from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: June/July 2023



ENERGIZING FARM BILL LISTENING SESSIONS:  With great representation of well over 100 of us from many parts of the United States, “Listening Sessions to Inform ELCA Farm Bill Advocacy” were productive opportunities to learn more about the Farm Bill reauthorization process and hear from bishops, farmers, USDA employees, school lunch program volunteers, food bank managers, rural young adults and many others about their priorities for the issues impacted by the policy.

Right now, our policy directors are in process of distilling the substantial input we received during the Farm Bill listening session process and interfacing it with other expertise in our networks. This will become a more concise list of asks which the ELCA will continue to advance with policy makers. In general, participants highlighted the importance of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and were distressed by food waste and food deserts. They were concerned with farms and their intersection with conservation, rural community health, and subsidies and crop insurance. As food production impacts all, they emphasized global food access, hunger and issues for small family farms, and challenges of marginalized communities and farmers. These concerns are being synopsized for communication from an engaged and informed body of Lutherans, and we appreciate the input from all who took part!


AFGHAN ADJUSTMENT ACT REINTRODUCED:  The House and Senate have reintroduced the Afghan Adjustment Act. ELCA congregations and leaders have been deeply involved in accompaniment and advocacy for this policy, including sending messages through the ELCA Action Center when it was originally introduced in August 2022.

Bipartisan reintroduction of the Afghan Adjustment Act could provide a direct path to lawful permanent residency. Operation Allies Welcome brought over 75,000 evacuees to safety in the United States, yet an uncertain legal limbo awaits Afghans who fled their war-torn country. An Afghan Adjustment Act would allow humanitarian parolees here in the United States to adjust their status, providing long-term stability and security for themselves and families.

In another development, World Refugee Day on June 20 was unfortunately marked by more than 100 million people forcibly displaced around the world. Climate change, the war in Ukraine, the multi-faced conflicts through the globe, the collapse of democratic systems and freedoms and more have wrought new crises that are forcing more people to leave their homes. Newly released State Department data shows 6,975 refugees were resettled in May, the highest monthly total since December 2016. “LIRS and ELCA remain committed to uplifting the voices and stories of people affected, many of whom will help lead our efforts on Capitol Hill,” states a 2023 ELCA-LIRS World Refugee Day letter.


NEW WHO NETWORK LAUNCHES:  The World Health Organization has launched the International Pathogen Surveillance Network (IPSN), “a global network of pathogen genomic actors, to accelerate progress on the deployment of pathogen genomics and improve public health decision-making.”

The International Pathogen Surveillance Network (IPSN) will “enable faster detection of new pathogens and enhance tracking of the spread and evolution of diseases…the IPSN supports ongoing disease surveillance and will help detect and fully characterize new disease threats before they become epidemics or pandemics.” This tool will potentially assist with effective action, such as the church’s response related to the COVID pandemic.

In other developments, the U.S. government has announced that it will provide nearly $524 million in additional assistance to respond to dire humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa. The announcement brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance for response efforts to more than $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2023. The Horn of Africa region launched the collective Humanitarian Response Plan, which calls for a cumulative $7 billion in assistance for 2023. Total funding for 2023 now stands at $2.4 billion only. The region is experiencing multiple crises. Many in our companion synods have been challenged by these developments – for example read more from ELCA World Hunger where with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) we are working in the Kakuma region in Kenya alongside the local government to help build the capacity of families to respond to and withstand worsening droughts in the region.


WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT DECISION:  The Supreme Court made a decision in a closely watched case regarding the jurisdictional reach of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). This result will reduce the number of wetlands subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court Justices decided in favor of the Sacketts, ruling that the land they are building their home on should not be regulated by the Clean Water Act, which in this case would be considered a wetland. Therefore, under the new Sackett standard, a surface connection must be present in order for a wetland to be considered adjacent to a “waters of the United States” for jurisdictional, regulatory purposes. Reaching the goal of clean water and sanitation for all is critical.

As emphasized in advance of participation by ELCA advocacy and World Hunger representatives in an UN international conference on water: “‘Water is a dealmaker for the Sustainable Development Goals, and for the health and prosperity of people and planet.’ Indeed, without access to clean water and sanitation, many of the other Sustainable Development Goals will be out of reach.” Our ELCA advocacy staff will continue to monitor environmental regulation developments such as these to the Clean Water Act.


DEBT CEILING UPDATE:  President Biden in early June signed a compromise bill, H.R. 3746, to lift the U.S. debt ceiling until 2025. The final bill imposes some spending cuts over the next two years on federal programs – while giving Congress the option to make up most of those cuts through drawing back unspent pandemic funding.

The final bill would also expand some existing work requirements on safety-net programs like SNAP food assistance – which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would actually cost more money each year to enforce rather than save. In the coming months, it will be critical to advocate with appropriators in Congress and encourage them to not enact any automatic spending cuts to core annual discretionary programs such as low-income housing assistance. Also of note, the bipartisan “Fiscal Responsibility Act,” H.R. 3746, greenlit the completion of the Mountain Valley pipeline and made various changes to the National Environmental Policy Act. This is likely the first step of a congressional push to continue to reform permitting across the country on energy production projects.


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