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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Farm crisis: 'Seize the moment'

"If we fail to seize the moment, it will be too late. The so-called 'farm crisis' is becoming an 'American citizen crisis' and few realize it," said Paul Olson, president of the National Farmers Organization and a member of Taylor [Wis.] Lutheran Church.

Olson spoke to about 65 church and farm leaders at the ELCA-sponsored Rural Summit in Chicago, March 26. The event gathered leaders of farm groups to develop steps toward mending what ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson called "the torn social fabric of rural life in this country."

Multinational corporations have taken the profits of the land and
driven the farmers away, said Olson, who owns the only remaining dairy farm in Taylor. "Farmers are forced off the land because they haven't received a fair price for what they sell."

In addition to fair prices, the group — farmers, traditional farm and commodity groups, social ministry workers and farm workers — discussed treatment of farm workers, agricultural legislation and overall changes in rural society. The ecumenical group also asked a representative committee to draft a rural life vision statement.

"We won't come to agreement today," said Bob Stallman, president, American Farm Bureau Federation, and a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Columbus, Texas. "We have different farm organizations and see things differently regarding farm policy. [But] we want to fix problems and not assign blame. Perhaps the role of the church community in the local area should be to provide the thing that churches do best ... emotional support, counseling, outreach ... help people get through tough times."


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