Bishops encourage dialogue about quality of farm life

Posted: Friday, February 16, 2001

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Economic expansion has failed to benefit many Kansas farmers, the Roman Catholic bishop of the Dodge City Diocese said in announcing a church initiative to preserve small farms and rural life.

Three of the bishops of Kansas' four Catholic dioceses released an ''Agriculture White Paper'' that encourages dialogue about farm life.

''There's no part of our economy that is more basic than the production of food,'' the Most Rev. Ronald Gilmore, of the Dodge City Diocese, said at a news conference. ''We all eat.''

Gilmore said farmers with calloused hands, aching backs and good hearts had been left out of the nation's economic expansion.

''They work night and day,'' Gilmore said. ''Some of them just feel alone.''

Calling food production an ethical concern, Gilmore said the church's role is to promote dialogue that goes beyond technical and political explanations for why farms are getting bigger while the number of farmers shrinks.

''What is the right way to deal with the earth?'' Gilmore asked. ''What is the right way to deal with the environment? What is the right way to deal with the human factor in this equation?''

The paper outlines seven recommendations for state policy, including proposals for a contract grower bill of rights, slaughterhouse regulations and expanded loan programs for farmers.

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