What does the Encyclical Letter have to do with farmers?

Several U.S. agricultural leaders will help answer that question—and rub shoulders with high-ranking Vatican officials and the heads of global farming organizations—at an international conference in Milan, Italy.

The June 27-28 conference on “Faith, Agriculture, Food and the Environment” is taking place in a monastery outside of Milan, the host city of Expo Milano 2015 happening from May through October. The invited participants will give due attention to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on “Care for our Common Home” and how it relates to agricultural production and concern for the poor.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis writes: “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” [Para. 14]

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a key architect of the pope’s encyclical, will begin the event by providing a faith-based perspective—rooted in Pope Francis’ teaching—on the moral dimensions of farming.

Doug Peterson, president of Farmers Union Enterprises and the Minnesota Farmers Union, is one of the featured speakers at the conference. “This is a wonderful opportunity to examine the crossroads of faith, food production and the environment. We need to find better ways to ensure nutrition for the world’s people while managing our environmental footprint,” Peterson said before departing for Milan.

Peterson is joined by the presidents of three other Midwestern states’ Farmers Unions: Darin Von Ruden, Wisconsin; Mark Watne; North Dakota; and Alan Merrill, Montana.

A number of international agricultural groups will also play prominent roles, including the World Farmers Organisation, the International Catholic Rural Association, Coldiretti (Italy), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, was instrumental in setting up the Milan conference, following from an initial symposium on Faith, Food and the Environment that took place last November in St. Paul, Minnesota. “This symposium will be one of the first opportunities for farm leaders, theologians and academic experts from around the world to discuss how to apply the key themes of the letter to agriculture and environmental stewardship,” Ennis said.

Click here for the Milan Conference Agenda