Update on process to complete our reflection document

The Faith, Food & Environment project is continuing to work with our international partners to produce a reflection that we are calling “The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader”. There remains a great deal of anticipation for this ethical reflection on how food is produced in our modern industrial agricultural system — and what we believe needs to change for ethical, social and ecological reasons.

The Organizers of this project apologize for the time it is taking to complete a final version of the proposed reflection: they did not fully anticipate the amount of time it would take to review drafts and collect comments from our various partners around the globe. This entailed an agreeable balance in the tone and emphasis when discussing the various economic, social and environmental factors that go into the production and structure of the world food system.

In order to move the process along, a “first edition” of the Vocation of Agricultural Leader reflection for our North American readership will be released later this year. We will seek responses and reactions from American farm groups, agri-food companies, academics, environmental advocates, and others in our North American network.

Needless to say, we expect farmers, ranchers and food producers of all types to be particularly interested in our reflection on the food system – and how it should be guided and led in an ethical, sustainable and socially just way. This website will arrange a way for comments to be received, then posted in an orderly way. These will help shape a “second edition” of the reflection document, an edition that will also include the collaboration of our international partners.

For the time being, you can still express your reaction or opinion to how the document is shaping up. Draft language of the various sections of the document can be found in our Reflections section. Responses can be sent to Robert Gronski, coordinator of this website.

Our presence at World Farmers Organization gathering

This week, the World Farmers Organization is holding their 2016 General Assembly in Livingstone, Zambia. This year’s theme is “Partnership for Growth” and is bringing together representatives ranging from international organizations to local NGOs from various parts of the world. Click here for the WFO program.

Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, is presenting on the third day of the gathering as part of a session devoted to fostering economic growth in rural communities through a multi-stakeholder approach in agriculture. His remarks are an opportunity to present our work to date on the Faith, Food and Environment project and the vocation of agricultural leadership in the 21st century.

We believe returning farmers to the center of policy decisions is fundamental to sustainable development in rural communities. The World Farmers Organization makes it clear that governments, businesses, scientists and civil society groups must focus attention on the source of our food security. All these groups must work together to enable the many millions of farm families, especially smallholders, to grow more crops sustainably through effective markets, more collaborative research and committed knowledge sharing.

Not familiar with the World Farmers Organization?

WFO is a community of entrepreneurial farmers from around the world that regardless of their size (small, medium and large- scale farmers) or gender, age and other characteristics, aim to gain global recognition of their rights as food producers and role as economic actors.

Their mission is to represent and advocate on behalf of farmers in global policy arenas and create the conditions for the adoption of policies aimed to improve the economic environment and livelihood of producers, their families, and rural communities. Learn more about WFO here.

It is worth noting that the WFO and their “agropreneur” members (as they call themselves) are striving to work with other stakeholders from around the globe. They do so in order to:

  • foster food system stability;
  • respect the environment;
  • acknowledge the rights of all farmers to be entrepreneurs and gaining appropriate incomes;
  • and respect the farming community’s diversity.

According to their website, WFO constructs their activities upon three main pillars: food security, climate change and a fair value chain. This is in line with the aims of the Faith, Food & Environment project, so we’ll see how we might work more closely with the WFO in reinforcing the role of farmers in policy dialogues at all levels.

This dialogues will include the private and public sectors, various international organizations, local stakeholder groups, nongovernmental organizations, and foundations, universities and research Institutes. We should add faith groups also belong at the table in these discussions — and that indeed is the mission of the Faith, Food & Environment project.


Global Agreements, Climate Change, and Agriculture

Last week at the UN General Assembly in New York, faith leaders delivered an Interfaith Climate Change Statement to UN delegates and official representatives prior to a crucial signing ceremony. The interfaith statement, signed by over 270 religious leaders, urged governments from around the world to ratify and implement the Paris Agreement, made last December, on reducing carbon emissions and decisively responding to climate change by 2020. Learn more about the Paris Agreement here.

The interfaith statement made clear that religious and spiritual leaders are standing together to urge all Heads of State to promptly sign and ratify the Paris Agreement.

“Caring for the Earth is our shared responsibility. Each one of us has a ‘moral responsibility to act,’ as so powerfully stated by the Pope’s Encyclical and in the climate change statements by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and other faith leaders. The planet has already passed safe levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Unless these levels are rapidly reduced, we risk creating irreversible impacts putting hundreds of millions of lives, of all species, at severe risk. The challenges ahead require honesty and courage and we all must take action to reduce emissions.”

The recent signing ceremony at the UN Headquarters in New York City took place on Friday, April 22, which by no coincidence was Earth Day. Some 175 countries signed the historic accord at a ceremony hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Agreement recognizes, he said, “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the impacts of climate change.”

He also said in his remarks that the Agreement highlights the need to “increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience … in a manner that does not threaten food production.”

The crucial role of agriculture

Maria-Helena Semedo, UN-FAO Deputy Director-General for Natural Resources, remarked that agriculture can play a crucial role in making the response to climate change more effective.

Semedo also noted that agriculture is one of the main sectors of the economy that is severely affected by climate change. The recent El Niño phenomenon is a testimony to that, she said.

She stressed that the rural poor and smallholder farmers are the ones severely affected by the consequences of climate change, namely prolonged droughts in some parts of the world and severe storms in others. Global warming also is causing changes in biological diversity and ecosystem balance to the detriment of many, even as this temporarily benefits some.

Role of family farmers, rural communities

The Faith, Food & Environment project continues to argue that there is a crucial role for family farmers to play in eradicating poverty and hunger, now aggravated by climate change.

Given that nearly 80 percent of the extreme poor and hungry people live in rural areas, we agree with international leaders who clearly state: “Let’s empower rural actors, small holders, rural women, youth, and indigenous peoples in our collective action.”

Role for U.S. Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also released a statement following the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement last week. By signing the historic climate agreement, he said, “the U.S. is moving forward on our commitment to take real action on climate change.”

“The agreement establishes a long-term and durable framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and build resiliency for the future. America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have a track record of coupling extraordinary productivity gains with natural resource stewardship, which positions them well to contribute to the climate solutions called for in the Paris Agreement.”

Sec. Vilsack highlighted the significance over the past several years of USDA conservation programs. He said these “have helped American producers install practices that have reduced net greenhouse gas emissions by over 416 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or approximately 60 million metric tons per year — the equivalent of taking 12.6 million cars off the road for a year.”

Vilsack went on to say that the USDA will accelerate its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration by over 120 million metric tons a year by 2025.

Leading the way to a resilient agriculture

The Faith, Food & Environment project will also advocate for “climate-smart” strategies and continue to encourage agricultural professionals to lead the way in building resilience, reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing carbon storage in our soils and forest.

At the same time, we must find an effective and equitable way to boost productivity and improve global food security. We firmly believe family farmers and smallholder farmers are a necessary part of this new agriculture for a challenging time in history.


“I thank you, small farmer.”

In his April prayer intentions, Pope Francis expresses his appreciation and concern for small farmers:

“I thank you, small farmer. What you do is essential for the life of all. As a person, as a child of God, you deserve a decent life. But I wonder: how is your work compensated?”

In a short video clip, the Holy Father calls for a just compensation for small farmers’ invaluable work. The April prayer intention is also a call to people everywhere to fully recognize the contribution of farmers.

Rev. Frédéric Fornos S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said this April prayer request of Pope Francis draws attention to the problems that arise when an economy dismisses or excludes the small farmer.

“While the profits of a few grow exponentially, the small farmer is exploited,” said Father Fornos. “Yet small farmers are essential, so Francis has invited all people of good will to mobilize with prayer and action on behalf of his intention ‘that small farmers may receive fair compensation for their precious work.’”

Read more about the April prayer intention at National Catholic Register.

Rallying for the Vocation of Farming

For regular visitors to Faith, Food & the Environment, you know that we began this project to examine how farmers and food producers are treated in the world food system. A look back on our initial symposium in St. Paul, Minn., makes this evident: we recognize farming as a calling, and ask agricultural leaders to better represent farming in this way rather than merely a business venture.

We also directly express our appreciation for farmers in the Introduction to our reflection on the Vocation of the Agricultural Leader (still a work in progress). We invite visitors to our site to take another look at that.

There are also the remarks of Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace, when he presented last June soon after the release of Laudato Si’: Care for our Common Home. Cardinal Turkson reflected on the vocation of farming within the context of this encyclical by Pope Francis.

A story from the American countryside

On a more current note, and certainly of interest to those who are concerned about small and independent American farmers, there was a “going there” story aired on National Public Radio about what is happening in the countryside. In a series on Food, Farming and Health, this particular story was about a visit to a Nebraska family farm facing a shaky future.

Over the past several decades, many family farms have turned into very large family farms, or collections of farms, which turned into big businesses. You’re under an increasing amount of pressure these days if you’re a farmer who wants to stay small and independent

Vern Jantzen’s 300-acre farm in Nebraska is facing a shaky future because there is no guarantee the younger members of the family, like Vern’s two daughters, will want to stay to continue farm operations.

So for this one family’s farm, there is the temptation to leave and the struggle to stay.


Global Forum for the Future of Agriculture calls for action & collaboration

This past week, the annual Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA) met in Brussels and, like most such forums, issued statements calling for greater action and collaboration among participating nations and institutions.

This particular Forum, now in its 9th year of annual gatherings, has called on “the agri-food industry, governments and NGOs to innovate and collaborate like never before in order to meet the food and environment security challenges laid down by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

[Click here for a refresher on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals]

According to Forum media statements, the dominant themes of the conference revolved around three major areas: (1) reforming and transforming the agriculture model; (2) changing societal behaviors, including responsible consumption; and (3) disrupting and rethinking the current agricultural model to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

These themes certainly reflect our own thinking here at Faith, Food & the Environment. These emerged out of our own Symposium discussions and are incorporated into our current Reflections.

New economic and social models needed

Returning to statements coming out of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, the governmental, non-governmental and corporate agribusiness participants agreed that a collective effort which transforms the global economic and social models would be needed. That’s innovative thinking, and we hope and pray they can pull this off.

Many of the 1,500 delegates “believed that profound and lasting changes would be needed to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.” Otherwise, according to Forum statements, these goals “would remain aspirational unless governments, academia, business and NGOs learned how to better collaborate.”

We could not agree more, and indeed hope this push for collaboration allows for a dialogue with faith-based groups as well, including the Church herself. We discuss this in our Reflections under a section titled “Acting for the Common Good”.

Other key points made at the Forum:

In his opening speech to the meeting, Janez Potočnik, chairman of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, said:

“The Sustainable Development Goals represent a new global contract where we recognize the planet as our partner and benefactor. To achieve them will require an extraordinary effort of every society and economic actor; they represent nothing less than a change in the way we live and organize ourselves. Delivering on the SDGs is about delivering both food and environmental security at the same time. To do this, we must maximize our nutrient efficiency and move towards a circular economy that prevents waste and pollution throughout the food chain and in our societies.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commented in his address:

“True progress demands new food systems that focus on health, protect the environment, promote social justice, empower women and advance development in communities. These food systems should give opportunities to young people and support smallholder farmers.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director, UNEP, echoed Mr. Ban’s comments, saying:

“Rethinking agriculture is key in a world of nine billion consumers, with climate change and resource constraints becoming more present. Agriculture needs to be an integral part of the solutions for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which requires a systems approach.”

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute, Columbia University, said in his keynote address:

“The Forum for the Future of Agriculture is a unique and timely gathering of world leaders in agriculture and sustainable development to discuss the crucial issue of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Agriculture stands at the heart of the challenge of sustainable development. Yet the challenges are daunting. We must feed a growing world population with a nutritious diet; raise the living standards of smallholder farmers; make the food supply resilient to climate shocks; and lower the impact of the farm sector on land, water, and climate. This is a profound challenge that will require the best of science, policy, business, and civil society operating together in a bold and cooperative manner.”

One final note: Transforming agricultural policies to ensure sustainability

I would like to especially note this posting at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture site: “How can we transform agriculture policies to ensure sustainability and zero hunger?” (Feb 19 posting)

Here’s how it begins: Agriculture is the economic sector most affected by climate change. Global warming reduces soil moisture and water is becoming increasingly scarce. As a result, droughts will become more common and farmers will produce smaller yields.
It is projected that by 2030, nine out of ten major crops will see reduced or stagnant growth rates, but average prices will increase dramatically. Global water demand is expected to rise by 50% and the global population could increase to more than eight billion. As a result food demand will go up by 35%. These figures show how important it is that the agriculture sector can deliver safe, nutritious food for everybody while preserving our natural resources for future generations.

The precise sentiments of Faith, Food & the Environment project!

Farm and food issues during an election year

While the Faith, Food & the Environment project awaits the promised reflection on the Vocation of the Agricultural Leader (see previous post), I will use this Updates page to pass along other items of interest.

One of these is a Feb. 17 article by Tom Philpott, food & ag correspondent for Mother Jones, who would like to ask the U.S. Presidential candidates a few questions about food and farming. See the full article here.

Philpott points out that the candidates are largely ignoring food and farm policy in their stump speeches. Regardless of party affiliation, even for those who are stretching the conventional boundaries of Republican or Democrat, no one is raising concern about this essential sector of the economy – agriculture – and the impacts on soil and water resources and consequences to public health.

As Philpott frames it, this lack of attention by presidential candidates means ignoring the “slow-motion ecological crises (that) haunt the country’s main farming regions.” And he notes that “diet-related maladies generate massive burdens on the U.S. health care system.”

If Philpott had the opportunity to be a debate moderator or a reporter on the trail, here is the simplified list questions he would ask them (see link above for complete questions):

— In the U.S. Corn Belt, this region of the country is losing the very resource that makes bountiful production possible: topsoil is disappearing much faster than the natural replacement rate—a trend that will worsen as climate change proceeds.

As president, how would you push farm policy to reward soil- and water-friendly farming practices in the heartland?

— Drought persists in California—the source of many vegetables, fruits and nuts for the U.S., plus a fifth of milk production.

How would your administration respond to California’s declining water resources in the context of its central position in our food system?

— According to the USDA,  about 70 percent of workers on U.S. crop fields come from Mexico or Central America, and more than 40 percent of them are undocumented. Median hourly wage: $9.17. The meatpacking industry also relies heavily on immigrants—and pays an average wage of $12.50 per hour.

How would you act to improve wages and working conditions for the people who feed us?

— For decades, anti-trust authorities have watched idly as huge food companies gobble each other up, grabbing ever-larger shares of food and agriculture markets. President Obama initiated serious investigations of these highly consolidated industries, responding to farmers’ complaints of uncompetitive markets. However, these efforts have gone by the wayside.

How would your Department of Justice look at consolidation in ag markets—and would you consider anti-trust action to break them up?

— According to a 2013 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, annual US medical expenses from treating heart disease and stroke stood at $94 billion in 2010—and were expected to nearly triple by 2030, driven largely by diets dominated by hyper-processed food.

What’s the proper federal role for convincing people to eat healthier—especially people of limited means?

Philpott ended his piece with a hat tip to Food Tank, which asks additional questions about food policy – and wanting presidential candidates to respond.

Our Faith, Food & the Environment project is designed to engage agricultural leaders in addressing many of these same concerns. Whether they can be heard amidst the many voices of this year’s presidential elections is unlikely, but we will earnestly strive to be heard when the transition to a new U.S. Administration begins. And we will continue when Congress begins their new session early next year.

Gearing up in the new year

Our faithful followers of this website on Faith, Food and the Environment no doubt know that we promised the release of “The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader” by this time. As noted in a previous posting, we created a section on this website titled Reflections which provides some of the text and content of the forthcoming document.

The delay in the release of the “official” or final document is due to a longer than expected review by our various partners. (Click here for a listing of our project Organizers.) Please bear with us as we await final comments to the nearly completed document.

Once “The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader” is published, the next step is to organize a series of events or meetings to further discuss and act on our call for sustainable changes to how food is produced while maintaining the integrity of creation. We have in mind a set of resources that will propose a “future of agriculture” that is based on sustainable practices that also regenerate the number of family farms and the health of the soil.

In the meantime, we can only point you to other web-based resources to whet your appetite and keep you informed on a number of fronts.

One such information resource is FoodTank. You can sign up for their emails where they often provide interesting lists of organizations, books and other resources that are striving to improve the global food system. For instance, as 2015 ended and the new year began, FoodTank selected 16 stories that they felt represented exciting trends for 2016. (You’ll see links for more details about each of the stories they have identified.)

FoodTank promises to continue covering important food issues in 2016, especially in their deep concern for equity and sustainability in the food system to drive positive change.

The other site I would like to mention is the web-based resource called The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity (or TEEB for short). This international collaboration has a specific ‘TEEB for Agriculture & Food’ research project that has brought together economists, business leaders, agriculturalists and experts in biodiversity and ecosystems to provide a comprehensive economic evaluation of the ‘eco-agri-food systems’ complex.

The TEEB researchers are examining whether the economic environment in which farmers operate is distorted by significant externalities, both negative and positive, and a lack of awareness of dependency on natural capital. A “double-whammy” of economic invisibility of impacts from both ecosystems and agri-food systems is a root cause of increased fragility and lower resilience to shocks in both ecological and human systems.

There is a great deal to think about or, as some might say, to chew on. But this complex of factors – natural environments, human institutions, physical capital, societal relationships – must be considered in dynamic interactions for the health and dignity of all people and the integrity and good of the planet.

For our small part, we want to be part of that dialogue for a new agriculture that sustains all living things.

New “Reflections” section; new report on agroecology

We’ve added a new section called “Reflections” as we work to complete our forthcoming publication, “The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader.” A final draft of this 24-page booklet is currently under review. Look for this publication to be released early in the new year.

For the time being, a summary of these reflections can be found here. Based on symposiums and discussions we’ve held over the past year, we reflect on the economic, social and ecological conditions facing agriculture today. However, our primary interest remains a religious one: How do we articulate a set of principles that emanate from Christian teachings and set the vocational guidelines for agriculture and food production?

We welcome comments and reactions to our Reflections: please send to Robert Gronski: bob@catholicrurallife.org


Union of Concerned Scientists issues research study on Agroecology

New report released

As the Union of Concerned Scientists describe it, U.S. agriculture is succeeding at production—but failing at sustainability. American farms and ranches produce vast quantities of food, fiber and fuel, but this abundance comes at the expense of the environment, public health, and even long-term agricultural productivity.

Ecological impacts of industrial agriculture include significant greenhouse gas emissions, loss of biodiversity, widespread pollution by fertilizers and pesticides, soil loss and degradation, declining pollinators, and human health risks, among many others.

A rapidly growing body of scientific research, however, suggests that farming systems designed and managed according to ecological principles can meet the food needs of society while addressing these pressing environmental and social issues.

But more research is needed to support implementing agroecological systems across the enormous range of crop varieties, climates, and other conditions that American farmers face. And farmers who want to adopt agroecological approaches need education and technical assistance to make the transition.

The promise of such systems implies an urgent need for increasing the scope and scale of this area of research – agroecology. Notably, agroecological systems have been shown to reduce input dependency and therefore related research is unlikely to be supported by the private sector. Yet, the amount of federal funding available for agroecology has remained unclear.

Recognizing this need, a growing number of scientists have added their voices to a statement calling for increased public investment in agroecological research.

Read more at Union of Concerned Scientists.



Vatican calls for urgent action on climate change and hunger

Last week in Rome, several high-ranking Vatican officials joined a dialogue with UN-Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) officials and looked ahead to the upcoming Paris COP21 conference on climate change (Nov. 30 to Dec. 11).

In a word, they were calling on the global community to put food security and agriculture at the center of the debates on climate change.

Hunger eradication and sustainable development will not be achieved if we do not take urgent action on climate change, said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

The Vatican officials, led by Cardinal Peter Turkson, highlighted the recent encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si: Care for Our Common Home, as an urgent moral crisis to address both the social and environmental problems of our times. The encyclical views the crises of hunger and poverty and the environment as one single crisis and claims the solution requires strong cooperative action to protect the “common home” of humans and nature.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, noted that for all religions, promising food for all is not just a policy choice. “Eradicating hunger is a moral imperative,” he said at the dialogue. The cardinal emphasized that for most people, agriculture and food have become de-linked. In effect, this risks the possibility “that humans inherit a garden … (but) bequeath a desert.”

[Read a presentation by Cardinal Turkson earlier this year on Laudato Si and the Vocation of Agriculture.]

FAO Director-General Da Silva also noted that the world’s 50 poorest countries are expected to be among the most affected by climate change. “These countries have not created the problem. In fact, they are responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader

The upcoming climate talks in Paris – and this urgent call for action on climate and hunger – gives additional significance to our Faith, Food & the Environment initiative. While the international talks take place during early December, we expect to release our forthcoming document, The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader.

[Visit the Outcomes section to see what challenges Agricultural Leaders face – and what moral principles we believe will guide them to a sustainable future for all.]

While our initiative and upcoming document speaks to agricultural leaders and policymakers in the United States as much as anyone, we take care to recognize and give special attention to the vast number of small and peasant farmers around the world.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 80 percent of the world’s food is produced by these small family farmers. And approximately 72 percent of farms worldwide are less than a couple acres, while just 6 percent are larger than 12 acres, according to the FAO.

Family farming includes fisheries, forestry, and livestock production in addition to crop production. “Family farmers feed our communities and take care of our earth—they are crucial allies in the fight against hunger and rural poverty,” says FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

To examine the challenges faced by these small family farmers, FAO has launched the new Family Farming Knowledge Platform (FFKP) to support better policies for family farmers and provide data for governments and organizations.

Smallholder farmers are seen by the FAO as crucial to achieving sustainable use of natural resources, providing food security and balanced diets to local communities, and breaking cycles of rural poverty. These farmers face immense obstacles such as limited access to land, credit, and technology; poor basic services and infrastructure; and imminent climate threats.

However, policies often fail to recognize the contributions of smallholder family farmers and are not geared to supporting them. FAO recommends better policies focus on access to credit and finance, improvement of trade and markets, and sustainable use of natural resources. Farmer-led research and extension—amplified by farmers’ traditional knowledge—will also be vital to the cultivation of a new generation of family farmers.

National Farmers Union welcomes Pope Francis to DC

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24: National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson joined with many others in Washington, DC, to welcome Pope Francis to the nation’s capital for the first-ever papal address of a joint session of Congress and specifically for the worldwide attention he has made for climate change.

Johnson noted that the NFU board of directors recently selected climate change as the organization’s top issue area going forward because of the tremendous threat it poses to family agriculture.

“The attention that Pope Francis has brought to bear on the issue of climate change is a great gift to family farmers, ranchers and those who rely on them for sustenance. It has challenged us to focus on this enormous threat that increased weather volatility poses to farmers everyday,” said Johnson.

In June, the Pope issued the Encyclical, “On Care for our Common Home,” that both recognized climate change as a real global phenomenon and specifically challenged humans of all faiths to take actions to address it.

“In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.” (Laudato Si)

Earlier this year, several Farmers Union state presidents – representing Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana  – and NFU’s chief counsel were granted an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican (March 23). They were in Rome meeting with other Church leaders in preparation for a June gathering of farm and faith groups to take place in Milan, Italy.

Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson said he was very pleased that the Encyclical focused on a number of issues of great importance to family farming. “The 178-page encyclical actually used farm-related terminology thirty times, underscoring that the Pope both understands and chose to highlight the challenges farmers face,” said Peterson.

Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden noted: “The Vatican understands the various issues facing production agriculture, and also the fact that climate change will impact all of us, but unfortunately the developing world will feel its brunt the most.”

The Encyclical states that:

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.”

Climate change and its impact on food security is a challenge for the whole world. When the Pope is delivering the message, it’s nearly impossible to avoid hearing it.