WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic leaders are urging Catholics nationwide to call their representatives in the House and ask for a farm bill that does not make deep cuts into food assistance programs both here and abroad.

“The bill reported by the (House Agriculture) Committee includes over $20 billion in cuts (over 10 years) to SNAP,” the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps,” said a June 17 letter signed by six national Catholic leaders. “These cuts should be rejected.”

The proposed cuts are five times those cuts in the Senate version of the farm bill, passed June 10. They are also the focus of a threatened presidential veto.

“The bill makes unacceptable deep cuts in SNAP, which could increase hunger among millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, including families with children and senior citizens,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

“The administration believes that Congress should achieve significant budgetary savings to help reduce the deficit without creating hardship for vulnerable families — for example, by reducing crop insurance subsidies,” the agency said June 17. “If the president were presented with H.R. 1947, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.”

In their letter, the Catholic leaders said told members of the House: “Congress should support access to adequate and nutritious food for those in need and oppose attempts to weaken or restructure these programs that would result in reduced benefits to hungry people including immigrant families and those who have paid their debt to society.”

The leaders who signed the letter were: Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace; Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; Carolyn Y. Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services; James F. Ennis, executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference; and Sheila K. Gilbert, president of the National Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“We are urging the House to support a farm bill that prioritizes nutrition, food aid, conservation and rural development,” said the rural life conference’s June 18 weekly email bulletin.

“Given current high commodity prices and federal budget constraints, agricultural subsidies and direct payments can be reduced overall, and targeted to small and moderate-sized farms, especially minority-owned farms,” the leaders’ letter said. “Government resources, such as subsidies for crop insurance, should assist those who truly need assistance and support those who comply with environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices.” Conservation programs would be cut by $5 billion in the House version of the farm bill.

A June 17 action alert for Catholic advocates also promoted the value of federal Food for Peace initiatives.

“The Food for Peace program saves people’s lives in times of dire emergencies and combats chronic hunger in poor communities around the world,” it said, asking advocates to lobby for “reforms that give aid workers more flexibility to employ interventions best suited to local conditions and replace monetization, and oppose any amendments that cut funding for the program.”

House members filed 226 amendments by the June 17 deadline, according to the National Journal Daily, a Capitol Hill newsletter. The first votes on the farm bill and its amendments, backers told the newsletter, could come as early as June 20.