[Newsletter] June 14 – Thoughts from Nigel on the Cross-USA Ride and Farm Bill

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Thoughts from Nigel on the Cross-USA Ride and Farm Bill

Easton, WA, June 12th / Kinneret, Israel, June 14th

Dear All,

[Image: Nigel and the riders]
Nigel and the riders at the starting line
I’ve started writing this email at the very beginning the Hazon Cross-USA Ride. And I’m finishing it by the shore of the Kinneret, in Israel, for our Siach conference. I’m excited to be in Israel and looking forward to Siach and the start of the Cross-USA Ride was amazing.

(I’ll write more about the Cross-USA Ride later in the summer but, for now, you canfollow the ride pretty much live with photos and video. I’d add that unlike our first ride 12 years ago, you can join this year’s Cross-USA Ride for anywhere between one day and five weeks. It is a really wonderful collection of people, it’s an incredible experience, and the ruach (spirit) and energy is tremendous. 19 locals from Seattle – and Hazon board member Anna Ostrovsky, visiting from New York – joined the first day ride and had a great time.)

As it says on our jerseys, we’re cycling to support sustainable food systems. Not only are riders educating themselves and communities along the route about local food, national and local food policy initiatives, and food production, but they’re collecting signatures on a petition to support sustainable food systems to be presented to the USDA in Washington at the end of the ride. Please add your name to the petition.

Riders visit Jubilee CSA Farm in Carnation, WA
And the timing of the Hazon Cross-USA Ride is particularly auspicious – as the senate is debating the Farm bill this week. As an organization, we’ve been talking about the Farm Bill since at least 2008, when I promised that we would learn and teach about it at every Hazon Food Conference, and that we’d use that as a base to try both to educate ourselves and to argue that the Jewish community, as a community, should play a more serious role in trying to influence the passage of the next Farm Bill. Hazon’s mission is to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a healthier and more sustainable world for all. Part of our focus is on transforming ourselves; part is on transforming the Jewish community; and part – even if it’s a small part, even if it hard to trace chains of impact – must be about trying to influence the wider world we live in for good.

[Image: Photo Alt]
Renna, Cross-USA Rider from the Bay Area, enjoys chard.
That said, trying to make sense of the farm bill has been tough going. I’ve been in Washington DC twice in the last few months and met with the staff of four different members of the House of Representatives, plus the staff of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and I met also with senior members of the White House domestic policy staff. Two of the staffs I met thought a version of the Farm Bill would go through this year; two thought it would not; the White House said they weren’t sure. To become law, the bill needs to:

  1. Be passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee
  2. Then the whole Senate (in process this week)
  3. Then the House Agriculture passes its own bill
  4. Then the whole House votes on it
  5. Then a committee tries to reconcile the two versions
  6. Then the House has to agree the new version
  7. Then the Senate does
  8. And then the President needs to sign it

I have two degrees in American History, and by the standards of most Brits I am not ignorant, in a broad sense, of the US political system, but just attempting to find out what is happening in relation to the Farm Bill – much less form a conclusion on my own view of that – has been staggeringly hard these last five years.

But I watched Bill Gates’ Harvard commencement address (given in 2007, you can watch it or read it) and it ends with a rousing charge not to be deterred by complexity. Never was that better advice than in regard to the Farm Bill.

What should you do?

[Image: Food Fight]It’s hard to track what’s happening but I can say this: first, the bill that gets passed – if it gets passed – will have more impact on food, and people-in-relation-to-food, and land-in-relation-to-food than anything else likely to happen in the next five years in this country.

[Image: Photo Alt]
Nigel Savage, Founder and Executive Director of Hazon

Kol tuv, shabbat shalom,

Nigel Savage
Executive Director, Hazon

Jewish Farm Bill Working Group Presents 18,000 signatures in Washington

Jewish leaders before meeting with officials. Photo via RAC
Today, seven national Jewish groups delivered a petition with nearly 18,000 signatures to House Leadership and the Obama Administration demanding a focus on food justice in the next Farm Bill. The signatures represent a Jewish communal voice advocating for a better food system and have been collected since October by the Jewish Farm Bill Working Group, which consists of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), Hazon, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger (MAZON), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). The delivery of this petition is targeted to anticipate mark-up of the bill by the House Agriculture Committee in the next few weeks.

The working group itself represents a diverse cross section of Jewish advocacy, denominational and educational organizations coming together to call for anti-hunger and sustainable agriculture policies both in the U.S. and abroad. The group’s work is based on its Jewish Platform for a Just Farm Bill,a statement of principles endorsed by twenty Jewish organizations including representation from the four largest denominations (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist). These principles include reform of international food aid policies, protection of funding for domestic food programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and sustainable land and energy use.

Read the full press release [PDF].

Hazon is collecting signatures to let President Obama and the members of Congress know that we support healthy and sustainable food systems. Cyclists on the Hazon Cross-USA Ride will deliver the full list of signatories to the USDA at our closing ceremony in Washington. Whether the Farm Bill passes this week, in 10 weeks when riders arrive in DC, or next year, it’s important that you think about these issues and add your name.

Cross-USA Ride Week 1
From Seattle to Spokane

Riders dip their bikes in the Pacific to begin their Journey!

[Image: Eric harvests artichokes at a CSA Farm in Carnation, WA]
Eric harvests artichokes at a CSA Farm in Carnation, WA
This week, the ride kicked off in Seattle WA and riders will be spending Shabbat in Spokane. Join them for learning at Temple Beth Shalom.

Next week, riders travel to Helena, MT. Learn more about their week and consider joining for their first service day in Missoula helping to build a bike trail.

Live from the road:

[Image: Photo Alt]
Riders tour Puget Sound Energy wind farm
Join the Ride for a Segment

It’s not too late to sign up for parts of the ride!

  • 5 weeks: Twin Cities to Washington DC
  • 2 weeks: Twin Cities to Chicago
  • 2 weeks: Chicago to Pittsburgh
  • 3 weeks: Chicago to Washington DC
  • 1 week: Pittsburgh to Washington DC
  • Choose your own adventure by riding for a few days – contact us for details

Register for a Segment


14 Riders and 3 Staff currently on the road.

$74,260 Raised to Date

Support a Rider | Make a General Donation


Israel Ride Information Session in LA

Learn about the 2012 Israel Ride and Team JNF

[Image: Biking Israel]Thursday, June 21st, 7:00 PM
Sophos Cafe at the Hub on Venice
11827 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, RSVP by June 19th

Learn about the Israel Ride from past participants and JNF staff members. They will share their experiences on the Israel Ride as well as stories from visiting the Arava Institute.

Hear alumni experiences of cycling through Israel, exploring the land, understanding its history, and learning about the potential for regional cooperation.

Discover how the Israel Ride can be your destination vacation this year or next.

Ride to Coney Island THIS SUNDAY!

Bike to the Beach – June 17, 2012

A group ride from around New York and New Jersey!

  • Start from any of four locations around New York and New Jersey
  • Ride across bridges and on greenways through the city
  • All routes end at the Shorefront Y on Coney Island at 1 PM
  • Tell your non-riding friends to meet us there!

Learn More | Register Today