Thoughts 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

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