, rice, etc. I can't believe that can't help a little. And... why wasn't that addressed in your program?

Rev. Beckmann's comments about the lunacy of our current farm subsidy program should be required viewing for all of our congressman. Rev. Beckmann did not mention, however, that a complete overhaul of our farm subsidy program could be coordinated with the EU's CAP, and specifically with France, to achieve a revolution in global trade-distorting subsidies. Then, perhaps, the Doha Round (currently on life support) could move forward to provide a level playing field to farmers in the less developed countries and provide those farmers with trade opportunities versus aid.

The farm bill needs to be reform, who do we contact to voice our disapproval? It is sad that people are starving while our tax money is being misused.

Very interesting, even though not much of a revelation about the marriage of Washington insiders and money. As it's said "money goes to money".
What I don't understand is the hunger topic. First, there is a huge amount of food gets WASTED in this country. Then, how can you correlate hunger and spread of obesity at the same time, both being mainly a "privilege" of poor people?

The most disgusting thing in this report is Harry Reid's comment. We all must vote wiser every November

Who is to blame for subsidizing the rich? Those who vote for incumbent senators and congressmen

Every week Bill Moyers tells us about congressional corruption and every November almost all incumbents are returned. So who is to blame?

I am so angered by the inequity and lack of a universal consideration for the people in this country. This country's government is rich in dollars and poor in morality, honesty and fairness. I know I must do something to give voice to my concerns and I cannot wait for the possibility of a change in November. Though I am unsure that it will make a big difference I am going to e-mail my representatives and senators regarding the farm bill and the burden we have placed on many of the people who live in this country. All people deserve to be fed, to receive medical care when it is needed,to have a place to live and to receive an education. We must change the way we do business here and only those of us who see this need can make this happen. Nancy G.
PS When I read the e-mail responses here I felt the caring that is so necessary and important to make positive changes. There is hope.

If people, interests, and governments refuse to share the wealth that is given for free by the earth and the universe to everyone born on the earth, worldwide civilization will devolve into chaos and anarchy. The Bush administration, and its lust for domination and money. along with the corporate fascists, Republicans and Democrats alike, are brain dead morons, lumbering slobbering decrepit advanced apes, somewhat less intelligent than apes really, because monkeys refrain from mass murder for fun and profit.

I live in a smaller rural town, about 12,000 people. Yes we have people truly in need, but was also have the majority of those using emergency handouts when they don't need them.
When families show up for food handouts, and the kids have Ipods and cellphones, kinda makes you upset for those really in need.

Subsidized payments to industries in general need to stop entirely. The money needs to go to the families directly, through food stamps... we should be providing energy credits (vouchers) and health vouchers that can be used by the families to get the heat and medical care (paid directly to the doctor or facility) they need. Social Security should not be disbursed to people with higher incomes or wealth. Isn't it enough that the rich own the very companies that ultimately receive those stamps from the families... all except the insurance industry! Yes, we all pay into Social Security but we all pay school taxes too, regardless of whether we have kids, so what. We are all in this together but greed will kill this nation if we don't all share in the responsibility to make it right.

As an American living outside the country...it seems the collective corrasion of every area of life is coming to a head in the country. Couldn´t believe what I heard about the subsidies for race horses....good example of the waste and greed.

What are the positions of State of Washington politicians regarding the farm bill? Which ones are supportive of your positions, which ones are not? How can we be helpful?

Reform in America is possible if we want it. Yet there are always people who suggest that some problems are just too complicated to resolve. Attitudes are what have to change and I suspect that the attitude of many people quite willing to accept large government subsidies is that people who need food stamps and use food banks are irresponsible freeloaders. The powerful often use clever disguises to justify their behavior. (How often do we condemn foreign governments of involvement in bribery while describing our own involvement in similar activities as "exercising powerful incentives"?) But no amount of clever language or arguments can conceal an attitude too long held in this country that poor people are somehow lazy because they cannot generate enthusiasm for working only to make the rich richer. We must recognize in this attitude a terrible legacy of America's past when men and women were portrayed as lazy because they resisted working for pitifully low wages and, more shamefully, for no wages at all.


Thank you, for taking on such a program. How can I help in changing the farm bill? I will like the help Ms. Walker in some way personally. Please let me know. (info@micromillusa.com)

I plan to contact my legislators to let them know how I feel about "wasteful, unnecessary, or redundant subsidies." Why should subsidies go to the wealthy! They should go to the people who really need them. I intend to email my friends and relatives about tonight's story. It would be great if this story could be widely circulated.

I, too, would like to know what I can do to affect the necessary change in the farm bill. I suppose communicating with my senators and representative is a start, but is there anything more powerful that we earthlings can do?

I watched the show. I have been preparing for this situation for the last 4 years. When I got layed off twice, I became angry and started studying inflation and the lies that government spin. I just knew things would get worse under George Bush. I was wiped out financially after the last lay off but learned about inflationary markets and how to prosper. I took what ever cash I had extra, deferred all my spending on vacations and luxuries and overcame my financial woes by investing in commodities and gold. I have taught my fellow workers and friends about this and help guide them. I am rallying anybody who will listen. As the coming years arive, a one time investment of $300 has the protential to rise to $3 million dollars. I kid you not. I invested in gold shares and have seen some of them go up 10 to 30 times. There are existing gold companies that will go up 100 to 1000 times. Small amounts of money pooled together can solve the poverty we are witnessing. I was close to bankruptcy and was fortunate to learn about what is causing inflation and how to prosper because of it. I would like to help the people who are living day to day.

What are the positions of State of Washington politicians regarding the farm bill? Which ones are supportive of your positions, which ones are not? How can we be helpful?

One thing that seems to be left out is that the people predominantly getting these subsidies all happen to be white and the ones w/o the food happen to be mostly black. The reverse would never happen and that is the bottom line. Beckmann talks about people perpetuating this injustice as a result of being organized? Get real!

I am truly angered by this report.

I am a graduate student in NYC working within the freegan community. I see the waste of supermarkets throughout the city on a daily basis. There should be /no one/ hungry in New York City. Instead, we find dumpsters filled with nearly perfectly good food that the retail stores throw out because they've received new shipments.

Some of these places donate to food programs, but the volume is offensive in comparison to the waste.

If one wants to solve hunger at least in this city, one only needs to look to the excess in waste. Someday I hope none of this food is needlessly thrown in the landfill.

The report on the PBS broadcast of Bill Moyers's Journal, Cash Cows and Cowboy Starter Kits exposed how well-organized agro-business lobbies have bought Congress and its agriculture-committee members with $80 billion in lobbying. The result is farm subsidies that pay up to hundreds of thousands of dollars to each of the organized, wealthy landowners who have gross incomes of from $125,000 to several $million, living in mansions, on farm land where no crops are grown, just because their counties have been declared a disaster area for some reason, including for recovery of destroyed space-shuttle parts, despite that they suffered no losses.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has towed the Bush corporate-wealthy line throughout his Senate career, who is supposed to represent citizens in one of the nation’s poorest states, leads the placement and support for this kind of immoral abuse in a farm-subsidy system that pays wealthy land owners instead of helping poor farmers who really need the help, and he has just introduced a subsidy into the current bill, now being debated for passage this term, the subsidized steeple chase, which benefits owners of race horses. The Republican government of Bush-Cheney, in concert with rubber-stamp elected officials like McConnell, Ohio’s Republican Senator Voinovich, and Republican Representative Steve Chabot, have made the deaths of the seven Columbia astronauts into a windfall for their wealthy contributors, through their facilitation of $billions of abusive, unwarranted farm-subsidy payments, and there will be no chance for honest, representative government, free of greed-based, blood-sucking influence peddling until they and their ilk are thrown out office for good.

There should be some way for this kind of journalism, which is so important to a dying democracy, to be more widely distributed. Legislators who vote these abuses should be convened in joint session, strapped to chairs, forced to view and then answer for their votes before being impeached and jailed. Their crimes do no less serious harm to America than those of any felon, and there should be no tolerance or compassion for them in dealing with their high crimes.

Many of the respondents to this program are under-informed.

Policy reforms can and should be made- however, several of the comments made on the television program and in these posts represent a lack of understanding of agriculture in general and of the specifics of many of the programs.

The largest cost items in the Farm Bill - and in each of the last several such bills - are for social programs, not for agricultural subsidies. There is at least as much abuse of these programs as in the LDP program.

Income limits for recipients of subisdy payments already exist. One problem with the suggested (by Mr. Beckmann, in interview) solution of lowering the income limit is basing such limits on gross income. As an economist, he is well aware that the gross income genrated in a commodity production business is not relevant to the net income received by the business. Although gross income of 2 million dollars sounds large, if 3 million dollars in expenses were generated, then arguably, this producer is not generating wealth. Because most agricultural production enterprises are heavily leveraged, in order to generate scale, most gross income represents costs of goods sold, direct input costs, and repayment and financing costs.

The argument that food costs have escalated is entirely true. While there are a number of reasons for this, including worldwide production shortfalls, currency exchange issues, and energy policy, it should be pointed out that the increase in commodity prices has achieved the goal stated by many of the respondents- most direct payments will not be made on 2007 crop year production, and most likely will not be made on new crop 08 production.

Mr. Beckmann argues that subsidization (not just in the US, but in most developed countries) makes producers in less-developed economies non-competitive due to lower overall crop prices, it should be noted that higher prices would increase the costs of living for these same producers.

The post regarding animal agriculture is completely unfounded. This person obvioulsy has no understanding of how the vast majority of program payments are made, or they would recognize that these supports are overwhlemingly made to producers of the very commodities that they champion. The other statemetns are completely without scientifically credible foundation.

These challenges are more complex than can be adequately addressed in a 20 minute television spot, and a more balanced message should be sent.

I hope Sharon Roberts is able to locate the elderly lady from the show. I heard a story once about a man who was able to talk to God and asked him to show him Heaven and Hell. They each had the same food on a big table with enormous spoons that were impossible to eat with so in Hell everyone was sitting at the table screaming and crying. In Heaven they had figured out they could use the enormous spoon to feed each other.
Our society is in Hell when we have so many that are hungry, jobless, and most of all hopeless.
I have been hungry a few times in the last few years; and I never thought I would be that. But no matter how hungry I get I know someone is hungrier than me and with less opportunity than me, so I keep going. Everytime I see a light at the end of the tunnel there is a frieght train attached.
I used to take things like going to the dentist for granted; and now I would almost sell my soul for dental work. It is all of the small things that become overwhelming and spiral a person deeper and deeper into poverty.
Take what you need, and leave the rest but you don't need it all.
I pray for a revolution against corporate greed. I am convinced my government does not give a crap if I live or die- but I do.

I'm not sure how to answer the above URL question; however, I also want to offer funds [albeit limited] to Ms. Walker. Please help set up some aid for her. Thank you, Kathryn Cogswell

I have had the opportunity to spend time with many homeless and in need families in the Louisville, KY and Southern Indiana area over the last several years. The people and statistics on tonight’s show are mirrored in this area as well. We received many families in this area after Katrina, and the number of local families needing additional support grows week after week.


For any of you interested in helping immediately I would encourage you to look in each of your communities. I am certain there is a shelter, food pantry or soup kitchen that could use your gift of time as well as finance. The people that need these services can ALWAYS use a smiling face and the knowledge that someone really does care.

PLEASE tell everyone you know how important this upcoming legislation is and the need to make appropriate changes! These families need food and relief

There is no excuse for a child in America going hungry and lacking medical care or education.

It could be easy to build a better America if we start by growing a more productive crop of children. Keep up the good work, it will pay off, and it scares me to think what we would become of us if we did not have persons of concern pointing out these simple improvements.

January 20, 2009, end of an error!

thank you for exposing the outright blatant practices of the USDA/FSA in your program which aired 4/11/08 on PBS. I wish you could come to where I live, Harrisburg, Arkansas to see firsthand how these "good ol boys" practices of handing out these federal payments to rich rice, cotton, soybean, and other "rowcrop" farmers works. I am a small 4th generation, family farmer who can't get financial help from this "broken" system, and am surronded by these millionare "farmers" who don't even live on farms, but live in town in their gated communities along with doctors, lawyers, bankers, and others.

Cheap money or direct price supports may seem like a good idea, but always backfire, because they cause mal-investment when the rich, who are in the best position to take advantage of them, invest in things of no value to the poor, or merely speculate and make corners, usually in commodities, because they know that cheaper money is ultimately depreciation and buying up commodities is the best way to keep that from happening to them. So they cause not only lower productivity, but also inflation and hoarding, removing the connection between action and consequence that the free market system requires. More cheap money or price supports only ratchets this up another notch. The only way to correct the problem is to reverse the results, by redistribution, exercising more control over money and credit and ending the subsidization. The problem with this is that the beneficiaries of these programs also control the political process. The only other possibility is revolution and dictatorship as in Zimbabwe or a war that will force the necessary virtue. There is, I think, a lot of evidence that the general process has been going on for several decades now worldwide with under-investment in agriculture and over-investment in less essential areas, but that it has become critical now only because of the recent slide in the value of the dollar.

I'm a Bread for the World member. Bread for the World's Web site has much information on how you can let your members of Congress know your thoughts on reforming the farm bill. You can even send an email to them directly from the Web site.

Just go to www.bread.org. There's a link from the home page about David Beckmann's appearance tonight, and further information there.

The big backers of this mismanagement are the Farm Bureau and the Dept. of Commerce. I have seen first hand how they fill the local boards and give them ordinances to be passed. They do not care about anyone not operating a CAFO or draining the till.

Bill Clinton reformed welfare for the poor in the 90s, isn't it about time to end welfare for rich farmers, commodity traders and corporations in this decade? We are always told by politicians how unreasonable it is that that poor people with children would ask the government for food stamps. What is really unreasonable is how our politicians take money from special interest lobbyists and then redirect our tax dollars from those truly in need to those with already with plenty. The poor and the working class have no voice in this government and this report only illustrates this fact in a most obvious way.

I work as a cashier at a Dollar General in an economically challenged community in Southwestern Pa. Over the past three months in particuar there have been numerious comments from customers about the frightenly skyrocketing prices of basic food and household products. Eggs are over $2 a dozen. Bread is over $2 a loaf. Milk is around $4 a gallon. In the past week I have listened to a steady litany of "I don't know how I am going to be able to continue feeding my family." There is something drastically wrong in America and we need some drastic change to counteract it.
Your report on the Farm Bill in process was infuriating. Hopefully the next election can bring us some substantial change. Regardless of the outcome, it is obvious that we all need to make some contribution to counteracting the overwhelming hunger in America. I can tell you from experience that my entire income goes to food costs and my family's food stamps don't cover more than one week's worth of food expenses. It is more challenging than even you know.

I work as a cashier at a Dollar General in an economically challenged community in Southwestern Pa. Over the past three months in particuar there have been numerious comments from customers about the frightenly skyrocketing prices of basic food and household products. Eggs are over $2 a dozen. Bread is over $2 a loaf. Milk is around $4 a gallon. In the past week I have listened to a steady litany of "I don't know how I am going to be able to continue feeding my family." There is something drastically wrong in America and we need some drastic change to counteract it.
Your report on the Farm Bill in process was infuriating. Hopefully the next election can bring us some substantial change. Regardless of the outcome, it is obvious that we all need to make some contribution to counteracting the overwhelming hunger in America. I can tell you from experience that my entire income goes to food costs and my family's food stamps don't cover more than one week's worth of food expenses. It is more challenging than even you know.

Let's face it, it's not just farmers that are subsidized, it's many, many, other industries. It's our politicians that created these bills and manipulated good intentions. I have never been so disappointed by our government and it's employees in how they've handled most of these issues, then I am at this point in my life. It's truly sad to see so many people in need. It would be interesting to know if any politicians owned some of those farms.

How can I help in changing farm bill???

I would love to help the local food bank if I knew my help would go to Americans who are in need. However, with the rampant local population of illegal aliens, I hesitate to participate. Our unending generosity is draining resources for the people who have contributed to our very freedom...time for hardworking Americans to wake up and speak out.

I just finished watching Expose. There was an elderly African American woman who showed her cabinets (almost bare) and said she did not have any food.

I would like to try to help her personally.

I believe her name was Ms. Walker.
If you have the information, please contact me at 631-412-5998

Yes, the farm bill is polically driven and definately needs reform. Not only should we refrain from supporting millionaire farmers, but we should also recognize they those who are being subsidized are overwhelmingly engaged in animal production or production of feed for animals - contributing to 18% of global warming, intense animal suffering, and increasing health problems for humans. We ought to be supporting farmers who produce fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts so that these nutritional foods can become more affordable.

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