This Thanksgiving season, I’ve been thinking more and more about the complicated ways in which our food reaches our tables. In particular, I’ve been paying increasing attention to the torturous course of the 2007 Farm Bill – a critical piece of legislation that has important implications for our nation and the world.
Like most Americans, my eyelids tend to droop when I hear words like “Farm Bill,” but I have slowly come to understand that it will have a profound and wide ranging impact upon us all. In the words of Time Magazine‘s Michael Grunwald, “If you eat, drink or pay taxes – or care about the economy, the environment or our global reputation – U.S. agricultural policy is a big deal.”
For its part, Jewish tradition teaches that the means by which we sustain ourselves is a mindful and sacred process. The Torah reminds us over and over laws that the land which produces its bounty (not to mention the bounty itself) is not a commodity that belongs to the farmer. God is the source of all sustenance and accordingly, the food we collect and consume must be understood to be a part of a greater, more transcendent good.
This past week it was reported that the Farm Bill stalled in the Senate for strictly political reasons. (What else is new?) This legislation is not likely to resurface for another year – in the meantime, anyone who eats food in this country would do well to educate themselves about the impact this bill will have on their lives.
So here’s a reading list for you this Thanksgiving. In addition to the fine, thorough Grunwald article linked above (“Why Our Farm Policy is Failing”), I recommend “Farm Bill 101,” from Food and Water Watch and this editorial by Michael Pollan, author of the GREAT book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and one of the most eloquent food advocates in our country.
Oh, and Happy Day to one and all…