This week members of the U.S. Senate will vote on a five-year reauthorization of all U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, otherwise known as the Farm Bill. Legislators are expected to debate and vote on more than 70 amendments ranging from sugar subsidies to food stamps.
Among the voices in that debate are members of a coalition of Jewish groups, who have put out a statement of principles called the “Jewish Platform for a Just Farm Bill.” Organizers say that ensuring a steady and affordable supply of nutritious food at all levels of society is one of the most deeply embedded values in all of Torah. Hardly radical, the coalition represents both modest food justice programs like Hazon and Mazon, the American Jewish World Service, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Union for Reform Judaism, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which through its affiliated community relations councils has a presence in nearly every American-Jewish community.
The statement of principles places special emphasis on three issues: expanding access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which last year put healthy food on the tables of 46.3 million low-income families; providing subsidies to enable smaller farms to grow less-industrialized fruits and vegetables for consumers; and reforming international food aid policy to enable local and regional procurement of food for areas of the world facing famine or natural disasters.
“The Farm Bill governs the kinds and levels of assistance we provide to hungry people, helps regulate what crops are planted, establishes whether sustainable farming and conservation practices will be implemented, and influences whether our food is healthy and affordable,” said Abby Leibman, president and CEO of Mazon. “Each and every one of us has a stake in the Farm Bill.”
It is always gratifying to see Jewish organizations working in a spirit of cooperation. We urge the Senate to heed their call to conscience.