Trump’s Budget

March 23, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

All the talk in this town is about the Donald Trump Budget. Defense hawks say the $54B increase in defense spending is not enough. Liberals cry that the long list of cuts in spending on many non-defense programs will devastate the country.

I will just say – we should not be surprised. President Trump’s budget is consistent with his campaign promises. He said he would make cuts and reduce the budget deficit. His budget has $1.1 trillion in discretionary money to spend. He proposes to increase defense spending by $54B. That is a 10% bump up. He does that by taking that money away from other discretionary programs. He lets the ax fall on EPA with a 31% cut. I like that. The State Department and international programs give up 28.7%. The Labor Department and Agriculture come in next at a 20.7% reduction. The Education Department, Department of Housing, and Urban Development give up 13%, and so on.

Farmers and ranchers are cheering many of these cuts – government has gotten too big. However, there is some concern about what this could mean to the ag industry. Keep in mind that 20% of the USDA budget is discretionary. Farm subsidies and crop insurance are safe for now because they are not discretionary. They can’t be touched unless the Congress changes the law. The big entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, are also mandatory.

However, at some point, the President could ask the Congress to consider taking some money from some of the entitlement programs. Keep in mind the Congress has “the power of the purse.” The President can propose but the Congress will dispose. Although President Trump has said he would not touch Social Security or Medicare, that’s where the money is. A little tweak on those programs and that could bring in big money and make it easier to balance the budget.

Changing Social Security and Medicare is the third rail of politics. It would not be easy, but I think it is time to raise the retirement age.

Some Members of Congress have declared President Trump’s budget “dead on arrival.” However, it will influence what is finally passed by the Congress. Let the debate begin.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Farm Economy

March 15, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I was back on the farm in Illinois last week. I’m glad to report that the pigs are healthy and happy, and we are ready to start planting next month. Some farms are not as fortunate.

Wild fires have burned more than 1,000 square miles, killing thousands of cattle in Kansas and Oklahoma. Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Ag Committee and from Kansas, said, “It tears at your heartstrings to meet with people who have lost their homes, ranches, and farms.”

Now, we also have reports of bird flu in the U.S. where thousands of chickens and turkeys must be destroyed. Bird flu can be spread by ducks and other birds. That’s always a risk. Here is a solution. Effective on St. Patrick’s Day, no more free range chickens in Ireland. “The egg and poultry sector will no longer be allowed to use the free range label.” Animal rights advocates won’t like that.

We have our challenges in the U.S. ag industry. In 1970, our share of global grain trade was 65%. We are now down to 30%. Net farm income is half what it was just 4 years ago. Farm income is projected to drop another 9% this year. 180 million new acres have been plowed into crop production in the past 10 years. Those are not U.S. acres. We have actually reduced our crop acres. Look at Brazil – almost overnight, Brazil has become number 1 in soybean exports. Russia used to be the world’s largest wheat importer. Today, Russia is the largest wheat exporter.

We can’t eat any more in our country so we need to look to the export market. We export 70% of our cotton and 50% of our soybeans; wheat at 38%, and pork at 20%; and corn, dairy and poultry at 15%. We run a $16 billion trade surplus in ag products, but have a $12 billion deficit with the EU. China has been a very good market for us but they could be better. Their trade surplus with us in all goods and services is $330 billion. Maybe the EU and China could buy more of our farm products.

Agriculture is a cyclical industry and very competitive.

In closing, we have good news. Our candidate for Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, will be up for confirmation very soon. At his request, I met with Governor Perdue in February. He will be doing all he can to lift our struggling farm economy.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Organic Foods

March 9, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Before focusing on today’s ag issue, I want to pay tribute to Clayton Yeutter. Clayton passed away Saturday, March 4 – age 86 – having served as U.S. Trade Ambassador and Secretary of Agriculture for Presidents Reagan and Bush. Clayton Yeutter – a good friend and champion for the ag industry and our country. He will be missed.

Today, I want to raise some questions about organic food products. The organic market continues to grow. Organic supporters have been able to convince many consumers that organic is healthier, safer, and more sustainable. But it is not. And now, many organic producers are calling for a “check-off program” to fund research and promotion of their product. We have check-off programs for pork, milk, beef, etc., but the programs promote all pork including Durochogs, Poland China hogs – all breeds. Same is true with dairy – the program promotes all dairy.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction over the National Organic Program as it does over all of the check-off programs. Here is the risk. An organic check-off program could raise millions of dollars and be used to mislead the public into thinking that organic is better, safer, more nutritional than conventionally raised crops. Here is my point. I don’t think the U.S. Department of Agriculture should be a partner and supporter of a program to discourage adoption of modern agriculture technology, including biotechnology. Our ag industry is productive, efficient, and sustainable.

We don’t want to go back to farming like my grandfather, with weedy crops and low yield – 80 bushels per acre corn. If I wanted to be selfish about the whole question, I would encourage more organic farming. Why? Because production would be cut by one-third or one-half. Then, we would have less corn, less soybeans, less pork on the market and mine would be worth more money.

We need to make science-based decisions; we don’t need to be funding more false and misleading claims. That really is “fake news.”

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump Speaks

March 1, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

President Trump’s first major address to a joint session of Congress got a lot of attention. He told us what he is going to do. He reminded us what he has already done. He worked to sell his vision for the country to the Congress and the people.

He has already trashed a number of regulations that President Obama enacted in recent months. For every new regulation, two must be rescinded. President Trump will get rid of WOTUS – Waters of the U.S. – that is EPA’s most hated regulatory overreach.

The ag industry is rightly worried about a trade war. Can President Trump negotiate better trade agreements? There is no question that we have seen other countries throw up trade barriers whenever it suited their interest. We love China for buying our soybeans, but they have ignored World Trade Organization rules at their will.

Repeal and replace Obamacare is a high priority – won’t be easy. We don’t want to have 20 million people lose their health insurance, but Obamacare is going to disintegrate if it is not fixed.

President Trump’s budget proposal provides more money for defense -- $54 billion. That is a 3% increase. That $54 billion will be taken away from non-defense programs. According to Budget Director Mike Mulvaney, “that is the largest reduction since the Ronald Reagan administration.” The EPA budget and staff could be cut by 25%. You can just hear the cheers from the country. The President’s speech was about “economic opportunity and protecting the American people.”

Federal taxes are in the cross hairs and will be reformed and cut. Just remember – the President cannot reform our Tax Code without the Congress. Both parties have problems with the Tax Code. If President Trump is the real dealmaker, he should be able to get this done.

We have a new Secretary of Education – Betsy DeVos. She has been attacked by the left because she is not owned by the Teachers Union. She wants more school choice – competition in education. We need a lot of reform in big city schools. It can’t get worse.

President Trump has been in office only five weeks and he has four years to go. In this short time, he has critics going crazy. That’s because he is doing what he said he would do. “Promises made and promises kept.”

It’s way too soon to know how this will all work out. Can Republicans govern or will it just be more gridlock? The stock market is optimistic and so am I.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to

www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Two Issues

February 22, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary— 

I have two issues to put forward today. They aren’t related, but we are going to have more discussion about each of them this year. 

President Trump tells us he will put forth a tax reform plan with tax cuts in the next two weeks. Speaker Paul Ryan also is advocating tax legislation, and one idea is a border adjustment tax that will tax imports and that will likely raise the cost of imported products. It will also raise a lot of money which we need if we are going to rebuild our infrastructure. 

A border tax will shake up trade relations; however, you can argue that it would be fair because it would treat all importers equally. Many other countries have a similar tax. Let’s keep our eye on the coming tax reform debate. It could have a huge impact. 

My other subject is the $71 billion food stamp program administered by the Department of Agriculture. The program eats up 70% of the ag budget. We spend more than twice what we spent when I was Secretary of Agriculture. There has always been concern about whether the food program is what it should be. Are we wasting money? 

Twenty percent of that money – over $14 billion – is spent on sweet beverages, snack food, candy, and sweet desserts. It is just helping to fatten the customers. Why is the government doing this? How do we correct the problem? One answer is to require the supermarket to become the food police. I’m not sure that is reasonable. It’s too costly and time-consuming. Can you imagine how long the line-up for the cashier could be? There isn’t any easy answer. 

Tongue in cheek, I have suggested that food stamp recipients be required to weigh in. If they weigh too much, maybe no food stamps or perhaps let them buy only fruits and vegetables. Just kidding. This whole issue will be debated when we write a new farm bill. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Controversy is Good

February 15, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary— 

The headlines in the papers and on the evening highlights: “White House in Crisis” and “Conflicts Between Trump Appointees.” Yes – for anyone following the new President and Republican Congress’s effort to take control and move forward, it is a wild and crazy show. 

However, let me say that it is not so uncommon. When I was selected by President Reagan as Secretary of Agriculture, I ended up right in the middle of a big battle with some members in the Reagan Cabinet. We had our first Cabinet meeting in the Blair House before President Reagan was inaugurated. Defense Secretary Weinberger gave a report on where we were on national security and where he felt President Reagan should lead. There were some other reports from Cabinet members. 

Before closing, President Reagan asked if anyone had anything that we should review. I raised my hand and said that the Soviet grain embargo imposed by former President Jimmy Carter was devastating our farmers and the embargo should be lifted. The Soviet Union had been a huge market for our grain. Secretary of State Alexander Haig jumped on me, declaring that the embargo should not be lifted until we get something in return. Defense Secretary Weinberger was even more adamant. I didn’t seem to have any support. 

Haig and Weinberger continued to make their case with the press. I was supporting the farmers and they wanted the embargo lifted. Our Cabinet dispute was in all the papers and the press. I think President Reagan wanted to stand back and let the disagreement rage. After the President was shot, he came back to the White House and lifted the grain embargo. 

That was just the first example of the President allowing a clash of ideas in his Cabinet. The President would hold Cabinet meetings at least every other week. Different issues and different Cabinet members were asked to make presentations on national issues. In 1984, I was asked to present my proposal for the farm program scheduled to be passed in 1985. It was well received, but the Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman attacked my proposal to establish a Conservation Reserve Program. It was stripped out of the farm bill. Two or three months later, I was able to get it back into the bill. 

It is pretty obvious that President Trump’s leadership team does not agree on everything. That can be a good thing. I hope that President Trump will hold regular Cabinet meetings. Most Administrations since President Reagan have not. A closed mind with no discussion will not work. Washington writer George Will said President Obama “never learned anything from anyone with whom he disagreed.” I say delegate, listen, and learn. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Regulations

February 9, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

President Trump is aggressively working to relieve the heavy burden of excessive regulations imposed on businesses in recent years. Remember what President Reagan said about regulations: “A government regulation is the nearest thing to eternal life that anyone will ever see on this earth.”

I think that we all know there are good regulations and bad regulations, but too many just tie us in a knot. President Trump has said for every new regulation, two old ones must be discarded. Not a bad idea.

The ag industry uses a lot of energy. We need natural gas to make nitrogen fertilizer (anhydrous ammonia). We need oil to fuel our tractors, trucks, and combines. We have made enormous progress in developing cleaner energy in wind, solar, and biofuels. We don’t worry every day about energy from the Middle East where we used to get most of our oil and gas. We are moving to energy independence. 

Now – thanks to President Trump – the Keystone pipeline from Canada will be built. Another new pipeline can now be completed from North Dakota to Illinois and on to the refineries on the east and gulf coasts. The pipeline does not require federal approval except one place where it goes near the Missouri River. There is every reason to think that we will get this done. But much of the delay is because of endlessly redundant federal environmental regulations.

Almost every infrastructure project runs up against those road blocks. We are hopeful that we can fund a major infrastructure of highways, bridges, locks, and dams. Finding the money to fund the projects is a challenge but we will also run up against the environmental lobby trying to protect some bird or rat or fish. They will say we need to clean up the air we breathe; close down the coal mines.

Let’s be honest. Our air and water is about as clean as any country in the world. Look at the pictures of people in some Chinese cities where the air is black. I stepped out on my back porch this morning. The air is fresh and clean. Get the regulations out of the way.

We can build a better future for the U.S.A.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade

February 2, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I want to focus on trade today. From agriculture’s perspective, it is extremely important. 25% of ag income comes from products sold to other countries. Production from 1 out of every 3 acres is exported. Agriculture has a positive trade balance of more than $30 billion. As positive as our ag trade balance is, total U.S. trade is running a massive trade deficit – roughly $700 billion. Trump has already rejected the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. He wants bilateral agreements with individual countries.

My first question is – what trading partners are pushing up this huge imbalance? Answer – China gets the prize. Half of the deficit is because of Chinese trade. Then, we can blame the EU for 20%; Japan for 9%; Mexico for 8%; and Canada for a tiny 2%. Other countries in the world make upthe rest. The fact is that China has been a very important market for our ag products, but they arenot consistent. They are a manipulator. They have given a subsidy of more than $100 billion to their farmers over the last 3 years. That distorts the market. The Chinese government tries to manage everything. Two years ago, China supported the price of corn at $10 per bushel. It is now supported at $5 per bushel. The U.S. has launched a World Trade Organization case against

China’s grains policy. China has raised tariffs on U.S. ethanol from 5% to 30%. They have effectively closed the door on our exports of distillers dried grain. Duties, tariffs, and manipulation of the market is not fair trade. The U.S. has by far the most open market of any developed country in the world. Other countries – at the drop of a hat – slam a tariff on our imports.

Turn to Europe now. The EU is responsible for 20% of our trade deficit. They can be very restrictive. The EU closes the door on most biotech products. When I was Secretary of Agriculture, they stopped importing any of our meat. They had to inspect every one of our processing plants. And after 2 years, they started accepting only horse meat. The French just couldn’t get enough horse meat.

We don’t want a trade war. Agriculture could be hurt, but we need to do something. A “border adjustment tax” could be the answer. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Perdue as Ag Secretary

January 26, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere, the National Corn Growers Association, and CropLife America. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I am calling this program in on the telephone from Florida. You know what farmers work so hard for – “corn, beans, and Florida.” The news of the day is that Donald Trump is President. His critics are in shock. I say –“get over it.”

He has tapped Governor Sonny Perdue for Secretary of Agriculture. Perdue grew up on a Georgia farm and has a veterinarian’s degree. Gary Baise, who pulled together the powerful Trump Ag Advisory Team, had this to say: “Mr. Perdue will garner strong support during his Senate conformation hearing from those with ties to production agriculture.”

I am happy that Sam Clovis, Policy Advisor for Trump’s campaign, will be working with Mr. Perdue as they staff leadership at USDA. During the campaign, Sam Clovis was the go-to guy for the Ag Advisory Team – we met with him on several occasions – some times face-to-face, and other times by telephone conference call. On those occasions, it was clear that he knew agriculture and our issues.

Zippy Duvall, also from Georgia and now, President of the American Farm Bureau, worked with Perdue to increase ag trade with Cuba and other countries. Once you step into the shoes of the Secretary of Agriculture, that’s when you start to realize the enormous and challenging job that lies ahead. I remember that moment like yesterday. USDA’s responsibility is broad – food, farms, rural development, forest service (95 million acres), and nutrition. USDA has a budget of $150 billion and 110,000 employees, offices in almost every county of the U.S., and representation in countries all over the world.

USDA has more employees than any other Department, except Defense. An early challenge for Secretary Perdue will be to help President Trump push back against the overreach of environmental and climate change activists. Over-regulation is suffocating our small businesses, farms, and ranches.

It’s not on the front burner now, but Secretary Perdue will be expected to work with the Congress in writing the next farm bill. He and President Trump have indicated they want to keep farm programs and nutrition in one bill – no divorce this time.

In closing – thank you, Tom Vilsack, for your 8 years as Secretary of Agriculture. That’s a long time. Thank you for your support of ag trade, ethanol, and biotechnology.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Florida.

John Block Reports from Washington

Barack Hussein Obama – a Retrospective

January 19, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This is Rick Frank sitting in for John Block. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere, the National Corn Growers Association, and CropLife America.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

Until next week, I am Rick Frank for John Block from Washington, D.C.

And now for today’s commentary— 

As we prepare to launch the Trump Administration, I thought it useful and appropriate to take a quick look back at our 44th President Barack Hussein Obama. 

First and foremost, as a leader and human being, President Obama will be remembered as a success.  Our first African-American President, he served eight years with distinction – no scandals, no controversies, and a truly inspiring First Family.  While you may not have agreed with his policies or politics, there is no question but that it was a “clean” Presidency. 

President Obama is a man of great integrity and honorable intentions.  Wherever you stand on Obamacare, it is hard to argue with more and better healthcare for all Americans.  He supported equal rights for all, including Blacks, Hispanics, and the LGBT community.  He supported safer and cleaner air, water, and food.  Again, all these are truly honorable intentions. 

As to agriculture, it was never really one of his top priorities.  A failure of the Obama Administration will be that it never engaged immigration policy or, for that matter, even sent a proposal to Capitol Hill.  Trade, on the other hand, should be viewed as a success.  Widely supported by American agriculture, the Obama Administration negotiated a series of treaties, including the Trans Pacific Partnership which, if ever implemented, would definitely benefit American agriculture. 

On nutrition policy, the Obama Administration was primarily led by the First Lady.  They took a somewhat naïve approach to school lunch – made it more nutritious but led to plate waste.  As to the Dietary Guidelines, the Committee appointed by the Obama Administration was full of ideologues and supporters of fringe policies.  Seeking to include sustainability and soda taxes as part of nutrition policy was just plain wrong.  Vilifying added sugar without adequate science, while well intentioned, has led to yet another “good food bad food” approach.  Sound science did not always rule the day. 

As to agriculture incomes, they generally benefitted during the early years, but not recently. Implementation of some of the trade deals which President Obama negotiated would help.  Overall, the economy and job market improved markedly since 2008. 

History will be the ultimate judge of the Obama Administration.  For me, I am proud we elected an African American, stabilized our economy, provided health insurance to 20 million additional Americans, enshrined gay rights, and held civil discourse on a wide array of issues. Let’s see where we are four years from now. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Priorities for 2017

January 12, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere, the National Corn Growers Association, and CropLife America.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

We know some people are not happy to see Donald Trump move into the White House.  However, many others are very excited.  Just go to rural America.  Farmers, ranchers, and most red states cannot wait for President Trump to get rid of the flood of regulations that President Obama has weighing on our shoulders.  Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) is at the top of the list.  The Obama EPA has tried to regulate everything.  On my farm, we need to be able to tile a wet hole, straighten a creek, or dig a ditch to improve drainage.  We don’t want to be required to get a permit to make improvements on our own farms. 

One of the next challenges for the new Republican leadership will be reform of the tax code.  Our tax code is thousands of pages and too complicated.  We want the estate tax repealed.  Farmers and small businesses should be able to pass their businesses on to the next generation.  It’s not right for the federal government to come in and steal it.  And, U.S. corporations should not be able to hide their profits in other countries – bring it home. 

Also, an industry like agriculture is very concerned about trade since we export almost 30% of our production.  We know Mr. Trump wants better trade deals, and I support that.  Other countries use tariffs and non-tariff barriers to protect their industries.  We don’t have many barriers to their imports.  So, as we move to give our companies a fair deal, we certainly don’t need a trade war. 

Another question – what about Obama Care?  The public doesn’t like it.  Republicans will keep some parts of it to include parents keeping their children on their health plan until they reach 26 years and will make sure pre- existing conditions will not deny an individual health insurance.  Repealing Obama Care will be easy, but replacing it without losing the 20 million new enrollees that the plan now helps will be hard. 

Let’s not forget about immigration.  Yes, we need a wall or at least a much more secure border.  Beyond that, we need immigration reform.  Send the bad guys back to where they came from.  The good immigrants that have been here a long time need to be made legal.  We need to be able to bring in farm help to pick the strawberries and milk the cows, and butcher the hogs.  I think we will get this done in the next two years.  After all, Trump is a dealmaker.  

I am optimistic about the next four years.  Consumer confidence is spiking up.  The stock market had made a run.  In spite of the low farm prices, farms and ranchers are very excited and hopeful. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Last Minute Executive Orders

January 5, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere, the National Corn Growers Association, and CropLife America.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Since 1981, I have seen, watched, and participated in a number of changes of power in the White House.  President Obama committed to a smooth transition of power to PresidentElect Trump. However, with one month before the transfer, I have never seen a lame duck President make so many executive decisions which will make the new President’s job more difficult. 

Here is what the New York Times (no friend of Donald Trump) had to say.  “Obama did not say that he intended to set up as many policy and ideological roadblocks as possible before Mr. Trump takes the oath of office on January 20.”  “He has banned oil drilling off the Atlantic coast, established new environmental monuments, ordered the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, criticized Israeli settlements, punished Russia for interfering in the recent elections through cyberattacks, freeing non-violent drug offenders from federal prisons.”  I should also mention that he would like to find some way to stop Republicans from repealing Obama Care.  I understand why he wants to protect it. 

I’m not suggesting that his recent executive actions are all wrong.  For example, I don’t know what the best approach is to find peace for Israel.  But at this late date, I think that these decisions should be left to the new President. I don’t think President Obama should ban any more oil drilling and he should not establish 1.6 million acres in Utah and Nevada as federal land national monuments.  Western states, ranchers, and other businesses don’t want the federal government dictating in their states.  

Finally, probably some sanctions against Russia for hacking into our internet and interfering in our election should be in place.  But why did Obama wait so long?  The truth is, Russia has been doing the same thing in other European elections for several years.  We are not going to admit it, but certainly the U.S. has been trying to hack into other countries.   With all this information floating around in cyberspace, someone is going to try to get it.  This is a new world of communication and I’m not sure we have the needed security. 

I have listed just some of the executive actions that President Obama has taken.  I expect there will be more before January 20.  But, look for Trump and the Republican Congress to move quickly to repeal Obama Care, to block recent Obama executive action – even some not so recent, like the stalled Keystone pipeline. 

This whole process will be very interesting.  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

New Year 2017

December 28, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere, the National Corn Growers Association, and CropLife America.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

The new year is upon us.  2017, like any new year, presents many unknowns – perhaps even more this year.  I want to review where we are at today and look at where we may be going next year. 

Since Donald Trump’s election in November, the stock market has soared.  Confidence in the economy was rising throughout most of 2016, but it has exploded since the election.  Of course, we don’t know if that optimism is justified. 

From the ag industry’s perspective, 2016 was not a good year – neither was 2015.  In 2016, farm income was down more than 10% below 2015. 

The ag industry exports more than 25% of our production.  Our exports in 2016 are expected to reach about $127 billion with ag imports at $113 billion.  That gives us a trade surplus of $14 billion, which is the lowest surplus since 2012.  Farmland values are down for the third year in a row.  It is understandable that there is a lot of anxiety in farm country. 

Looking ahead, there is hope that Donald Trump’s tough trade policy could pay off.  There is also concern that it might not. 

Farming and ranching is like any other business.  The way to prosper is to have net income – more money coming in than going out. 

At this point, prices are relatively low because we have too much – too much corn, too much soybeans, too much milk, and too much meat on the market.  We need some weather problems this year to cut the yield.  Right now, everyone is looking at Brazil and Argentina.  Drought down there would be a Godsend to farmers up here.  If we had a few weather problems up here, that also would help to balance supply and demand. 

The supply side will be adjusted some with farmers planting more soybeans and less corn, but the weatherman is in control.  If we can cut the cost of raising the crop, maybe we can move into the black.  Nitrogen fertilizer is down in cost.  That is a big deal.  Where do we get nitrogen?  It is made from natural gas.  And, natural gas is down in price.  That brings nitrogen down.  Let’s keep drilling; let’s keep fracking.  Build the Keystone pipeline.  Complete the stalled North Dakota pipeline.  The ag industry is hopeful that Donald Trump can get this done.  

Seed prices have not come down.  They should.  Farmers will try to find a little cheaper seed.  Good luck.  I am convinced that, in 2017, farmers will use less chemicals to control pests and weeds.  As we should in a market economy, we will look for any way to cut costs. 

There will be some marginal farmland that will not be farmed under such uncertainty. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Merry Christmas

December 22, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere, the National Corn Growers Association, and CropLife America.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Merry Christmas to everyone out there.  This is the most celebrated holiday of the year and has been since our nation was founded.  It seems like so many things come together and change right after Christmas as the new year settles in. 

As I look back to Christmas when I was a kid, I remember when my father gave me a 410 single shot shotgun.   I was so excited.  My grandfather told me he would take me out rabbit hunting later that Christmas day.  We had chores to do first.  We had 10 cows to milk – by hand.  But with my dad, grandfather, and another young man that helped us on the farm, we got it done.  The chickens had to be fed – that was my job. 

My grandfather gave me some instructions on how to use my new 4-10 shotgun, and we headed across the field next to a wooded pasture.  We hadn’t gone ¼ mile and there in front of us, about 20 yards away, sat a rabbit.  I raised my gun and he started to run.  I aimed and fired.  I missed, but as I grew up that 4-10 shotgun “brought home the bacon” many times. 

My sisters and I grew up riding ponies and hunting rabbits and squirrels.  We rode our ponies to our one-room county school 3 miles from our farm.  At that school with 8 or 9 kids, we had 1 teacher for 8 grades.  No running water.  We had to pump it.  We had 2 outhouses.  When I think about the challenge of trying to teach 8 grades in one room, it’s hard to imagine but half of those school mates, including my sisters and I, graduated from college.  

At Christmas, thanks to our teacher, we put on a Christmas program for all the families.  We sang all the traditional Christmas songs – Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, etc.  There are a lot of schools today where the anti-Christians won’t allow any Christian songs. 

One other tradition that I can’t forget was the delicious turkey dinner that my mother prepared for us.  My grandfather would be there and, some years, my aunt and uncle and their 2 kids would join us.  That was Christmas down on the farm as a boy. 

I hope you enjoy your Christmas holiday.  In another week, we will head into a new year.  I have my Paralyzed Veterans calendar ready to hang above my desk.  We need to be so grateful for our blessings – grateful for those that have gone on before us, helping to build the greatest nation in the world.  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Vilsak Eight Years

December 14, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere, the National Corn Growers Association, and CropLife America.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Last week, I – along with 2 other former Secretaries of Agriculture (Ann Veneman and  Dan Glickman) – attended the portrait unveiling ceremony of Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Department of Agriculture.  Vilsack served as Secretary of Agriculture for 8 years.  It’s very rare for any Cabinet member to last that long.  I was in my 6th year when I left. 

Throughout his tenure, Secretary Vilsack has been a strong supporter of biotechnology, ag trade, and the renewable fuel standard.  Those are just some of the issues that are very important to our industry. 

I think we are all aware of President-Elect Donald Trump’s criticism of China’s trade manipulation. Negotiating better trade deals with China will be a delicate process.  For more than a year now, the Obama Administration has been pushing China to fix some of their trade restricting policies.  Did you know that U.S. beef has been shut out of China for 13 years?  They need to open up acceptance of some biotech crops also.  Two years ago, they rejected a number of shipments of distillers dried grain.  China can be a problem, but let’s not forget that one-third of our soybean crop is shipped to China. 

Serving the ag industry and the country is a never-ending challenge.  Secretary Vilsack accomplished a lot but there is always more to do.  Donald Trump’s new Secretary of Agriculture will have his hands full.  The Congress will begin writing the next farm bill and it is important that the Secretary of Agriculture have a strong voice.  It can be hard the first year as the new team of Assistants and Undersecretaries are appointed and expected to lead the charge. 

I know that in 1981, my first year when the 1981 farm bill was written, we didn’t have very much influence.  The Congress took the lead, but in 1985 we were ready and succeeded in pushing through a number of important changes – including the Conservation Reserve Program and an end of the annual land set-aside program. 

As this new farm bill is written, food and nutrition (food stamps, school lunch, etc.) need to stay married to the farm programs.  Although food and nutrition spends more than 70% of the money in the ag bill, farm and food need to “hang together or they could both hang separately.”  Farm influence in Congress needs all the help we can get. 

I am hopeful that President-Elect Trump, with his new team at USDA, will cover our backs.  After all, didn’t ag and rural America elect our new President? 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade Undersecretary

December 7, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere, the National Corn Growers Association, and CropLife America.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

There is a lot of talk today abut the next farm bill.  What will be in it?  When will we get it done?  But I think the ag industry should remind the new Secretary of Agriculture when Donald Trump takes office that the last farm bill had an important provision that was never implemented.  

The 2014 farm bill directed the Department of Agriculture to establish an Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs.  Why is this so important?  One out of every three acres of our farm production is exported today.  In 1978, our exports were valued at $29 billion.  It’s a new day and our trade structure at USDA has remained unchanged for nearly 40 years.  

There are trade opportunities and challenges today that we did not imagine in 1978.  We need an experienced trader at the Under Secretary level to focus on ag trade.  We are facing challenges every day to keep markets open and gain access to new markets.  There are trade disputes with China all the time but, for agriculture, that market is essential. 

In May 2013, a letter signed by 29 food and ag groups was sent to the Congress asking that the Office of Under Secretary for Trade be part of the 2014 farm bill.  All former Secretaries of Agriculture, including yours truly, supported the idea.  The whole ag industry was saying, “Get it done!”  It passed.  The 2014 farm bill directed USDA (1) to present a reorganization plan to establish the Office of Under Secretary for Trade, and (2) by August 2015, to fully implement it.  However, it never got done.  It is still sitting on the shelf. 

With the number of hungry mouths to feed in this world expected to grow by 2.5 billion by 2050, let’s not procrastinate any longer.  We need to reorganize the USDA Trade office and give the leader the stature of Under Secretary to get the job done. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Cuba and More

December 1, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere, the National Corn Growers Association, and CropLife America.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

I want to review a few issues today as we plan our farming operation and look over the horizon at next year’s opportunities and challenges.  U.S. farm income this year is expected to be down again, hitting an 8-year low of $71 billion.  In 2013, we climbed to a peak of $120 billion.  That was off the chart.  A positive statistic is that our debt is still manageable – not like in the 1980s when a lot of farms and country banks went belly up. 

Next issue – Donald Trump will be working with a number of countries to boost our trade export numbers.  We all know that U.S. agriculture runs an impressive trade surplus of about $16 billion.  Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1993, our exports to Canada and Mexico have jumped from $8.9 billion to $38.6 billion.  That’s impressive. 

But, let’s look at the EU.  Europe is exporting twice as much ag product to us as we export to them.  How can that be?  We are certainly as good at producing food as they are.  We are in the process of negotiating a trade agreement with Europe but it is not even close to being done.  They use their tariffs to protect their beef, pork, poultry, and GMO rules to close the door on grains.  I think Donald Trump can get a better deal. 

My last issue is Cuba.  I was there last year.  We were trying to find a way to open the trade door, which has been closed for 50 years.  Suddenly, Fidel Castro dies.  Maybe some things will change; maybe not.  Certainly, President Obama has made some serious progress.  President Obama has named an Ambassador in Havana with full diplomatic relations, but he is yet to be confirmed by the Senate.  But that doesn’t fix everything, because we still have legislation which requires that Cuba pay cash in advance for their imports.  That restriction needs to be lifted.  Let our exporters deal with the Cuban importers.  Get the government out of it. 

What will President-Elect Trump do now?  Will he trash the progress that President Obama has made?  I don’t have a crystal ball to read, but I am hopeful.  Fidel is gone.  Raul, his brother, knows that Cuba is under a lot of pressure.  Russia used to subsidize Cuba for years.  They can’t afford it anymore.  Venezuela provided free oil to Cuba.  Venezuela is all but broke – they can’t help.  Cuba needs to do something.  Their citizens live on less than $1 per day.  They can talk about how educated they are and how good their healthcare is, but that island country is broke.  Young people are fleeing the island in droves – 60,000 over the last year.  Maybe Donald and Raul can patch things up.  We shall see.    

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Thanksgiving

November 24, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

I’m not talking about politics or President-Elect Donald Trump today.  Let’s be thankful for our good fortune to be here in America this Thanksgiving weekend.  The celebration of Thanksgiving dates back to our ancestors that settled this country.  They didn’t have the comforts that we take for granted today.  They were just thankful to have a roof over their head and food to eat. 

Watch the news and we see people in other countries going hungry.  Some are at war.  Their homes are destroyed.  The misery is more than we can imagine.  In Africa, the families use more than half of their income just for food – whereas, an American family spends less than 10%. 

 This year’s Thanksgiving dinner costs less than $5.00 per person – 24¢ less than last year.  I’m looking at a Thanksgiving dinner chart going back 25 years.  Inflation adjusted, the dinner cost is less than it was in 1986 – thank you American agriculture. 

There are a lot of reasons why food is such a bargain in the U.S.  We use new technology.  When I was 10 years old, one farmer produced enough food to feed 15 people.  In 1964, one farmer was feeding 26 people, and today, one farmer supplies food for 155 people.  That is a 10fold increase.  And, we do it with less crop acres. 

I pick up the paper and another boat sinks in the Mediterranean, drowning more than 100 refugees – women, children and families trying to escape the war and devastation in the Middle East.  

Is everything perfect here in good old U.S.A.?  No.  Farmers don’t like low prices.  Some have had to deal with drought and floods.  Every family is forced to manage some problems.  But, look around the world.  As we sit down at Thanksgiving dinner, we should thank God for our many blessings. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Rural America Speaks Up

November 17, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Now that the election is over, Democrats are trying to figure out what went wrong.  Not only will they lose the White House in January, they did not get control of the Senate and gained very little in the House.  Donald Trump will choose the next member of the Supreme Court.  Republicans now have more state governors than in nearly 100 years. 

The Democratic Party, which has been leaning more liberal, more to the left in recent years, is now trying to figure out where to go from here. 

For a number of years, they have ignored rural America.  With the help of the biased mainstream media, they put down and degraded the hard-working citizens because a lot of them did not have a college education.  They weren’t smart enough.  Just a “basket of deplorables.”  

Rural and small town America didn’t take that lying down.  They got up and voted.  Even back in August, a Farm Futures poll had Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton by 73% to 10%.  The Hillary Team didn’t care.  Don’t pay any attention to those rednecks.  We will get the big city vote. 

Now, we see Donald Trump organizing his leadership team.  I am very happy that Vice President-Elect Pence will lead the Transition Team as they line up possible choices for Cabinet positions.  Pence is from Indiana.  He also served in the Congress for 12 years and knows how government works.  He knows agriculture too, and we like that. 

Trump has made clear a number of his priorities.  He will work with Democrats where they have common objectives.  Democrats will try to block him if they don’t agree.  That’s fine, but we don’t need Congressional gridlock.  Republicans have the power to get some things done – such as tax reform and infrastructure.  We need to work on our roads and bridges and, especially, locks and dams on our rivers.  Our ports need to be upgraded to accommodate the new, bigger ships.  Infrastructure improvement is vital for agriculture to move our products, and it will create jobs. 

Trump will trash a lot of Obama’s overreach regulations.  He won’t need legislation to do that.  I am so proud of American agriculture and the role we played in this election. 

I compliment President Obama and Hillary Clinton for their gracious response to Donald Trump in his victory. I can’t say as much for those leading violent protests, looting stores and smashing windows. 

We have more certainty now, the stock market is going up, and, with Trump – the dealmaker in charge – maybe we can get something done.  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump Wins

November 10, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

It’s a new day.  Donald Trump was elected President of the U.S.  Washington, D.C. is in shock.  It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.  Clinton was supposed to win. 

A year and a half ago, Donald Trump opened his campaign, predicting “I will make America great again.”  Throughout the campaign, the main stream media never let up on their criticism of Trump.  No question about it, he said some things that got him into a lot of trouble.  In spite of those mistakes, he stood up for the common man, and they stayed behind him.  The “know it all” elite never let up on their attacks.  With all the negative rhetoric, Trump’s loyal supporters remained committed and they voted. 

Where do we go from here?  President-elect Trump said that we need to “come together as one united people.”  He intends to be “President for all Americans.”  I think he can do this better than Hillary could have.  Trump doesn’t owe anyone anything.  He is not beholden to anyone throughout the campaign and paid for most of it himself. 

He is not an ideologue.  Somehow, some way, the immigration issue will be dealt with.  He will have a Republican House and Senate to work with.  However, I do expect Democrats to have considerable influence.  And I think Trump will try to work with them.  He has always been a dealmaker.  Trump believes in private enterprise and not a bigger government. 

He will nominate a conservative for the Supreme Court.  He wants to kill the death tax.  The Obama government overreach of regulations will come to an abrupt halt.  The Trump Policy Team said they thought the next EPA director should have a farm background.  Wouldn’t that be novel? 

Will Obamacare be repealed?  Probably not, but it certainly needs to be changed.  The change will be less government and not more. 

On the question of trade and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – I don’t think it will be passed in the “Lame Duck” session now.  Trump will insist that it be improved. 

Who will Trump choose for Secretary of Agriculture?  He has a powerful, impressive list of ag team leaders to choose from.  As effective as the ag team was in helping to bring in the rural vote for Trump, I believe that agriculture will have a very strong voice in the Trump Administration. 

I’ll close with what I think is the quote of the day by a main stream media expert – he said, “we can’t predict anything.” 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

2016 Election Day Part II

November 2, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

This year’s election process has been wild and crazy.  Hard to imagine, but we will know the results on Tuesday.  Last week, Rick Frank delivered this radio program for me.  He said that he would vote for Hillary Clinton but hoped that Republicans would hold on to their majority in the Senate to preserve the checks and balances. 

With Hillary as President, the left wing leaders in her party could devastate our economy.  They want to tell us how to farm and take our property rights away from us.  Her position on the death tax scares family businesses and farms to death.  How can you hold a family business together if the government comes in and takes 45% or 50% of it?  We don’t have cash money on the shelf ready to pay off Uncle Sam.  Besides, we have already paid taxes on any money we have made. The estate tax is the most unfair, un-American tax we have. 

Rural America is also afraid of over-regulation.  That is what President Obama has done, and we would jut see more of the same under Hillary. 

A month ago, I participated in a 65-mile bicycle ride.  That’s about 5 hours of riding over country roads in Eastern Maryland; beautiful country – corn, soybeans, cattle, and chicken farms.  I saw maybe 100 Donald Trump signs, not one Clinton sign. 

I was surprised.  Maryland is a blue state.  However, rural America is for Trump.  I will vote for Donald.  He would kill the “death tax” and cut regulations and nominate conservative Supreme Court Justices. 

It is O.K. if he can improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPP).  However, I think trade agreements have been a big plus for agriculture. 

Along with other Secretaries of Agriculture, I will be signing on to a letter to be sent to all Members of Congress encouraging them to vote on the TPP agreement in the Lame Duck session after the election and pass it.  Let’s get it done, even though both Presidential candidates oppose it.  U.S. exports increased 10% in the last quarter and, according to Secretary Vilsack, ag sales accounted for 75% of the increase. 

Whoever wins this election, I can just hope they will find a way to work with the Congress and get some things done.  Be sure to vote on Tuesday. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Election Day 2016 - The Need for a Balanced Government

October 27, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This is Rick Frank Sitting in for Jack Block.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Tuesday, November 8 is Election Day.  A free and fair election is what separates the U.S. from many of our toughest competitors – for example, China, Russia, and Iran.  And – make no mistake – we will have a fair election. 

Much is at stake and I, for one, prefer a split government with checks and balances.  When one party controls the White House, in my “better” world, the other party controls the Congress. 

While far from a perfect candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton will get my vote as being the better of the two options.  Donald Trump has introduced some interesting and, at times, provocative ideas, but has in no way convinced me that he would be a steady or rational hand in the White House. 

But, a Hillary Presidency basically represents a continuation of the past eight years and strengthens the need for Republicans to hold on to the Congress.  While for many Americans the past eight years have not been too bad, despite low farm prices, Hillary shouldn’t have free reign to continue the far left environmental policies of Barack Obama.  Hopefully, a President Clinton will support free trade and not bring back the anti-agriculture “death” tax.  

The polls are razor thin right now for control of the Senate.  As of today, the Senate would be 50/50 with any deciding vote going to the Vice President or, under my scenario, Democrat Tim Kaine.  To maintain a divided government, along with its inherent checks and balances, if you vote in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, or Indiana, please consider reelecting your incumbent, or the Republican. That would leave the Senate in Republican hands. 

Two final matters – I do hope the Lame Duck Senate confirms Judge Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court.  He is a common sense moderate.  And second, the Congress should invest in our children’s future and start rebuilding the nation’s airports, roads, bridges, and tunnels. 

I believe Hillary will ably acquit herself.  I’m proud that we will elect a female.  However, I want to make sure that we trust and verify.  Keep the government balanced. 

 Until next week, I am Rick Frank sitting in for John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That

October 20, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

I will cover a list of issues today.  I am encouraged to note that Secretary Vilsack made a wise suggestion to the House and Senate Ag Committees.  He said they should change the “Farm Bill’s” name.  He is right.  We need to broaden support.  I would go even further.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture should have a name change.  Call it the U.S. Department of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry.  USDA provides all kinds of services and support. 

Last week, at the 30th anniversary of the Dr. Norman Borlaug World Food Prize meeting, Secretary Vilsack said that agriculture in its broadest sense is about national security.  In his speech, he pointed out that his concern is whether we are prepared “to embrace science.”  “It’s not just about food security, nutrition, or poverty reduction, it’s about national security.”  I believe it is time to give the USDA the respect it deserves. 

In the paper yesterday, I was reading about the devastation from Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina where 1.8 million chickens and 4,800 hogs were drowned, farmsteads and livestock housing were under water, and crops were destroyed.  While that was happening, I was in Illinois, driving our corn combine and bringing in a great crop.  Sometimes, we are not grateful enough compared to others who suffer. 

Another good step in U.S. Cuban relations: if you go to Cuba now, you can bring back as many Cuban cigars and even Cuban rum as you can carry.  We have had a restriction of $100 worth of cigars, but President Obama lifted that. 

Last issue – this is worth noting.  Our fiscal year ended October 1.  We closed out last year where our national debt soared 34%.  Our debt just keeps piling up.  Revenue rose less than 1% and spending shot up 5%.  I don’t know how long our country can keep living like this.  I know my farm couldn’t. 

Be careful and be safe on the farm this harvest. 

 If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Ag Industry United

October 13, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

In these times of low farm prices, it is encouraging to see farm associations and leaders stepping up to protect our farmers and ranchers. 

The CEOs of CropLife America, the National Corn Growers Association, and the American Soybean Association became a powerful ag industry leadership team, including the American Farm Bureau, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, and many more.  The leaders met with policy representatives of both the Trump and Clinton campaigns.  Farm leaders of different crops and different priorities spoke in unison.  Stop the regulatory overreach.  Trade is important to us.  We need labor to pick the strawberries.  Regardless of who gets elected as President our industry needs to be heard.  

The Ag CEO council of leaders has also been meeting with Secretary Vilsack and the Administration. They have argued that the Administration (especially EPA) has been too quick to regulate, that they have ignored sound science, forced new rules on states, they have re-written the definition of waters of the U.S., and more.  Agriculture is very concerned that the Administration follows sound science as their time in office ticks down. 

One last subject – I reported two weeks ago that we have great yields on our farm.  Our crops are clean and weed-free.  However, a neighbor asked us this year to farm a 40-acre field of his. Fertilizer was applied on the field as we did on our other fields – same weed killer, same seed, but the yield was 30% less.  Why?  The answer – weeds.  Why is this one field an exception?  The answer – organic farming.  The owner had been farming organic crops for several years, but finally the weeds took charge and he had to give up. 

No one can tell me that ignoring new technology in agriculture is a good idea and that we should farm like my grandfather did.  We don’t do anything just as we did 60 years ago. 

It will take 2 or 3 years to clean up this little field and get the yields up. 

 If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Cuba

October 6, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Farm income is collapsing.  Livestock and grain prices are in the tank.  What to do now?  Of course, we have to persevere and ride this recession out. 

There are some common sense things that could help a little.  For 60 years, we have enforced some kind of trade embargo on Cuba.  In 2000, we took one step authorizing the sale of food and medical supplies to Cuba.  The problem has been that we still require Cuba to pay cash in advance of shipment.  No credit allowed.  It’s not surprising that under such restrictions there is not much trade.  Cuba needs credit to finance imports. 

President Obama has opened the door to normal relations with Cuba, and has nominated an individual to be our Ambassador, but we are not there yet.  Secretary Vilsack has designated a USDA Representative to work in Cuba to facilitate trade.  However, without legislation to lift the financing restrictions, our export numbers are not going to be very impressive. 

The potential size of the Cuban market could be 1.2 billion dollars per year, according to Dr. Luis Ribera, economist at Texas A&M University. 

Here is an example of an obvious opportunity.  Today, Cuba imports 300 million dollars a year of rice from Vietnam.  That rice travels 16,000 miles.  Cuba is 90 miles from our shore.  We have an obvious advantage. 

Today, Cuba imports 80 percent of their food.  Countries all over the world have normal trade relations with Cuba selling them food – European Union, Canada, Brazil, China, on and on.  We have shut ourselves out of this market. 

All of these years, we have been trying to punish Cuba for being an oppressive dictatorship.  It has not worked. 

Let’s try engagement and interaction.  Open up travel and trade.  We have normal relations with countries all over the world and many of them are not very democratic. 

One final suggestion is that we need to have the same immigration rules for Cuba that we have for Mexico and countries all over the world.  It’s not the case today.  If they take a boat, a raft from Cuba to Florida, we don’t send them back.  They are here to stay.  Not surprising, there is a new surge of Cubans coming here.  They fear that with normal relations, the door will be closed.  They are right. 

 If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

On the Farm

September 29, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Down on the farm in Illinois – that’s where I am.  I’m on the telephone today. 

What an exciting, rewarding harvest this is.  I have never seen better corn and soybeans.  Yields are off the chart.  Corn is at 250 bushels per acre plus and soybeans are in the 70s.  I need to control my optimism because we all know prices are in the tank given the fact that I have been in this business all my life.  I have learned that one great crop can be followed by drought the next year. 

But for those of us fortunate enough to have a good crop, be grateful.  We need to enjoy while we can.  Just watching that golden corn being augered into the auger wagon, driving along beside the combine as we continue through the field, is such a beautiful sight.  It is a reminder about the productivity and efficiency of modern agriculture.  The combine doesn’t have to stop.  It just keeps rolling.  When the auger wagon is full, it empties into a semi-trailer and off to the grain dryer.  From there, it’s into the grain bins.  That’s our hog feed for next year. 

Speaking of hogs, prices are really bad.  But let’s concentrate on the positive side.  We raise about 6,000 pigs farrow to finish per year.  They are healthy and happy.  We had 4 litters born yesterday and 2 the day before.  When one sow has perhaps 14 babies and another sow has 8, we transfer 2 babies from the big litter over to the other mother.  That way, there is a better chance they will all survive. 

Those little guys might weigh only about 2 pounds, but in 6 months they will weigh 280 pounds and then off to market. 

We had to bring in 6 sows from the pasture this morning before we started harvest.  They were clearly getting close to delivery of their litters.  Our sows run free in the field for breeding and are not put into the farrowing crate until just before farrowing.  Three or four weeks after birth, babies are weaned from their mother and fed on out to market weight. 

Now, I have told you more than you want to know about corn and pigs.  So – back to the harvest. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Equal Justice

September 22, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

We keep reading about foreign countries – especially Russia – hacking into our E-mails, embarrassing the Democratic National Committee.  E-mails have caused concern that Russia will try to influence our election.  Did you realize that this is nothing new?  It is only now that the Justice Department has stepped up to deal with it. 

Russia has, in recent years, looked for ways to slow down the development of our oil and gas industry.  Why?  Because they don’t want more oil and gas.  It drives down the price, and energy is Russia’s primary source of income. 

In recent years, Russia has been funneling money through Russian-controlled companies to U.S. environmental groups.  We all know that the environmental organizations have been trying to stop U.S. oil and gas development.  Remember the Keystone Pipeline?  Stopped!  Remember all the battles over drilling off the coast and drilling on government land?  Environmentalists hate fracking.  The environmental lobby has been tenacious in their battle against oil, gas, and coal.  

How many of us realized that they have been partially funded by Russia?  Now, the press is writing about Russia trying to influence our election, but the press and the Justice Department ignored the Russian effort to slow down or stop U.S. energy development.  They knew about it, but they were sympathetic to the environmental lobby. 

Neither the Justice Department nor the Internal Revenue Service has a very good reputation for being independent and even-handed.  Perhaps we should not be surprised that the public is demanding change.  Donald Trump is advocating change.  So did Senator Bernie Sanders.  It’s hard for Hillary Clinton to do that.  She has been part of the old guard for so many years.  She is tied to the environmental lobby and labor unions.  At this point, we don’t know how this election will come out.  The first Presidential debate is Monday night.  That debate could influence the vote on November 8.  They say as many as 100 million people may be watching.  I’ll watch.  

I’ll be on the farm in Illinois next week.  Corn harvest has started, and I can’t wait to get on that combine. 

  If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

Debt

September 15, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, andallies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Elections are coming up in November – candidates for President, Senate, House, and offices in states and cities are telling us that they will revive the economy, provide security, on and on. What you don’t hear is how they will balance their budgets and bring down the debt.

The federal government is looking at a staggering national debt of 20 trillion dollars. As we wrap up our fiscal year this month, we will add an additional 590 billion dollars to our debt burden.

Federal government revenue this year will post a 1% increase but federal spending will spike up 5%. With an aging population, Social Security and Medicare will continue to rise. Politicians argue for more money to be spent on the military. The Congressional Budget Office tells us that our economy will grow very slowly over the next decade – probably about 2% per year.

Now, using simple arithmetic, if the economy grows at 2% and spending grows at 5%, we are in trouble. We are projected to add 9 trillion dollars of additional debt over the next 10 years.

It is time for politicians to put this shocking threat on the table. It has been ignored – not just on the national level but in states and cities also. Look at my home state of Illinois. We are all but broke. Look what happened to Detroit – bankrupt. Puerto Rico – bankrupt. Don’t ignore Greece. How about Venezuela?

We don’t have to go down this road. It’s not too late, but changing course will not be easy. Here is why. Balancing the budget is simple – raise more tax money or cut spending. But, politicians want to get reelected. And, you don’t get the votes if you take away money or services. You don’t get the votes if you raise taxes. It’s democracy at work. 

So, what to do? It will require a lot of courage. Perhaps term limits would help to reduce the worry about reelection.

At any rate, I hope our leaders will stand up and face the problem. Businesses, farmers, and families cannot borrow their way into prosperity and neither can government.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Death Taxes

September 8, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

I haven’t talked about today’s subject for awhile, but that doesn’t mean that I have forgotten about it.  I’m talking about the estate tax, or death tax as it is commonly referred to.  One hundred years ago (1916), the federal government passed the estate tax.  I can’t tell you how many small businesses, farms, and ranches have been forced out of business when the greedy arm of the government reaches in at death and steals almost half the business assets. 

I remember when my father, my farm business partner, died.  Our farming operation was not huge, but I had to borrow a lot of money to pay the death tax.  It took me 10 years to pay off that loan.  The death tax is the most unfair, unreasonable, destructive tax we have. 

Those individuals with big wealth like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates hire lawyers to shield their estates from the tax.  They put the assets into a trust and let their children and family work for the trust.  Small businesses are not going to be able to do that. 

Some people might assume that the estate tax raises big money for the government.  They are wrong.  I’m looking at a pie chart telling us where federal revenue comes from.  One-half comes from individual taxes, about one-third comes from Social Security tax, about ten percent comes from corporate taxes.  Then, look at the estate tax – less than one-half of one percent.  It is such a tiny sliver on the big pie chart you can hardly see it.  It is nothing to the government, but it is everything to small businesses. 

Farmers want to kill the death tax.  Hillary Clinton wants to keep it and raise the tax rate from 40 percent to 45 percent.  

At least Donald Trump wants to eliminate the tax.  Keep in mind that this decision is not up to the President. The Congress has the power to pass legislation to make a change.  Voter polls tell us that 60 percent to 70 percent of the people don’t believe the death tax is fair and should be done away with.  By the way, Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s Vice Presidential running mate, spoke out a few years ago, saying, “I applaud lawmakers for repealing Virginia’s estate tax.  This action protects small businesses and farms.” 

Of course, we don’t have to do what other countries do, but most developed countries don’t have a death tax.  

The death tax is a burning issue with me and many farm families, but we need major tax reform.  The whole Tax Code (thousands of pages) needs to be junked and started over.  Now that I got that issue off my chest, get that combine ready to hit the field. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.  Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.  

John Block Reports from Washington

Labor Day and Tough Times

September 1, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

My agenda for today will be Labor Day and Tough Times. I want to begin by saying how much respect I have for the hard-working men and women that labor in the trenches day in and day out. I’m not talking about big corporation executives, not talking about Wall Street traders, not talking about political big shots or university professors. I want to honor the carpenter, the plumber, the factory worker, the farmer growing the food, the rancher caring for his cattle, the workers in the processing plants – I don’t think they get the appreciation they deserve. Without the everyday workers, where would we be?

Here are some words of a song sung by George Jones that say it all.

“Twelve long months each year my life stays the same,

making my honest dollar in the sun, snow and rain.

No, you don’t see my family on the starvation plan,

for I’m a small time laboring man.”

Thank you and happy Labor Day.

And now, a little bit about the situation today.

Harvest is almost upon us. It’s hard to think about bringing in the crops with the farm economy suffering one of the worst declines in years. It’s not just corn – seems like yesterday it was $7 per bushel and now we are looking at $3 per bushel. In the last year, milk is down. Cheese is down 40%. USDA announced that it will buy $20 million worth of cheese to support that market. Hogs are down, cattle down, soybeans down – fruits and vegetables are hanging in there a little better.

The farmers that I talk to expect 2016 to be one of the toughest years they have experienced in a long time. And, they are not optimistic about 2017. If you look up the food chain, these depressing farm prices are positive for the consumer.

Groceries are a bargain today. We are all enjoying less expensive energy, too. As we begin to price fall fertilizer, we are looking at lower prices. Will seed costs come down also? These are hard times also for implement dealers. Farmers probably won’t be buying very many tractors.

When we pull that combine into the field and begin stripping off those ears, we will have a lot on our mind beyond the harvest. One thought that comes to my mind is that we have been through these ups and downs many times. We just have to hang in there. Low prices always bring high prices. But, it’s painful.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line

to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Farm Problems

August 25, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

We are looking at record crops of corn, soybeans, and wheat this year.  Dairy farmers are suffering with the lowest prices since 2009.  We have too much milk – not just here in the U.S. but in Europe also. 

Members of Congress from farm districts and states want the government to help prop up a sinking farm economy.  The Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, and National Milk Producers Federation are asking for help. Senator Moran from Kansas wants the government to buy wheat and ship it to countries that need food. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack suggests that USDA purchase $150 million worth of cheese and give the cheese to food banks and school nutrition programs.  Taking these products off the market would raise prices. 

On the plus side, our exports of soybeans are surging, thanks to China.  New crop export commitments are ahead of last year.  Corn exports are impressive.  Wheat exports are expected to surge 22%.  U.S. food production is something to brag about.  However, too much of anything will drive down prices.  You know the story – the cure for low prices is low prices.  It seems like yesterday we had $7 corn. 

I am sure that the government will be able to offer some support to farmers, but I would not expect very much. The Congress won’t have any time to act.  They will be back in town in September, but not for long.  The election is coming up. 

After the election, there is some talk about trying to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. With both Presidential candidates saying that they oppose it, the chances are slim.  We need the agreement. Australia, Singapore, and other Pacific countries, including China, are negotiating their own agreement – and we are left out. 

When I look across my corn and soybean fields, I just love the beauty of a healthy, bountiful crop.  Harvest will be so much fun.  We just wish prices were a little better. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.  

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump and Agriculture

August 18, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

This has been an interesting and politically active week – especially for agriculture.  On Monday, the CEO Council met with Sam Clovis, National Chief Policy Advisor for Donald Trump’s campaign, and Charles Herbster, National Ag Chairman for Trump.  The CEO Council is a group of about 12 CEOs of leading farm and agriculture associations.  In that meeting, we had “Zippy” Duvall (American Farm Bureau President), Jay Vroom (CropLife), Chuck Conner (National Council Farmer Coops), and others, including yours truly.  The whole objective was to make sure the Trump Campaign understood the concerns and priorities of our industry. No question that the hot issues that we care about were put on the table.  Trade, immigration, tax reform, and regulations were discussed at length.    

Sam Clovis said that Trump was very much aware of how important ag trade is for the ag industry and for our national security.  He also understood how necessary it is to have the labor to do much of the farm work.  “We are not going to get the strawberries picked without immigrant labor.  Our own workers are not going to do it.”  

We agreed that we need tax reform and that government over-regulation must be reined in.  I think that we got our message across and that it was well received.  

Three weeks ago, the CEO Council also met with the Hillary Clinton Policy Team.  I was not in that meeting, but am told that the CEO Council’s message was well received by the Clinton Policy Team as well.  

Both meetings were non-partisan and I believe that the ag industry’s effort to communicate to both parties about our concerns and priorities is to be commended.  

The next day, the Trump Ag Team (more than 60 ag industry leaders) supporting Trump, met with Sam Clovis to discuss policy and politics.  The Trump Ag Team includes a who’s who list of ag leaders – some Governors, such as Rick Perry (Texas), Dave Heineman (Nebraska), Senators, including Pat Roberts (Kansas), and trade association presidents.  I participated as a member of the Trump Ag Team.  

We talked about all of the same issues that were talked about in the CEO meeting the day before.  However, in this meeting, the Trump Ag Team meeting, we also talked about how the ag industry can help Donald Trump.  

Stay tuned!  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.  

John Block Reports from Washington

GMO Labeling

August 11, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Com Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today's commentary —

Yes — We now have legislation to deal with the GMO labeling question.

Without the legislation all the states could have required different labels on their food products. A patchwork national plan like that would have cost consumers a lot more money for their food.

However the battle is not over. The legislation gives the Department of Agriculture the responsibility to write the rules, and there is a lot of flexibility left to USDA. The legislation will not take affect for 2 years.

There are some serious questions that the Secretary of Agriculture will have to decide. Will processed foods containing refined sugar or high fructose com syrup, or soybean oil have to be labeled as GMO? Sugar, corn, and soybeans are genetically engineered.

But maybe they won't have to be labeled since after processing, there are no traces remaining of the gene altered material. The Food and Drug Administration says — no need to label.

The National Milk Producers Federation has concerns because they use an enzyme to make cheese, and it is genetically engineered.

One important point that is in the law states that meat and dairy products need not be labeled even though the pigs, chickens, and cows were fed GMO feed. Just eating GMO feed does not make the meat and milk genetically modified.

Food companies will have a lot of decisions to make because the law provides 3 different ways the consumer can scan a product to determine if it is genetically engineered.

Requiring food companies to do all of this is absolute nonsense. Food labels are supposed to convey information relevant to health, safety, and nutrition. All of the science in the world tells us that GMO foods are just as safe as non GMO foods. Why are we requiring all of this? Consumers will just be more confused and for no good reason. We can only hope after the 2 year process of implementing this legislation, consumers will come to realize, they have already eaten their weight in GE foods with no ill affects.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

John Block Reports from Washington

Our Budget

August 4, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary -  

The Democratic and Republican Conventions are behind us.  Speakers talked about jobs, the economy, National Defense, immigration, and terrorism. All important and serious challenges. What they did not talk about is our ballooning national debt.  Our debt has doubled in the last 7 years to nearly 20 Trillion dollars.  We can’t continue on this path. It is a roadmap to financial ruin.  

Look at Greece. There are other European countries also in trouble.  Families can’t live like this.  They will go broke.  Farmers and small businesses will end up in bankruptcy.  

Here is what the non partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has to say about this issue. “High and rising levels of debt will slow income growth, increase interest costs, crowd out important budget priorities, limit the ability of lawmakers to respond to a national problem and increases the likely hood of a fiscal crises.  The largest driver of the growth in long term debt is the one area neither candidate has a plan to address - entitlement spending.”  Politicians talk all the time about government programs to spend on their voters. That’s the way to buy notes.  Our national debt is going up by more than one billion dollars every day – more than one billion every day.  That’s not sustainable.  

We need entitlement reform - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  We need tax reform. Close the loop holes.  Squeeze the defense budget.  We spend 3 times as much money on defense as China, Russia, and India combined.  We have 10 aircraft carriers, Russia and China have 1. Many politicians want to tax more so they can spend more.  President Reagan once said “a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have.”  

 We are a rich strong nation and we want to stay that way.  Think about the explosion in debt cost, if interest rates go back up our children and grandchildren will be left to pay for our extravagant spending.    

 If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to www.johnblockreports.com.  Have a great weekend.  

John Block Reports from Washington

Donald Trump

July 28, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

How is Donald Trump doing? Where does he stand on policy that could affect us? I have been hearing for a year now that there is no way Trump could become President. Well – SURPRISE! He has shot up 10 points in the polls leading Hillary 48 to 45. Now I think we can expect Hillary will get a bump from the Democratic Convention. Then, the horse race gets serious for 100 days of fierce competition. It’s going to be a wild ride.

Here are some of my thoughts about the Presidential race. The public is warming up to Donald – Independent voters especially. 

When Senator Bob Dole told USA Today “Trump’s going to make a great President,” that got the attention of a large number of undecided voters. Senator Dole has a huge following of loyal supporters. I am a member of that crowd. I would never have had the chance to serve President Reagan as Secretary of Agriculture if Senator Dole had not said that we need “a farmer from the heartland as Secretary of Agriculture.” Senator Dole identifies Trump as “a pragmatic Conservative.” He can negotiate deals, compromise, and work with Congress.

Trump has identified Charles Herbster, who has an Angus cattle ranch in Nebraska and a farm equipment company in Kansas, as his top Ag advisor. Mr. Herbster, a fifth generation farmer, had this to say: “I’m a lover of agriculture and rural America.” His government priorities are to reduce regulation, improve trade agreements, and get rid of the death tax. The Ag industry would concur with that with one caveat – we are convinced that trade agreements have been good for agriculture. Maybe it is time to review them.

The Republican platform calls for “better negotiated trade agreements that put America first.” The platform also calls for an end to EPA’s regulatory overreach of the Clean Water Act. Mandatory labeling of GE foods is not supported in the platform.

It is clear that candidate Donald Trump had a lot of influence in the writing of the Republican platform. It’s a new day for national politics. The public is insisting on change. How much – we shall see. Even Hillary Clinton is not the middle-of-the-road champion that Bill Clinton was. Socialist Bernie Sanders has pulled her far to the left.

Stay tuned!

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Hot Issues 2016

July 21, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

A lot to talk about and not much time.  Here we go.  

As a Republican, I tell you that Donald Trump is officially our Presidential candidate and Gov. Mike Pence is the Vice Presidential running mate.  You have heard a lot about Trump, so I want to focus on Pence.  He is a Conservative with a capital C.  As Governor of Indiana, he has balanced the budget and, as a Congressman for 12 years, he fought for spending cuts and opposed deficit budgets.  He fought to get rid of earmarks which helped to buy votes but just spend more money.  He did not want to expand social programs.  

Gov. Pence said, “I support free trade and so does Trump.  Trump just says he can negotiate better trade deals.”  

Let’s turn to the GMO labeling legislation.  We have been more than two years trying to get new legislation.  It became necessary when Vermont passed its own law.  Other states were ready to do the same.  We can’t afford a patchwork of different labeling laws.  Processors would have to label their products differently in every state.  Consumers would pay the price.  Last summer, the House of Representatives passed legislation giving companies the option of voluntarily labeling GMO foods.  For over a year, the Senate struggled to fix the problem.  The votes were never there to support the House bill.  Finally, the Senate passed a compromise bill.  Their legislation requires the food manufacturer to use a written GMO label, a symbol, or digital link – different options.  Meat and dairy products do not have to be labeled even if they are fed GMO feed.  

The House gave up on their bill and passed the Senate compromise last week.  President Obama will sign it. The Department of Agriculture now has two years to implement the legislation.  This was a big victory for the food and ag industries and consumers.  

Last issue – here is my take on the escalating conflict between our police and “Black Lives Matter.”  The killings we have seen are shocking.  Here is one suggestion that I have.  Both black and white leaders should support this.  If a policeman stops you, do exactly what he says.  If he says raise your hands, do it.  If you start to run and he says stop, you must stop.  Don’t talk back to the policeman.  I learned this in the military and at West Point.  If confronted by authority, you answer “yes sir,” “no sir,” “no excuse sir.”  Follow orders.  Then, you are probably not going to get shot.  Policing our streets is a dangerous job and we need to give our brave police officers proper respect and support.  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.    

John Block Reports from Washington

Nobel Laureates

July 14, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary— 

How long have we been listening to the relentless insinuations that genetically engineered crops may not be safe? The environmental activists have chosen to ignore science and use every trick to frighten consumers into not eating GMO food. 

Most scientists, 70% or 80%, stand up for the safety of GE foods. Unfortunately, their voice has been drowned out by Greenpeace and their anti-science friends. I point out that they are only anti-science when it comes to GE. They are beating the drums for the global warming scientists. 

The good news is that more than 100 Nobel laureates have decided that enough is enough. Richard Roberts, Chief Scientific Officer of New England Biolabs, a 1993 Nobel Prize winner, has taken the lead, and they have drafted a letter to Greenpeace. Here is part of what that letter says. “We are scientists. What Greenpeace is doing is damaging and is anti-science. Greenpeace initially and then some of their allies deliberately went out of their way to scare people.” 

Greenpeace has been leading the fight to deprive children in the developing world of a GE strain of rice which can reduce vitamin A deficiencies. Without that vitamin A, many children face blindness and even death. 

Mr. Roberts acknowledges that Greenpeace does some good things, but he hopes that after reading the letter, they would “admit that this is an issue that they got wrong and focus on the stuff that they do well.” The laureates’ letter adds this – “Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology.” 

Let’s hope the voice of the Nobel laureates can help convince the public of the value and safety of GE crops. Martin Chalfie, 2008 Nobel Prize winner, “thinks laureates can be influential on the GMO issue.” 

If we, as farmers, are denied new production technology, food will cost more, farmers will use more herbicides and chemicals, yields will suffer, and forests will be cut down to grow food. 

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. 

Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Nations Birthday

July 7, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

We celebrated the 4th of July Monday this week.  I’m still celebrating.  Look at the turmoil around the world.  It’s  not perfect here.  We all know that, but I’ll take it.  And now, here is my radio program as broadcast 11 years ago.  Still works today!  

(Mr. Block sings excerpts of America The Beautiful)  

“O beautiful for spacious skies, 

For amber waves of grain, 

For purple mountain majesties 

Above the fruited plain! 

America! America! God shed His grace on thee, 

And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!  

“O beautiful for pilgrim feet, 

Whose stern impassion’d stress 

A thoroughfare for freedom beat 

Across the wilderness! 

America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw, 

Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!”  


If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.  Have a great weekend.    

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.  

John Block Reports from Washington

Brexit and Trade

June 30, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

The Brits jump ship and the UK is on its way out of the European Union.  I understand the UK getting sick of the regulations and rules written in Brussels, not London.  European agriculture is heavily subsidized and regulated – much more than ours.  I would expect UK – agriculture where they are much more willing to accept GMOs than Europe – to benefit from the split in some ways. However, UK farmers will likely see their level of government subsidies diminish.  That is a big deal.  

We may have the Atlantic Ocean separating us from Europe, but in the short run, we will not be exempt from their actions.  The Dollar has shot up in value and other currencies in the world have fallen.  The Pound is down in Britain.  The Euro is down in Europe.  Currencies are down in China.  Our farm products are going to be more expensive and there is risk that will dampen demand.  

Agri-Pulse Daybreak reports that ag economist Professor Chris Hurt, Purdue University, says our pork exports will suffer.  Did you realize that the EU nations (28 countries) have been the largest pork exporter in the world the past 2 years?  With this new price advantage, they can make it harder for us to keep pace.  It is likely our sales of corn and soybeans will also struggle against currency headwinds.  

At the moment, there is a lot of uncertainty.  After time, this turmoil will all settle down.  In my opinion, in the end, we will do fine.  After all, U.S. agriculture is the envy of the world, and our nation’s economy (although not great) is strong enough to endure the turmoil.  

We do have some trade concerns that need attention.  I am a big supporter of our trade agreements.  I think they have provided a dramatic boost to our ag exports.  However, with the turmoil in Europe, our trade agreement with Europe is all but dead.  I am not very optimistic about the passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Our two Presidential candidates both oppose it.  According to the Washington Times, “This week, Donald Trump vowed, if elected, he would cancel the TPP and demand Mexico and Canada accept sweeping changes in the North American Free Trade Agreement – or else he would nix that one, too.  Not a happy thought.”  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.  Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.    

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade

June 23, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Today, I want to concentrate on trade. We are in the process of negotiating a trade agreement with the European Union. We have just completed an agreement with 11 other countries (the Trans Pacific Partnership – TPP). That agreement now needs to be approved by the countries involved. Let’s not forget that President Obama has established diplomatic relations with Cuba after 50 years which could open up new trade opportunities.

First, let’s consider the prospects of reaching an agreement with the European Union. The U.S. runs a huge trade deficit with Europe while we run a big agriculture trade surplus with the rest of the world. That tells us something about European trade barriers. On average, they have a 30% tariff on our ag products. That has to be knocked down. Tariffs are only part of the problem. They have always used non-tariff barriers to block our exports. I remember when I was Secretary of Agriculture they closed the door on all of our meat exports to Europe. They said they had to inspect all of our processing plants for food safety. After two years, they agreed to approve six plants for export to Europe. They were all horse meat plants. The French couldn’t get enough horse meat.

That said, to me the most difficult barrier is the European rejection of GMO crops and food. The European countries ignore science even though the European Food Safety Authority certified the safety of GM crops. In a lunch with former Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeutter this week, we both agreed that a trade agreement with Europe will not be easy. 

Turn the page to the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement which is completed. Unfortunately, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both dead set against it. The chance of our Congress passing it before the November election is next to zero. After the election – we shall see.

U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman warns that “if we get an agreement, it’s not just what we stand to gain; it’s what we stand to lose if we don’t get one. Other countries are moving ahead. They’re not waiting around for us.”

Turning to Cuba, let me just say we sold some soybean oil and bought some coffee. But what we really want are those Cuban cigars.

We can’t take the trade wall down without legislation. I am optimistic that we will get that.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Regulations and Licensing

June 16, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

We hear a lot of talk about the economy. It’s not growing as fast as it should. Two percent growth is just too slow. It has taken forever to recover from the 2008 recession. There are a lot of opinions about why growth has been slow. I think one serious obstacle is that not only the federal government but also the states have more regulations and require small business licensing.

In 1950, only 5% of workers had to be licensed. Today, that number is 30%. Depending on the state and city, you might be required to get a license to be a manicurist, a beekeeper, a librarian, a barber, a fortune teller. Farmers, in some states, have to go to class to get cleared to spreadmanure. They are not allowed to spray weed killer on their corn fields without getting a license.

Of course, consumer protection is important. We want our workers to be safe. However, could it be that the tendency for government to regulate and control everything puts our economy in a straight jacket?

The U.S. Small Business Administration tells us that the per employee cost of federal regulatory compliance is $10,585 for businesses with fewer than 19 employees. The cost is $7,755 per employee for companies with 500 employees. The cost that you see here is just federal cost. What about all the state and local costs?

Government overreach makes it hard for small businesses to get started. Sixty occupations are regulated in some way in 50 states. We are to the point now that some companies support licensing because it keeps out competitors. I thought this was interesting. Thanks to the Texas Supreme Court, they ruled that “licensing of eyebrow-threading is useless.”

In closing, let me report that with the clock ticking on Vermont’s GMO labeling law – which is scheduled to go into effect July 1 – the Senate has not been able to find the 60 votes to pass a nationwide mandatory policy. They need to get it done.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

A Lot Going On

June 9, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Another week goes by – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton look to be our Presidential candidates.  It’s quite a contrast.  Polls indicate that they are in a dead heat, but it’s a long time until November.  

Today, I’m going to put a series of issues on the table.    

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an Ag representative in countries all over the world to facilitate our exports.  Now, at long last, with new relations with Cuba, Secretary Vilsack and the Congress are working to establish an office in Cuba.  They could use our rice and a lot of other food products.  They import 80% of their food.  Talking about exports, Ag exports are off about 15 billion dollars this year – mostly because the value of the commodities is down.  We now have an increase in corn and soybean prices which could turn things around.    

A recent high-level meeting with Chinese government officials could open the door for more exports.  How many people know that China consumes 50% of the pork eaten in the world?  Our sales of pork to China have exploded 250% in the first quarter this year.  With this jump in pork sales, does it make any sense that we have not been able to ship beef to China for 14 years?  We had our first case of mad cow disease in 2003 and they closed the door on our beef then.  I can understand a ban for 2, 3, 4 or 5 years, but 14 years is ridiculous.  

Chinese beef imports have exploded over this 14-year period, but Australia, Brazil, and New Zealand have benefitted.  Not us.  Now, if we would open our door to Chinese chicken, maybe they would accommodate our beef.  We have banned their chicken because some of their plants didn’t meet our food safety standards.  

Finally, in March, our Food Safety Inspection Service announced that several of China’s processing plants have now passed the audit for shipping the product.  Maybe there is a chance for a deal here – we get your chicken and you get our beef.  

U.S. corn and soybean farmers have almost everything planted and the crops are looking pretty good.  Weather problems in Brazil and Argentina have helped to boost our prices.  Now, we worry about our own weather during the growing season.  

Stay tuned.  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.  Have a great weekend.  Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.    

John Block Reports from Washington

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) 2016

June 2, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Agriculture is an industry that depends heavily on exports with some 30% of our production sold to other countries. That explains the reason why the ag industry has so much interest in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that has been negotiated with 12 nations representing 40% of the world’s gross domestic product. Farm organizations and ag businesses are trying to convince the Congress to approve the deal.

Keep in mind that although the TPP has been negotiated, it still must be approved by the Congress and signed by the President. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has analyzed the agreement and, guess what? Agriculture is the big winner. U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman argues that “The ITC report provides another strong argument why TPP should be passed this year.” With implementation, ag exports would rise 7.2 billion dollars.

At first, our dairy industry wasn’t so sure they liked the agreement, but the report predicts an 18% increase in dairy exports. Our beef industry doesn’t have anything to beef about, with an 8.4% export boost. Pork and poultry come out ahead with rice and wheat losing a little. I don’t think there is any question that, on balance, the TPP would be very positive for our industry. However, when the ITC evaluated how the TPP would affect other U.S. industries beyond agriculture, the trade advantage is modest.

Another big reason to approve the agreement besides exports and job creation is that we don’t want to be left out of big trade deals. China is already negotiating free trade with Asian countries. Although there is reason to approve TPP, the political climate is not good. Some argue that trade deals cost jobs – they don’t create jobs. Donald Trump, although he supports trade, says that TPP is a “disaster.” Hillary Clinton says she does not support TPP now and, if elected President, won’t support it then. 

The chance of our Congress voting on the agreement before the November election is almost zero. They don’t want to take a stand on anything. After the election – maybe, but I’m not optimistic. Stay tuned.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

GMOs Are Safe

May 26, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

Hopefully, we are beginning to set the record straight.  We have heard so much misleading information criticizing biotechnology that we could go down the European road.  In Europe, GE food is not on the plate.    

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine with more than 60 experts has released a landmark study which confirms that GE crops are safe for humans and animals to eat.  The approach they took to make the case is interesting.  

The Committee compared disease reports from the U.S. and Canada with Western Europe and the United Kingdom.  The difference is, in the U.S. and Canada we have been eating GE foods for more than 20 years. But in Europe and the U.K., GMOs are not on the table.  The review found no long-term pattern of increases in health problems in the U.S. and Canada.  So, we are not poisoning ourselves.  In fact – no increase in cancer, obesity, kidney disease, autism, or allergies according to the National Academies of Science.  

This is an opportunity to take the offensive on this issue.  More than 50% of Americans think that GE foods are a possible health hazard.  Not true.  Unfortunately, I don’t expect everyone to buy into this new research. You can expect the producers and marketers of GMO-free products to continue to infer that there just might be some risk.  “We better not take a chance.”  We have already eaten our weight in GMO food and we didn’t get sick.  

The Grocery Manufacturers Association reports that 70% of packaged food in the U.S. contains GMOs, as does 92% of our corn, 94% of cotton, 94% of soybeans, and 99% of sugar beets.  

In spite of the science of safety, GMO critics are able to successfully pass state legislation to label GMO foods.  Look at Vermont’s law –the label is clearly designed to infer that there is some risk.  But, there is more. GE crops are less expensive to grow and give the consumer a better bargain.  They require less labor, resist pests, and require less chemicals to kill the weeds.  

Hopefully, this new research can help to reassure the doubters.  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com  .;Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.  

John Block Reports from Washington

Too Much Government

May 19, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I am on the farm this week hoping to wrap up soy bean planting. It was Donald Trump last week. This week, first let me give you my take on the “bathroom bill brawl.” Why won’t the federal government back off? Let the states, cities, school districts, and local citizens deal with it. The federal government just wants to ruin everything. My solution is to allow the male and female individuals to use the bathroom that matches their gender on their birth certificate, that’s what we have always done. For the transgender individual, just put a porta potty outside for them. I am sure you can understand a young girl not wanting to have someone that looks like a guy in her bathroom ormaybe in her shower after gym class.

Enough on that. Today’s subject is government dominance and ownership versus personal property and a market economy. 

Just look at some nations that have not progressed but need a life preserver to survive. Look at Cuba – I was there 10 years ago. Ninety miles from our shore, but they are poor. Fifty years ago the government stole all the land and took control of everything. Unless they allow a market economy to evolve, don’t expect a quick turn around.

Let’s go south a little further to Venezuela. I was there when I was Secretary of Agriculture. That nation at that time was one of the most prosperous in South America. Then along came Hugo Chavez with his ultimate plan of the 21st Century Socialism, redistribution of wealth. The government took the wealth and shared some of it but wasted most of it. With the collapse in oil prices, thirty percent of the people work for the government. They don’t have the money to keep the electricity on to milk the cows. Farmers can’t get seeds to plant, they have 720 percent inflation. I have a friend that worked for me at the Department of Agriculture. His family came from Zimbabwe in East Africa. Dictator Mugabe stole their family farm. When the farms were in private hands, Zimbabwe was an exporter of agricultural products. Today they are beggars.

I don’t need to say much about North Korea, total government control and a total failure.

The point that I am making is that government control, government ownership, ignoring free markets will guarantee failure. We don’t want to go down that road.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump Wins

May 14, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I have been involved in Republican politics since Governor Jim Thompson appointed me as his Illinois Director of Agriculture 40 years ago. I have never seen a Presidential campaign like this one. We had 17 candidates running for the Republican flag. Republican elites – Mitt Romney, John McCain, all the others, said – “Donald Trump can’t win.” But he did win. He is the only one left standing.

Most of the Republican leadership will not eat crow. But will they lend their support? There will be a few sore losers. But this is what Rick Santorum (one of Trump’s competitors) had to say and I agree: “The people have spoken.” Get over it. It’s time to move on.

Let’s think about Trump’s position on issues. He has made one thing clear. He will negotiate. He said, “make no mistake. There will be deals.” We know he won’t be able to do some of the things he has proposed. We have laws in place and he won’t be able to send 12 million illegals to their homelands. He won’t be able to ignore or tear up trade agreements. We are a country of laws. Now, he may be able to negotiate a compromise solution to our immigration problem or even improve our trade agreements. I would hope the Trans Pacific agreement that we have negotiated could be passed.

The problem is that both Trump and Clinton oppose it. Hillary had this to say: “I oppose the TPP agreement – and that means before and after the election.” Donald Trump has stated that he thinks we have been too willing to engage in unnecessary wars costing trillions of dollars and human lives. Nation building and trying to dominate every corner of the world is not something we can afford. Other developed countries are not paying their fair share to ensure global stability. I agree, and the majority of American citizens agree.

We have no specific idea where Trump stands on farm programs except he does support the renewable fuel standard and ethanol.

He is enough of a businessman that I think he will see our $19 trillion debt as a serious burden and do something about it. Months ago, in my commentary, I said that I supported someone else, but "we should not count Trump out.” We have underestimated the anger in the country and the appetite for change. This is an exciting campaign.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Peanuts

May 5, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary—  

As a farmer, I would not like it if Europe shipped subsidized beef into our market.  That would undercut our prices.  What if Brazil shipped subsidized soybeans to us?  We would be furious.  

Did you know that the U.S. government does this all of the time?  Think about it this way.  There are millions of people underfed, some starving, in many countries.  The humanitarian thing to do is, send them food.  And we should, but it’s not as simple as that.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to ship 500 metric tons of surplus U.S. peanuts to Haiti.  High protein, nutritious peanuts could feed 140,000 children.  Who could complain?  You guessed it – the Haitian peanut farmers.  As you can see, providing food to needy people in other countries is a difficult balancing act.  

One reason we might want to give away peanuts is because the U.S. government accumulated 113,000 tons last year.  How did we get all those peanuts?  It is because we still have an outdated farm support program for peanuts.  

When I came in as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in 1981, we had support programs for many crops.  Take corn, for example.  A farmer could harvest his corn crop and get a government loan for X number of bushels at a designated price.  If the market did not rise above that price, then the government took the corn as repayment for the loan.  USDA had millions of bushels of corn and wheat and dried milk and cheese and on and on – all in storage.  

Over the years, we have gotten rid of those support programs that resulted in government ownership of grain.  Thank God.  But there are still a couple of ancient relic programs still on the books – peanuts and sugar. When we write the next farm bill, the peanut and sugar programs need to be reformed.  Let the free market work.  

One final comment – I am happy to see the Presidential nominating process decided.  It’s not a surprise that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.  However, on the Republican side, I have friends that are shocked that Trump will be the Republican candidate.  Maybe he is too.  It’s like the dog chasing the car.  What do you do if you catch it?  He caught it.  Trump’s victory is a big surprise to many.  Maybe he will surprise his critics again in November.  It will be interesting to see.  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.  Have a great weekend.    Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.  

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump Wins Big

April 28, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Last week, I was on the farm in Illinois. Our corn is planted. Field soil conditions have been ideal. We still have soybeans waiting to be put in the ground. This is an exciting season.

Speaking of an exciting season, the politics of our state primaries can get your attention. This week, Donald Trump just clobbered Ted Cruz and John Kasich, winning 5 states – Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island – very impressive. The margin of victory for Trump has to be embarrassing for Ted Cruz.

Here is what I think about the 3 Republicans. I like Kasich but he doesn’t have broad enough support. Cruz is a true Conservative, but he doesn’t have any friends. Donald Trump says things that I would never say but the voters want change. They aren’t sure what Trump would do if elected but he knows how to negotiate and get things done. He isn’t a “war hawk” and neither are the voters.

Republicans need to back away from their tendency to police the world. Our citizens have had enough of war. Take care of the home front. Protect our border. Immigration is fine if it’s legal. Will we really build a wall? I’m not sure.

Trump wants to rip up our trade agreements. I think they have been good for our country and especially agriculture. However, maybe they can be improved. I have become convinced that Donald Trump will get the Republican Presidential nomination. Polls say he can’t beat Hillary Clinton. Don’t be so sure.

In the spring of 1980, Jimmy Carter was expected to win the Presidential election in the fall. Ronald Reagan, leading the Conservative march to the White House, was 20 points behind Carter. He couldn’t beat Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer. But he did.

A lot of people are starting to wonder what kind of a President Trump would be. Maybe we will find out. Trump and Clinton both have pretty high negatives, but a lot can change between now and November.

To the voters that are concerned about our next President, whoever it may be, just remember this – we have checks and balances. Congress writes the laws. And, the courts ensure that we respect the Constitution and those laws.

Now we need to get those soybeans planted.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Taxes

April 21, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary—

I paid my income taxes this week. You know how the IRS does it. They ask “How much did you make? Okay. Send it in.” I know – it’s not quite that bad. However, every year at this time, we are reminded that we need tax reform. The system is too complicated. There are thousands of pages of rules. A small business can never get it right without professional help.

Here is a fact worth thinking about. This year, our federal government is bringing in more money than ever before. We shouldn’t be adding to our debt this year. But that’s not the case. We are spending it faster than IRS can rake it in. We’re going to add more than 500 billion dollars to our debt this year. That is on top of the 19 trillion dollars we already owe.

Tax reform needs to be more than closing loopholes. 

1. We need to lower the tax rate for both individuals and corporations. Our corporate rate is one of the highest in the world.

2. With lower rates, we can take away some special deals. Maybe we shouldn’t be allowed to deduct state and local taxes. Limit the interest deduction on your home. Don’t allow any deduction on a second home. Maybe employer health insurance should be taxed.

Also, we need to stop big corporations from shifting money to other countries to avoid taxes. 

There are many other reforms that can be added to this list. The challenge will be to get the President and the U.S. Congress to do something they don’t want to do. They like to use the Tax Code to reward what they consider to be good behavior or punish bad behavior.

Finally, after making the many tax cuts and reforms, we should consider a consumption tax. Most advanced nations have a consumption tax. With a consumption tax, everyone pays something, but those who consume more (probably individuals with more money) will pay more –sounds fair to me.

In closing, let me say that I am not impressed with any of our Presidential candidates’ tax and spending plans. Trump, Cruz, and Sanders would spend us into bankruptcy. Kasich and Clinton are a little better, but there are still many unanswered questions.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

4-H

April 13, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.And now for today’s commentary— ;

Just this week, our nation’s largest youth development organization, which happens to be 4H, made a presentation to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology and Research chaired by Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL).  With 6 million youth members, 4-H is reaching out to help bridge the gap between rural and urban.    

At another ag luncheon just yesterday, Congressman Davis was our speaker, reminding us about the challenge we have in agriculture since most of today’s young people have no connection to the farm.  The national 4-H Council has begun the process to broaden the 4-H scope from the countryside into the cities.  This new 4-H initiative has promise for more than one reason.  Yes – a better urban understanding of agriculture is good.  Beyond that, 4-H can open doors of opportunity that young people can hardly imagine.

The first speech that I ever gave was at a 4-H meeting.  I was 10 years old.  “What I feed my pig.”  That was just the beginning.    Two or three years later, another member of our 4-H club and I gave a demonstration – “How to make a pig brooder.”  I know you don’t know what that is.  It provides a warm, protected place for baby pigs to get under a heat lamp in the winter when it is cold.  Anyway, we won the local 4-H demonstration contest, and then we qualified to compete at the Illinois State Fair.   

Besides learning how to speak and present ourselves, we had to keep records of the feed fed to our pigs and the cost of the feed.  After feeding and raising our pigs, they were sold in the fall.  Then, we were able to see if we made any money.  Still in grade school, but I had my own bank account.    

As I went into high school, I became a member of our FFA chapter.  I bought a black Angus cow that had a calf which, after feeding it for a year, was sent to market.  I was a small-scale farmer – very small.  The bottom line is – 4-H knows the value of these learning experiences.  Without 4H, I might not have ever made the West Point Debate Team.  Maybe I would not have been Illinois State Director of Agriculture or Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Agriculture.  4-H has a lot to offer to both rural and urban youth.     

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.  Have a great weekend.    

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

GMOs and Organic

April 7, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

The U.S. Senate has failed to pass legislation to stop states from requiring GMO labeling. With a patchwork of different state labeling laws, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack warns of “chaos.”

Critics of GMO crops are on the attack. They have no science on their side. It is just an unscientific ideological assault. Today, there are 18 million farmers in 28 countries planting GMO crops. The corn and soy beans on my farm are GMO. Why do I plant GMO? The answer is simple. We can produce more at less cost. The whole food chain benefits – especially the consumer. You don’t have to go back many years when a family spent about half of their income for food. That’s the situation in much of Africa today. We spend less than 10 percent.

If we don’t employ modern technology in producing food, there will be less food. We should not even consider going in that direction. By 2050, the world will have 2 billion more people to feed. The growing numbers of misguided, uninformed, anti-science people opposing GMOs have not considered the devastating consequences of what they preach. Food will cost a lot more. More land will need to be farmed, resulting in cutting down rain forests. Greenhouse gas emissions go up. In the end, hunger and starvation will increase.

To make things even worse, the increase in organic farming acres will further reduce our food production. Most estimates suggest that organic farming might come up short in yield by as much as 30 or 40 percent. That is compared to precision farming as we practice it today.

Most farmers today want to use new technology. But think about this. If more and more acres are farmed organically or without GE technology, there will be less food produced. And with less food, prices will go up. We would like to see that. Net farm income will be in the tank this year and maybe next.

With low prices and a burdensome surplus, I wonder why we don’t encourage more organic farms – just a thought.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Is Donald Trump Right for American Agriculture?

March 31, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This is Rick Frank sitting in for John Block. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary— 

One of my law partners, a Republican farmer from the heartland, recently returned from a trip to the Midwest marveling at Donald Trump’s popularity in farm country and the growing revolution of those wanting to make America great again. He also attributed Trump’s success to those dissatisfied with our “leading from behind” President Obama and a yearning for strong leadership. At the same time, my wife’s good friends, suburban upper middle-class Democrats in Maryland, are terrified of Donald Trump. They think he is a racist and a misogynist. He wants to build a wall at the Mexican border. He wants to bar all Muslims from coming in to the United States. According to the media, if not awarded the Republican nomination, Trump thinks there would be protests or riots. 

Who is the real Donald Trump and would he be good for American agriculture? 

Candidate Trump has said remarkably little about agriculture. Google “Trump and agriculture” and you will find virtually no articulated policies. In fairness, none of the candidates have actively discussed agriculture in this campaign…even in Iowa…which is unprecedented. It’s possibly a sign of agriculture’s declining political power. 

Let’s look at two key issues of importance to American Agriculture. On immigration, Donald Trump wants to build the wall at the Mexican border and send 11 million illegal immigrants back home. But who will pick the strawberries and milk the cows? Who will do suburban landscaping? Will American agriculture really benefit under a Trump administration? 

And how about trade? President Trump would rip up many of our existing trade agreements which facilitate America feeding the world. Does American agriculture really want the U.S. taking an isolationist position with agricultural exports being the primary loser? Impose tariffs on China, Japan, and Mexico and U.S. agriculture will pay the price. 

It’s hard to tell who the real Donald Trump is. Maybe as we get closer to the Republican convention, more will become clear about Trump’s views on agriculture. For now, I would view a Trump presidency with a great deal of skepticism. 

Until next week, this is Rick Frank sitting in for John Block from Washington, D.C. 

John Block Reports from Washington

AG Day

March 23, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Last week was Ag Day. In fact, it was an Ag Week. Agri-Pulse had a panel of speakers talking about one of our industry’s biggest challenges – how do we communicate about our industry today? Very few people know anything about the business of producing food. We can’t produce  enough food without new technology. And that includes genetic engineering. We could farm like they do in Africa where, in some countries, the cost of feeding a family eats up 80% of family income. In the U.S., the cost is less than 10%.

Ag Day is an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable contribution American agriculture  makes to this country and the world. We enjoyed a beautiful dinner which was held in the atrium of  the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Secretary Vilsack has been a strong supporter of GE. I felt  very much at home at USDA with a room full of ag friends. John Deere, Monsanto, Future Farmers of America, cattle and pork producers, and Orion Samuelson serving as MC.

We have a lot to be proud of. Just one farmer in this country produces enough food to feed  155 people – amazing. At the same time, it is a problem because so few people understand  farming. We produce so much food and do it with less crop acres than 40 years ago. That’s precision farming. Besides feeding so many people, 10% of our gasoline comes from farms – ethanol.

As good as we are, we constantly face unpredictable devastating challenges every year. We  can’t control the weather. Look at the terrible drought in California. Three years ago, a drought in  exas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico forced ranchers to sell their cattle. They didn’t have the feed. Surplus production and weak demand can drive down prices. Net farm income this year is projected to be at a 14-year low – the lowest since 2002. This year’s farm income will drop to  $54.8 billion – a 56% plunge from the 2013 high of $123 billion. Animal and crop receipts are headed down this year. 

There are some positive signs. Debt to asset ratio (13%) is relatively low, and interest rates  are very low. I remember in the early 1980s when I was Secretary of Agriculture, interest rates hit  15% to 18%. The cost of money was killing us.

Farming has always been a roller coaster and we will ride this one to a better day

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line  to www.johnblockreports.com.

Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

The President Goes to Cuba

March 17, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you byJohn Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary—

President Obama is going to Cuba next week. A little over a year ago, he established diplomatic relations with that island country ninety miles from Florida. Credit the President for bringing to an end a 50-year effort to isolate that country. We should not have waited this long to expand trade and travel to Cuba.

I have been to Cuba three times. I was there just a year ago with an agriculture group hoping to open the door for expanded ag trade. President Obama will find the Cuban people to be friendly and happy to see a new open door policy. He will see a lot of old cars, and their tractors are just as old. Three-quarters of Cubans work for the government. They don’t go hungry because the government provides the food. They don’t earn a lot of money – doctors can make $75 a month. Their economy is going nowhere until more of their businesses are in private hands. Even Raul Castro recently said, “Either we change course or we sink.” I hope he means what he said. 

An ag industry has been trying to expand trade with Cuba for years, but there are trade restrictions which make it very difficult. Cuba imports 80% of their food but we only provide about 10%. It is a $2 billion ag market but, until we pass legislation to end our embargo, our share of that market is going nowhere.

Last week, Senate Ag Appropriations Chairman Moran held a hearing where Secretary Vilsack said – 

1. The embargo should be removed, and

 2. Pending its removal, FAS personnel need to develop contacts with Cuban authorities to position us to facilitate trade.

The encouraging point is that now we have our government interested in building a positive relationship. The ag industry has for a long time been trying to open the Cuban door. I don’t know when the Congress will be willing to pass legislation to normalize relations. We have public support, but there is still strong opposition. In fact, some of our Presidential candidates don’t want to have anything to do with Cuba.

Normal trade, travel, and business relations will take time. Restrictions are on both sides. You couldn’t buy a winter home in Cuba today if you wanted to.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

GMO Legislation

March 10, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies  of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary— 

Nancy Reagan was laid to rest this week. She was a very elegant First Lady and she was  number one on President Reagan’s list – the love of his life and a trusted defender of the President.  She was not interested in getting deeply involved in policy issues. However, she was always  watching to ensure no one was undercutting her husband. 

When I arrived in Washington as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, my highest priority was to encourage President Reagan to lift the Soviet grain embargo imposed by President Carter. After all,  President Reagan had promised to lift it during the campaign. The problem was Secretary of State Haig and Defense Secretary Weinberger argued that we should demand something in return for  lifting the embargo. At our very first Cabinet meeting, I asked the President to lift it. It was blocking billions of dollars of ag exports to the Soviet Union. 

There was no decision that day. Afterwards, I talked to Ed Meese, the closest counselor to  the President, to gain his support. At the end of March 1981, President Reagan was shot at the  Washington Hilton Hotel. After his recovery, he called me into the Oval Office along with  Secretary Haig and he said he was lifting the embargo that day. I was elated. Secretary Haig was very unhappy. 

I know there were two people supporting me on the embargo question – not because of  defense policy, but simply because the President needed to keep his promise. Those two people, closest to the President, were Ed Meese and Nancy Reagan. May she rest in peace with her Ronnie. 

I want to spend a little time on an extremely important issue – GMO foods. The state of Vermont has a law that takes effect July 1 requiring labels on all genetically modified foods. A  handful of other states also want some kind of labeling. “The consumers have the right to know.”  That’s what they say. 

First, we can’t have a patchwork of different labels for every different state. And second,  there is no reason to label GE foods. It is deceptive – suggesting there is something wrong with GE  foods. Two thousand studies have found GMOs to be as safe as non-GMOs. 

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) is pushing legislation in the Senate to put a stop to the costly  state laws which would drive up consumer prices and suggest consumers should avoid GE foods.  We should know soon if the legislation can pass. 

I conclude with a sentence from a Wall Street Journal editorial. “No agricultural innovation  has been more maligned than GMOs, though the technology has proven safe, reliable, affordable,  and good for the environment.”  

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line  to www.johnblockreports.com. 

Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Zika Virus

March 3, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.  And now for today’s commentary—    

If you read the paper, watch TV, or listen to the radio, I’m sure you have heard about the terrible Zika virus which can infect pregnant women and deform their unborn babies.  Their babies can be born with abnormally small heads.  Some infected individuals can be stricken with paralysis.    

When this new year began, I had never heard of Zika virus.  It has our attention now, having arrived in Mexico last year, spreading in Brazil, and moving north.  Puerto Rico has 117 cases.  It is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.  The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is a “public health emergency.”    

Okay, what to do now?  Well, we don’t have any vaccine to protect people.  One solution is to genetically engineer male mosquitoes so that when they mate with a female, their offspring just die.  That mosquito GE technology has been approved in Brazil, but not yet in the U.S.  The American public strongly supports using genetic engineering to produce many of the drugs we use today.  But some people that accept genetically engineered medicines are not sure about GE crops, even though both food and medicines enter the body.    

Marshall Matz, a colleague of mine here at OFW Law, has a great piece on this very subject which just appeared in an AgriPulse publication.  Why the public is willing to accept GE medicine but not GE food is hard to understand.    

Now, besides GE mosquitoes – here is one other solution to fight the Zika virus.  

An effective solution would be to just kill the mosquitoes.  Spray them with DDT.  DDT was outlawed in 1972 by the EPA.  We haven’t used it since then.  It was banned in most of Africa.  DDT kills mosquitoes.  They transmit not only Zika but also malaria.  20 million people have died from malaria in Africa since the ban.    

Environmentalists say DDT harms birds, fish, and some wildlife and may be a danger to humans.  However, Dr. Lyle Petersen, Director at the Centers for Disease Control, says, “Concern about DDT has to be reconsidered in the public health interest.”    

When I was a kid, we were spraying DDT all the time.  It didn’t hurt me, but it sure killed the flies and mosquitoes.      

The Zika virus is spreading like wildfire and needs to be stopped.    

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.  

Have a great weekend.  Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.    

John Block Reports from Washington

EPA Land Grab

February 25, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies  of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.  

And now for today’s commentary— 

Last week, I was on the farm in Illinois. Only thing to report is that the pigs are happy  eating that cheap corn and going to market. Before I went to the farm, I spoke at a Pro Farmer  event in Omaha, Nebraska. They had an outstanding group of very well-informed and progressive  farmers. My presentation covered a number of important ag issues. However, the Environmental  Protection Agency’s effort to tell us what we can and cannot do on our own farms and ranches  raised a number of angry objections. And that’s what I want to talk about. 

 In a matter of days or weeks, the EPA could become our national zoning board, and I say  with the passing of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, the chances just become bigger. The reason is  the Supreme Court is about to decide whether to give the EPA the authority to make land use  decisions throughout the nation. Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) empowers regulators to  “micromanage any creek, pond or prairie pothole” and the land around them. 

 At this point, we run the risk of losing the battle of the American Farm Bureau Federation  v. EPA. This land grab started when President Obama signed an Executive Order instructing the  EPA to “make full use of its powers” to lower the levels of phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment in  rain water runoff and tributaries that reach the east coast’s Chesapeake Bay. And, this was to be  done in a manner that can be replicated “nationally.” So, look out middle America – Mississippi  River basin, covering 31 states – you will be next. 

 The Supreme Court is the last line of defense. Under the Clean Water Act, the states, not  the EPA, are responsible for regulating runoff. The President’s Order is contrary to the law. The  irony is that the states of the Chesapeake region were already moving aggressively and effectively  to clean their water before the EPA land grab. 

 According to a 2014 report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Bay’s water quality  had improved 40% since the 1980s. The states are perfectly capable and committed to deal with  this problem. 

 The Supreme Court should review American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA and put a  stop to this illegal nightmare. 

 If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line  to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend. 

 Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Things to Do

February 18, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

As the days and weeks go by, we get closer and closer to elections next November. The U.S. House and Senate will find it more difficult each day to get legislation passed. Legislators don’t like to vote on controversial issues close to an election.

A high priority should be to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement. All of the 12 nations involved have signed on. But now, our Congress must approve it. Maybe after the November election, they can vote during a lame duck session.

Another issue on my wish list is tax reform. Out tax code is so complicated, thousands of pages, and full of loopholes. The IRS can hardly understand it. Speaker Paul Ryan has spent a lot of time to craft a reform package, but I don’t expect anything to get done this year.

Back to trade – we are working with the European countries on a US-EU trade agreement. I can’t imagine that will move very fast. Our farm policies don’t match up with Europe. They don’t like GE crops and they subsidize their agriculture more than we do.

President Obama presented his budget this week. Just to be clear, the Republican Congress has no obligation to follow the President’s budget. Congress will pass its own. The President’s budget for the entire U.S. government is 4.1 trillion dollars. When we focus on the ag portion of the budget, the President wants to cut crop insurance. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) called that idea “dead on arrival.” I think he is right. However, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack pointed out that USDA subsidizes 62% of the crop insurance premium. He thinks the subsidy level should be closer to 50%. Perhaps he has a point, but with farm income in the tank having plunged 56% in three years, I don’t expect the crop insurance safety net to be cut this year.

The EPA’s overreach to regulate all the water on every farm is on hold now thanks to court action. The Farm Bureau calls out to “ditch the rule.” There is some hope. We shall see.

Focusing on President Obama’s budget again, he wants to cut the Army Corps of Engineers budget by 22%. That money was to be used to rebuild our locks and dams on the nation’s waterways. Those cuts are a bad idea. We need to upgrade our water transportation system.

Secretary Vilsack tried to broker a deal on GMO labeling, but – no deal. Not yet anyway.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Debt 2016

February 11, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary— President Reagan once said, “The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.”

Government programs not only survive, they thrive. They just get bigger. We have a 19 trillion dollar debt, and many of the candidates for President don’t even talk about it. Bernie Sanders gets the prize for wanting to spend more than anyone. To deal with our unsustainable growing debt would require raising taxes or cutting popular programs. That’s no way to buy votes.

Pollsters have been asking voters, “What are the most important issues to them?” Government spending comes in number one. A Rasmussen poll found that 66% of voters think the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

Although our annual deficit has been slowly declining the last six years, it is now headed back up this year. Granted we had a serious recession, but since President Obama came in, our national debt has more than doubled. We are obligated to pay that 19 trillion dollars back. That burden will fall on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren.

Our debt was 39% of GDP in 2008. Today, it has climbed to 73.6% and rising. Look at the world today – not very healthy. As irresponsible as we are, we are better off than most other countries. Look at the countries that are in trouble. Venezuela tops the list. In Europe, Greece is only hanging in there because the rest of Europe threw them a life raft. Brazil and Argentina are struggling. What do these suffering countries have in common? Too much debt – debt that they may not be able to pay back. Why should we go down that road to oblivion? We don’t have to.

Half of the growth in our spending in the last 10 years has gone to two programs – Social Security and Medicare. It is shocking to acknowledge that the payment on our debt, which is 223 billion dollars per year now – is expected to rise to 772 billion dollars in 2025.

I don’t think it is unreasonable to deal with this problem now. It will only get worse. Failure to control debt can destroy a business, can bankrupt your farm or your family. Tell our politicians to show some courage and fix it.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Presidential Campaign

February 4, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Who will be our Presidential candidates next November? It’s a long, complicated process. The voters of Iowa have spoken. Iowa may be first, but they don’t have the last word. Party conventions in July will be the culmination of a long, messy process.

Ted Cruz, with 28% support in Iowa, beat Donald Trump (24%). After spending last summer and fall in Trump’s shadow, Cruz stepped up and took the lead with a solid ground game. His conservatism and Christian position is a good fit for rural Iowa.

Here are a few lines from his victory speech. “Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and all across this great nation. Iowa has sent notice that the Republican nominee and next President of the U.S. will not be chosen by the media, will not be chosen by the Washington establishment, will not be chosen by the lobbyists, but will be chosen by the most incredible, powerful force. We the people, the American people.”

That was a powerful thank you to Iowa. Gracious in defeat, Donald Trump expressed his love for his Iowa supporters. Although Trump had been leading in the polls, his criticism of the Trans-Pacific Trade deal and calling for a 45% tariff on China gave the impression that he didn’t understand the importance of trade. The ag industry exports almost 30% of our production. His positive words for ethanol should have helped him since Cruz proposed to phase out the RFS, but that seemed to fall on deaf ears. I don’t think Trump’s radical immigration plan helped him either, and skipping the last debate was a bad idea.

I think Marco Rubio had the best night of all – jumping up 8 points to 23% – just 1% behind Donald Trump.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders clawed his way up the ladder to end in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton. That was a stunning outcome and left the Clinton camp reeling.

The next state vote will be New Hampshire. That’s not an evangelical corn state – very different. Except for one thing – even they will be looking for a new face. Polls today tell us the public does not want an establishment candidate. Rubio should do well in New Hampshire.

When we move to southern and western states, I think it will be harder for Sanders to stay on top of the Democratic ticket.

On the Republican side, we have had 12 candidates fighting it out. Too many. That will change after New Hampshire.

When it’s all said and done, I believe that Marco Rubio has the best chance of winning in the end, but I’m not ready to bet the farm yet.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

A Case Against Mandatory GMO Labeling

January 28, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This Is Rick Frank sitting in for John Block. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

The air waves are filled with paid announcements arguing the public has the right to know when GMO ingredients are used in food products sold in the U.S. I say no to mandatory GMO labeling but yes to voluntary labeling.

The FDA, USDA, and EPA have concluded that GMO products on the market are safe and pose no unique allergenicity or environmental problems. Both Republican and Democratic Administrations have reached this same conclusion.

The first GMOs were developed over 140 years ago by Gregor Mendel...remember biology? – cross-breeding peas to create better peas. Most of today’s fruits and vegetables are the product of cross-breeding and we all benefit. No labeling required, nor should it be.

Modern day GMOs are similar except the new gene is often from a different species. There is absolutely no reason to think there will be any safety issues.

The “right to know” argument only goes so far – under modern labeling theory, consumers should have the right to know what ingredients are in a product and they do in the ingredient list. They should have assurances that the product is safe and doesn’t pose any allergenicity risk. But that’s it. The “right to know” to satisfy religious, political, economic, or geographic interests should not be satisfied through mandatory labeling or each label will ultimately become an encyclopedia. Of course, Nebraska farmers would like to require all corn coming from Kansas into Nebraska to say “Product of Kansas.” But where will it stop?

We need to find better ways to feed the 1 billion hungry on our planet; promoting organic farms in every back yard or discriminating against GMO science won’t get us there.

Voluntary labeling should be permitted regarding whether GMOs are present or are not present. Unique state labeling laws like the one in Vermont are politically motivated and just flat wrong. FDA, USDA, and EPA must continue to monitor the health safety and environmental

impacts of these products on the public. In my view, this issue will ultimately prove to be a “tempest in a tea pot.”

Until next week, I am Rick Frank sitting in for John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

2016 Wish List

January 21, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Last year in January, I presented my wish list for 2015. On that program, I asked for a “solution to our immigration problem.” We didn’t get a solution. Now, our Presidential candidates are all over the board with Donald Trump promising to send all the illegals back. We won’t solve the problem this year.

Another wish was to “write a free trade agreement.” We negotiated a deal with 12 Pacific Rim countries. Now we need to pass it in the Congress. Won’t be easy. Fortunately, President Obama is pushing it. But now, we have more than one of the Republican Presidential candidates unhappy with free trade agreements. Hillary Clinton is not sure if she likes the agreement either. This very important trade deal for American agriculture and all of America is still hung up on the political wars.

The next wish was to “upgrade our locks and dams.” At least, we have the authority and more money to begin working on our water infrastructure now.

It was not on last year’s list, but it should have been – roads and bridges. Just before the end of the year, Congress passed legislation giving us the money to get started upgrading them. “Tax reform” was on my list last year. I don’t know when we can get it done. On the plus side, Speaker Paul Ryan has it high on his list also.

Let’s get rid of “country of origin labeling” and we did.

One of last year’s wish list issues was to see the “ag industry come together to support and protect modern agriculture.” Although we have done better in supporting genetically engineered crops and modern technology, we need to do more. I was excited when the Food and Drug Administration said a genetically engineered fish is safe to eat. The new salmon grows to market weight twice as fast as the conventional Atlantic salmon. Maybe more GE animals will be on the table some day.

With all the GE research going on and the potential to engineer something better, I hope the public will come to appreciate the value of improved crops and animals. There is no sacrifice in food safety. This battle has raged for a long while and won’t end any time soon. GMO food labeling is in the spotlight right now. Secretary Vilsack is trying to find a solution.

Not to forget – let’s keep pushing that Cuban door open.

Beyond agriculture, the Middle East is in flames. We need a cease fire.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

2016 Dietary Guidelines

January 14, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I asked a couple of friends of mine in Illinois and Kansas – what do you think of the newly released Dietary Guidelines? Their answer – what Dietary Guidelines? The public is not paying much attention while the issue has had wide discussion here in Washington, D.C. Every five years, the federal government updates the Dietary Guidelines on what you should eat (how much) and what you should not eat. We published the Dietary Guidelines when I was Secretary of Agriculture.

Without question, five years of research on healthful eating can change, and it has – at least a little. The new Dietary Guidelines have opened the door to a little more salt, but less sugar. I am on my second cup of coffee. The new Dietary Guidelines say that I can have five cups with no risk. I’m not sure I want five cups. But, it’s clear to me that caffeine is not a problem. The old Dietary Guidelines told us to consume no more than 300 mg per day of cholesterol. That hurt the egg business. No more. Eat your eggs. Stick to low fat dairy and you will live a healthier life. A very positive piece of dietary advice is that the Dietary Guidelines do not tell Americans to cut back on processed or red meat. This is a win for the meat industry.

These Dietary Guidelines were developed by a 15-member Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Their recommendations did not look favorably on red meat. However, the science against meat is not settled. Their rejection of meat had more to do with the environment and global warming than dietary health.

The Congress and the ag industry pressured Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and HHS Secretary Burwell to ensure the official Dietary Guidelines stick to their legal objective – dietary health.

Nothing new – the Dietary Guidelines tell us to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and a wide variety of proteins. Secretary Vilsack said, “American families don’t need to make huge fundamental changes.” I agree.

Although most citizens do not know nor care much about the Dietary Guidelines, they do make an impact. All government feeding programs, school lunches, and public health advisors pay attention to the Dietary Guidelines.

Oh, I almost forgot one vital piece of advice. Help yourself to one or two glasses of red wine. It’s O.K.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Oregon Land Dispute

January 7, 2016

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Farmers, ranchers, and much of rural America has been unhappy and angry at the federal government’s heavy-handed restrictions and regulations on the use of government land. A new conflict just erupted in Oregon, a state where the federal government owns more than half the land.

In recent years, our government has become far more restrictive. It used to be that grazing cattle, cutting timber – even mining with a permit – was not a problem. Not today. Environmentalists say, “Don’t touch the land. Save it for the spotted owl and the sage grouse.” It’s hard to imagine that the federal government controls 84% of Nevada, 64% of Utah, 61% of Idaho, 61% of Alaska, and 48% of Wyoming. Urban people east of the Mississippi have no idea the frustration felt by the rural residents in most of the western states.

Last year, we witnessed a major conflict between the Bundy family ranch and the government. This week, Bundy and other supporters of the Dwight Hammond ranching family of Oregon took over a national wildlife refuge in southwest Oregon. They say they are protesting a court order that will send Dwight Hammond (73 years old) and his son back to jail after they already served time. Their crime was preventive burning to protect their property from forest fires. Hammond argues that the government’s prosecution was revenge because he refused to sell the government his ranch land – which, of course, the government denies.

Rural people in the west support the Hammond family. Many of them have seen family and friends experience serious run-ins with the Bureau of Land Management. They may not agree with the Bundy-led gang that took over the wildlife sanctuary, but they certainly appreciate the support of fellow Americans.

I have said this before. It is not a good policy for the government to own so much land. It should be sold or at least some should be sold. We could use the money and private owners would put it to productive use – whether that cattle grazing, mining, lumber, or maybe a factory. They could create thousands of jobs. If we don’t sell it, give it to the states. Right now, a lot of that property is mismanaged and wasted. How many free countries would accept federal government ownership of so much land – 640 million acres?

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Chipotle Mexican Grill

December 31, 2015

 Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Today’s subject – Chipotle Mexican Grill – they sell “food with integrity.” They have been marketing with misleading ads and videos, suggesting that conventional food production – you know, “factory farms” – are selling unsafe food. Chipotle sells cleaner, healthier food. Well, the “chickens have come home to roost.” Their food has proven to be more germ-infested and unhealthy than their competition. In December, there was an outbreak of norovirus, sickening more than 120 in Boston. They had eaten at Chipotle. Back in August, a California Chipotle Grill sickened 80 customers. Their grills in 8 states were closed after E-coli was traced to their restaurants.

Chipotle built their brand by putting down modern food production, boasting about “local grown food, responsibly raised, sustainable, and GMO free.” They have been bragging about organic even though much of their food is not organic. Last year, Chipotle broadcast a video about the “utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture.”

For one restaurant chain to experience 5 outbreaks in 8 different states and different kinds of food poisoning suggests that they must be doing something wrong. They have promised to fix the problem whatever it is. All I can say – they had better stop pretending to be so far above the rest of us where we accept and employ modern technology.

Today’s efficient agricultural industry can feed a family with less than 10% of their income. In 1950, family food costs exceeded 25% of family income. Do we want to go back and farm the way my grandfather did?

As you might expect, Chipotle stock has collapsed with the bad news. This whole episode might send a good message. We should rely on sound science and not listen to some company crowing about how superior they are because they ignore new technology.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

What Did We Get Done in 2015?

December 24, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. I want to sincerely thank Monsanto for being a reliable, enthusiastic sponsor of this program for so many years. They are stepping back for a year. The National Corn Growers Association is stepping up. My sponsors this coming year will be John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association.

And now for today’s commentary—

The U.S. Congress didn’t get much done this year until this month. Agriculture had a long wish list that just sat on the table. But surprise! I think we came out better than I thought we could. First, the Congress passed a five-year 305 billion dollar transportation bill. Our roads and bridges needed that desperately. Recent bills have been only for one year and this is five. I had hoped they would use an increase in the fuel tax to help fund it, but they did find the money.

Another problem that has been a constant battle since 2002 when it was enacted is Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). The Congress repealed it. At least the labeling requirements for beef and pork are gone. Chicken is still in place, but that’s not in conflict. The tariffs that were authorized before the repeal would have cost us billions in ag exports. Senator Pat Roberts had this to say: “American farmers, ranchers, and small businesses will finally get the certainty they deserve.”

Finally, real money can now be counted on with the permanent authorization of Section 179 that will allow farms and small businesses to expense up to $500,000 when they buy that new tractor, combine, etc.

Not to overlook another important question. The Administration has settled on a renewable fuel standard (RFS) that doesn’t make big oil or the corn industry happy. But at least we now may have some certainty.

Not to get too excited – there are some very serious issues that are not fixed. Heading that list is the GE food labeling battle. With Vermont and other states lining up to impose state labeling laws, Congress must act and require uniformity. We can’t have 50 state laws dictating different labeling requirements.

The Administration still has not announced the Dietary Guidelines. Thanks to the Congress, they have directed that the Administration can not use environmental factors in the Guidelines. By law, they are supposed to be “dietary guidelines.”

In closing, let’s be grateful – the government did not shut down. We have money to operate next year.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

2015 Cabinet Luncheon

December 17, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I recently hosted the Cabinet Secretaries luncheon, which dates back to 1981 – the first year of the Ronald Reagan Presidency. That first Christmas luncheon was hosted by Marshall Coyne at the beautiful Madison Hotel. All of President Reagan’s Cabinet was invited. We had six or eight in attendance, including Vice President Bush.

After four years of limiting the invitees to the Reagan team, we decided to invite Cabinet members who worked for other Presidents – Nixon, Ford, and Carter. We had Secretaries of Agriculture, including Secretary Earl Butz, who had worked for President Nixon, and Secretary Bob Bergland, who worked for President Carter.

Then, we decided to invite spouses also. The first year, that worked fine, with the spouses seated at their own separate table. But the next year, Elizabeth Dole came as a Secretary, and that meant her husband, Senator Bob Dole, would be seated with the spouses. That arrangement would not work. Of course, today, the tables are mixed.

Marshall Coyne, owner of the Madison Hotel, has since passed on, and the hosting responsibility was handed to me. For 20 years now, it has been my pleasure to pull together Cabinet Secretaries as far back as we can for the annual gathering. The most senior attendee that we had this year was Henry Kissinger – 92 years old. He worked for President Nixon and has advised many Presidents since then. Our total attendance was 51.

Reverend Kathleene Card, wife of Andy Card, gave the opening prayer. A delicious meal was served, and the Secretaries were asked to make predictions. We have been doing this for years.

Here are some predictions:

  1. The pollsters will be wrong. There will be a Trump on Pennsylvania Avenue, but it will only be the Trump Hotel – not Donald.
  2. This is the craziest election we have ever seen. James Madison is turning over in his grave.
  3. This group will incorporate itself as a source of renewable energy. There will be turbines on the south lawn of the White House, and we’ll sell solar panels to fund gifts at our luncheon.

There were many predictions – some serious and some just ridiculous.

Our luncheon was held at the famous Blair House right across from the White House. God willing, we will be back next year to welcome a new President.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Repeal COOL

December 10, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

The World Trade Organization ruled this week that Canada and Mexico can impose retaliatory tariffs on our exports to their countries to the tune of more than 1 billion dollars per year. This is serious. It can cost pork producers, cattlemen, and our whole ag industry a lot of money.

Pork prices are so low now that hog farmers are losing money on every pig sold. Let’s look at a little bit of history. Back in 2002, Congress wrote in that farm bill the requirement that any meat processed and sold in the U.S. must detail everywhere that meat animal had been from birth to processing. That is the Country of Origin Labeling law (COOL) and it can be a very costly process to keep track of every animal. Meat animals are moved back and forth across the U.S. and Canadian border all the time. Same with Mexico.

I opposed that legislation back in 2002 when it was included as part of the farm bill. Canada and Mexico have been fighting this requirement now for 13 years. They took their case to the World Trade Organization. We are all members of that organization and are obligated to respect and obey the trade rules. WTO says our COOL law violates our international trade obligations. It is as simple as that.

In June of this year, the House voted overwhelmingly 300 to 131 to repeal the law. But the Senate has not been able to act. Maybe now with a 1 billion dollar tariff on our exports due to be imposed yet this month, they will act.

Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts wants immediate repeal. He said, “How much longer are we going to keep pretending retaliation isn’t happening? Does it happen when a cattle rancher or even a furniture maker is forced out of business?” Senate Ag Committee Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow has argued that the consumer has the right to know where the meat has been. She has been pushing for a voluntary labeling program which, by the way, Canada and Mexico have rejected.

Pressure is building for action and hopefully Congress will repeal COOL. Even Senator Stabenow has said that she “would not allow retaliation to take effect.”

It is time to put the pressure on the Senate to get it done.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

This & That - The Politics of the Day

December 3, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

On the one hand, it makes me smile, and on the other, it makes me scratch my head. A lot of people are not sure if this Congress will get their business done without shutting down the government. I think they will avoid a shut down, but the process won’t be pretty. The clock is ticking on some very important legislation that may not get passed.

As early as December 18, Canada and Mexico are going to impose tariffs on our exports to their countries. The level of tariffs is not yet determined, but could be as high as $3 billion. Why would they do this? Because we have a law requiring country of origin labeling (COOL) which hurts their business relationship with the U.S. It costs us money too. We need to get rid of COOL.

Legislation providing for full repeal passed the House in June. The Senate is yet to act. Unfortunately, we may have to experience the tariff cost and trade disruption to push the Senate into action. It is hard to understand why we would go so far as to cost us money and damage our relationships with our two closest neighbors and trading partners.

Another very important bill is transportation funding. We’re running out of money and our roads and bridges need to be fixed. I am hopeful we can get this done.

The wild and crazy Presidential campaigns are in the headlines every day. It’s too soon to know who will win. Here are my three possible winners of the Republican nomination – Trump, Cruz, or Rubio. I think Hillary Clinton probably has the Democratic nomination sewed up. All of this national politics makes me scratch my head.

Here is what makes me smile. With all of the angry attacks on genetically engineered food, out of the blue, federal regulations approved the production and commercial sale of GE salmon. The anti-GE crowd has been adamantly against all of our GE crops. All of the while, the global acreage of those crops continues to increase every year. But now they have fish to worry about. It grows twice as fast as the wild species. The Food and Drug Administration says the salmon is as safe to eat as non-GE salmon. O.K., critics, now you have another opportunity to reject sound science. Makes me smile!

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

The TPP Again

November 26, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Last week, six former U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture released a letter urging the Congress to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Support for passage is bipartisan and enthusiastic. Standing together, you have: Secretary Ed Schafer, Secretary Mike Johanns, Secretary Ann Veneman, Secretary Dan Glickman, Secretary Mike Espy, Secretary Clayton Yeutter, and yours truly. We have seen and experienced the value of other trade agreements that we have supported.

It took eight years to negotiate this agreement. It includes 12 countries and leans toward Asia. Asia is one of the most dynamic, fastest growing regions of the world. It includes Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, and many others. Other countries are welcome to join the trade group over time (if they are willing to meet the agreement’s high standards. I would welcome China.

Trade agreements are designed to lower trade barriers – cutting tariffs, quotas, and market- distorting subsidies. The American farmer and rancher can compete with any one in the world. Let the markets work.

Now, the Congress – both House and Senate – need to pass the bill and the President must sign it. It will not be an easy process. The good thing is President Obama wants it done. It is part of his legacy, and he will want it done while he is in the White House. You can bet he will twist a few arms to get it passed. American agriculture is in solid support.

I worry if this is delayed until after we seat a new President and legislature in 2017. Will they support the agreement? Hillary Clinton has already spoken against it. Donald Trump doesn’t like any trade agreements. The time has come for “grass roots” agriculture to push their Members of Congress to act.

And even though next year is an election year, I say – get it done!

Finally, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Is everything perfect here in the good old U.S.A.? No – of course not. But, just look at the turmoil in the rest of the world. I see the thousands of refugees risking their lives traveling over land and sea to flee the Middle East in flames. They have lost their homes and everything hoping for a better life. I’m not sure we have a solution to all of this brutality and suffering. Everything is relative. We need to be thankful and grateful for the good life we have. You probably have some left over turkey – enjoy.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

2015 Dietary Guidelines - Will They Be Credible?

November 19, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

USDA and HHS are close to issuing the 2015 version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Guidelines, issued every five years, must be based on “the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge current at the time the report is issued.” That is a pretty high standard and properly requires sound science.

We will learn shortly whether the Obama Team is dedicated to sound science or simply motivated to follow the political whims and recommendations of its supporters.

The Advisory Committee report recommended a plank on sustainability, which is clearly outside the mandate and tradition of the Dietary Guidelines. Thankfully, it appears the Secretaries of USDA and HHS have taken sustainability off the table.

Another issue which may be a litmus test for the ultimate credibility of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines will be its commentary on caffeine. Caffeine has never been part of the Dietary Guidelines in the past. However, the Advisory Committee for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines made recommendations regarding caffeine consumption via energy drinks. Their recommendation is based on science that they, themselves, have graded as “limited.” The math and logic behind classification of energy drinks as high dose caffeine is just wrong. Well over 95% of energy drinks on the market contain between 80 and 160 mg per serving, the same as home brewed coffee (the coffee I drink every morning) and comparable to colas. Painting all energy drinks as “high dose caffeine” is simply not true and will encourage detractors to criticize the Dietary Guidelines as politically, not scientifically, driven.

If the Committee insists on their caffeine overreach, then what about marijuana? Help yourself to that marijuana brownie. They don’t say a word about the dangers of marijuana. Many in Congress are seeking to limit the Dietary Guidelines to where there is only “strong” science. That strikes me as a good idea and is consistent with the law. The Administration seems to be rushing to issue the Guidelines without that restriction. In the end, I hope the Secretaries get it right and issue a sound and credible set of Guidelines for all Americans.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

European Trade Deal

November 12, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

The Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement is sitting in Congress now. It was not an easy process to get the deal this far. If we can find the votes to pass it, it will be a big win for the American farmer.

Now, on the Atlantic side, we are in the process of negotiating a trade agreement with the European Union. This will be even more difficult – at least from agriculture’s point of view. The EU is not helping.

Just last month, two-thirds of the EU countries filed applications to opt out of cultivating (GM) crops. They aren’t going to allow their farmers to grow GM crops. They may not even allow them to be imported. They did this after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) certified the safety of GM crops and said they could be grown.

At this point, we are talking about Monsanto’s corn, which is the only GM crop approved for cultivation. In Europe, it is currently grown primarily in Spain and Portugal. If Europe insists on ignoring science and insists on rejecting the most promising technology in my lifetime, I don’t see how we can ever reach a trade deal.

GM crops have been in commercial use for 20 plus years and have an impeccable safety record. They boost farmers’ incomes and reduce consumer prices.

Let me read to you a quote from an EU Report on GMO biosafety: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology and in particular GMOs, are not more risky than conventional plant breeding.”

Last year, GM crops were grown in 28 countries around the world on over 181 million hectares, by 18 million farmers. Globally, GM crops have boosted yields by 22% and decreased pesticide use by 37%. Today, we don’t have the backbreaking labor load that my grandfather carried. Think about the energy being saved and the forests that won’t have to be cut down. Today, we are far more efficient and produce much higher yields on the same acres.

Think about how wide the Atlantic Ocean is separating U.S. and Europe. Right now, that’s how far apart we are on farm policy.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Meat—A Carcinogen

November 5, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Pick up the paper, turn on the TV, and someone pretending to know what they are talking about will be telling us what to eat and what not to eat.

I remember 30 years ago when I was Secretary of Agriculture and a number of food experts were waving their arms and screaming – we shouldn’t eat bacon because it is a carcinogen. Don’t eat butter – it’s bad for you. Margarine is so much better. Today, they say butter is good and margarine – not so good.

Today, the volume of sound about what to eat and what not to eat is deafening. They want to label everything – not just food sold in the supermarket but also the restaurants. “The consumer has a right to know.” Okay. With the growing obesity problem, knowing the number of calories in a serving can be useful. However, there is so much information and talk that I think the consumer is confused; and, consequently, isn’t going to listen to anything.

Recently, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Agency for Research on Cancer came out with a report stating that processed meat is a carcinogen. Did you know that the same international organization previously had also classified coffee, sunlight, alcoholic beverages, and being a barber as carcinogenic? I have my marching orders. I’m not going to be a barber. I should stay inside out of the sun. I can’t have a beer or a glass of wine. No coffee. And, of course, no red meat. That’s the safe thing to do.

Here is what National Pork Producers President Dr. Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from South Carolina, had to say: “My mother told me everything in moderation. She was very smart and smart people know that you don’t eat a pound of anything every day. So take this report with a grain of salt, but not too much salt because that would be bad for you.”

The WHO’s report has been met with severe skepticism and criticism. WHO has now moved to clarify their directive. They say it’s okay to eat that hot dog, bacon, and burger. Just don’t eat too much. I think we already knew that.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Pork Under Attack

October 29, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I was on the farm last week. Harvest is all wrapped up. Yields were not a record but good – corn 213 bushels per acre and soybeans 72 bushels per acre. Now, everyone up and down the road is starting to apply the fertilizer for next year’s crop. You are never really finished. Bring in the crop – sell some of it, maybe a lot – to help pay for next year’s inputs. Hope the price will move up.

Our hogs are happy and healthy and that brings me to an issue that shocked me. Three weeks ago, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said no more pork would be served. 206,000 inmates would be denied “the other white meat.” Why? The Bureau of Prisons said they had banned pork because inmates didn’t like it. However, when Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley demanded they give him the evidence to back up their position, they were embarrassed to acknowledge that their survey results show that the majority of inmates like pork.

Newton Kendig, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Prisons Health Services sent a letter to Senator Grassley noting “This re-evaluation led us to the conclusion that the decision to remove pork roast was an error.” So – pork is back on the menu.

As the Washington Post points out, “The Bureau of Prisons unwittingly set off a tempest in crossing Grassley. He is Chairman of the Committee that oversees the federal prison system, but also represents the country’s largest pork producing state.” Senator Grassley pointed out that 1 out of every 3 pigs in the U.S. lives in Iowa. Good job, Senator -- that’s the way to represent farmers and your state!

I watched the Republican Presidential debate this week. It was good. No thanks to the moderators. They asked dumb questions trying to start a fight. Our huge national debt, tax reform, over-regulation, and big dysfunctional government – those were the targets that the candidates hit on.

Back to pork – our industry is never safe. Now the United Nations World Health Organization has a new dietary report suggesting that bacon and sausage and burgers may not be good for you. Maybe next week we can talk about this new assault on meat.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

18 Trillion Dollars in Debt

October 22, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Have you been listening to any of the Presidential debates? You would have to admit that they have been entertaining. But, entertainment is not the purpose. They need to address the problems that our nation faces. The journalists that ask questions just try to instigate arguments. The candidates spend their time talking about what they would do to help support our citizens. Most of the ideas require the nanny state to spend more money. That’s how they buy votes.

The Democrats stand shoulder to shoulder with Socialist Bernie Sanders. Our national debt is in excess of 18 trillion dollars and rising. We are headed for a financial cliff. The Republican candidates are not doing enough to get our irresponsible government under control either. No one wants to talk about the tough choices that need to be made. That won’t buy any votes.

My hat is off to the candidates that have the courage to make the case that government is wasteful and overregulates. Fifteen years ago, our budget was in the black for 4 years. Since then, we have had a recession and been fighting wars and have watched our debt nearly double.

Four years ago, automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, were passed by the Congress and have helped to reduce our deficit. However, President Obama and the Democrats want to break free of the sequester and increase discretionary spending by 7%. Republicans want more money for defense. Where will they find the money or will we just borrow it?

More taxes – is that the answer? Maybe some user fees for roads, locks, and dams and infrastructure but not more entitlement programs.

It would be nice if someone would advocate reforming the mandatory programs – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. They represent more than 60% of our budget. Our growing debt load is unsustainable. Families, farms, businesses can’t live like this.

Don’t expect the candidates to talk about the debt threat. That’s a guarantee to lose votes. The cliff that we are speeding towards is not far off. Think about Greece. Do we want to go there?

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C. Next week – on the farm.

John Block Reports from Washington

Agriculture Today

October 15, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

We read and hear so much about our weak economy. The stock market is going through a correction. Well, that is what is going on down on the farm. Not just our farms but European farms U.S. farmers are looking at a 36% plunge in net farm income – lowest in 9 years – our crop and livestock receipts down more than 30 billion dollars.

It seems like yesterday agriculture was riding high. The world couldn’t get enough of what we produce. Net farm income this year will come in at one-half of what it was just 2 years ago. After 2 years of record production, the collapse in prices is broad; crop prices – below last year by 11%; livestock down 5.5%. Almost every product is down – milk, pork, beef, corn, soybeans, wheat – all down.

The positive markets are in fruits, nuts, vegetables, and specialty crops. They will hit 76 billion dollars – a record.

Misery loves company, I guess. Let’s look at Europe. European farmers are crying for government help. Pork and milk prices are squeezing their farmers. Some regions suffered serious drought this year. I saw some of those bad fields when I was in Europe this past July. One reason EU agriculture is suffering is because they lost a big market when a trading ban was imposed on Russia in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It’s hard for me to envision how we write a new trade agreement with the EU under such stressful conditions. Nevertheless, trade talks are happening as I give this commentary. It doesn’t help since more than half of the countries in the EU have chosen to disallow the planting of any GE When we stand back and take a look at the world of agriculture today, we have to admit that we have been here before. Farmers, ranchers, ag suppliers like John Deere, Monsanto, and Pioneer know all about the roller coaster ride that is the business of agriculture. Farmers will have to cut expenses. Land rent prices will have to come down.

I am optimistic about the future. World population is growing and they want more food. We just have to tighten our belt now and be ready to ride the next wave when it comes.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

The TPP

October 8, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

After six years of negotiations with 11 Pacific Rim nations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been approved. Regulations will be harmonized and tariffs reduced. Trade will expand between the countries. The nations involved represent 40 percent of the global economy. That is huge.

However, it’s not done yet. Remember the “knock down drag out” fight in our Congress just to authorize the Obama Administration to negotiate the agreement. Now that it is negotiated, the Congress will be asked to pass it – (no amendments allowed) – take it or leave it.

Can this deal be sold to the Congress? There are a lot of skeptics. There are provisions in the bill that encourage countries to regulate tobacco. The U.S. tobacco industry is not happy about that. There was an effort to include rules to forbid currency manipulation. Countries push the value of their currency down to make their exports less expansive. But currency rules could not be agreed upon and are not in the TPP. Our dairy farmers and sugar farmers are not happy with the agreement. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club and some labor unions will oppose the deal.

On top of the above concerns, we hear the loud voices of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders calling TPP a “disaster.” That whole process could become a political football.

But the critics may not win in the end. This agreement will open the door for a major expansion in agricultural exports. Just take Japan as an example. They currently have a 38.5% tariff on beef. The trade agreement pushes that down to 10% over a 10-year period. The door will be opened for more pork exports also. We will benefit, if we can tear down trade barriers.

President Obama has said that he wants to “pivot” to Asia. I say “yes.” Get away from the Middle East – that hopeless inferno. This agreement is far better than no agreement. Is it perfect? No, but it is a big giant step toward free and open markets.

The vote in Congress will probably be early next year. Stay tuned. We need to get this done.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Farm vs DC

October 1, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

There is nothing more exciting, exhilarating, or rewarding than bringing in the harvest. After a whole year of planning, buying seed, plant protection chemicals, working the soil, applying fertilizer and planting the crops, then you pray for rain when needed and pray that rain stops before the river floods the bottom land. The anxiety is heavy. Finally, the crop is mature and the combines roll. That golden corn streaming into the truck headed for the grain elevator is – mission accomplished.

Last week, I was on the farm. I’m back in Washington today, but I wish I was still driving the combine. When in Illinois, friends and neighbors asked me, “What’s going on in Washington?” Then, they would laugh. They know it is a mess.

The latest shock is, Speaker John Boehner resigns. He will be gone the end of this month. He stepped aside when 30 or 40 right wing Republican House Members threatened to take away his leadership role. They wanted the legislation to fund the government into December to include language to defund Planned Parenthood. Democrats, including President Obama, would not support defunding Planned Parenthood. The bill would fail, and the government would shut down. Boehner said for the sake of the institution he would resign (effective the end of October). That gave the Speaker the freedom to support a clean bill to extend government funding. The right wing can not, now, threaten to vote him out as Speaker because he has already resigned.

I have known John Boehner for 25 years. He is an honorable man with corn and soy beans in his district. He served on the House Ag Committee for years – a conservative friend of agriculture.

It looks like Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California will be chosen to replace Boehner. There are some good things that Speaker Boehner could try to do before his is gone.

Clean the slate for McCarthy:

  1. Increase our borrowing limit without a shutdown. It must be done. We have no choice.
  2. Pass a long-term transportation bill. I have been pushing this for a long time. We are running out of money for our roads and bridges.
  3. We need to pass legislation to continue tax breaks that have expired or are expiring. Some of them are important to agriculture.
  4. The final possibility – fund the Export-Import Bank. I am not a big fan of the Export- Import Bank.

That’s enough info on government in D.C. I can’t wait to get back to the farm.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Four Issues

September 24, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I have four issues to put on the table today.

The first is Pope Francis’s visit to Cuba. I think his visit will help improve relations between our two countries. President Obama is moving to reduce business and travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba. However, the trade embargo is still in place. That will require Congressional action. Get it done! Cuba is a $3 billion ag market only 90 miles from our shore.

Issue number two – Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). Canada and Mexico are positioned to impose as much as $3 billion of trade tariffs on our exports to their countries unless we get rid of COOL. Our House voted to repeal it. The Senate is talking about a voluntary COOL. I don’t think that Canada and Mexico would ever accept that.

Now, I have to say something about last week’s Republican debate. I watched it. I thought it was too long. I kept going back to check on the Cardinal baseball game. I would credit CNN for asking at least some questions about where the candidates stood on serious issues. However, it was disappointing to me that more emphasis was not focused on the economy, our ballooning debt, and a bloated government that overregulates. Congratulations to Carly Fiorina – moving up in the polls and Donald Trump going down.

If you have a sweet tooth, you should find this last issue interesting. The public has the idea that honey which is not processed must be more healthy than other sweeteners. Also, some people have come to question if high fructose corn syrup is safe. This debate should be settled. Susan Raatz (Research Nutritionist) at USDA conducted a comprehensive study. She says, “A sweetener is a sweetener no matter the source. We are not aware of any evidence that there is a difference in safety.” Think about this. Honey is not processed. White sugar and corn sweetener are both processed. In fact, white sugar can come from very different plants – sugar cane or sugar beets. When all is said and done, they are all sweet, all safe, all taste good and all add a lot of calories.

Next week, I’ll be on the farm.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That, September 17

September 17, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I was in Germany, Austria, and Hungary just two months ago on our Danube River cruise. It was clam and peaceful. Not today. Thousands of refugees are streaming across the borders to escape the wars in the Middle East. Syria was a stable country with a population of 22 million just three years ago. That number is cut in half. They are either fleeing their country or they are dead. The human suffering of families is hard to imagine. And there is no easy solution now. I blame the U.S. and Europe both. When President Obama was elected President, the region was reasonably stable. Not today. It’s too late. The “cat is out of the bag.” We’re not going to war over there to fix it now. I hope.

Another issue closer to home – yes, we have our own battle over illegal immigrants – 12 million of them. We hear a lot of voices crying – “Send the immigrants back home.” And the loudest voice is Donald Trump – the lead Republican running for President. The National Milk Producers Federation does not like what they hear. If we sent the undocumented dairy farm workers back, “milk prices will double.”

One-third of U.S. dairy operations employ foreign-born workers. Who would be there to milk the cows? Randy Mooney (dairy farmer from Missouri) had this to say: “Dairy farmers have tried desperately to get American workers to do these jobs – no success.” That is despite an average pay of $11.54 per hour. That’s well above the minimum wage. Dairy farmers wonder who would milk the cows. I ask, “Who’s going to butcher my pigs? There won’t be anyone to pick the strawberries either.”

Another issue that we care about – ethanol. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has pushed us to use more ethanol. That standard has always been criticized by the petroleum industry. Now, they have a new study which claims that RFS will cause “severe economic harm.” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had this to say about their study: “This is an absurd report and it shows the length to which the oil industry is going to nick the biofuel industry.” Go get them, Mr. Secretary. I’m with you.

It’s harvest time down on the farm, and farming is a dangerous business. Be careful.

Don’t take any chances.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That, September 10

September 10, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

We have a long agenda of actions that need to be taken and not much time to do the job. The federal government’s fiscal year ends this month. The Congress needs to approve the level of spending for next year. They aren’t going to get that done – not enough time. Therefore, as we have done in recent years, the Congress will pass some kind of extension for three or four months to continue funding the agencies. Eventually, we will approve funding for the government next year, but not without a big political fight.

Democrats want more money for domestic programs. Many Republicans want more money for the military. But we don’t have the money. I say, don’t give the government any additional money for next year. Our debt is already rising every year – up to 18 trillion dollars. Look what the debt burden is doing to Europe. Look at Greece. Look at my own State of Illinois.

If we feel we absolutely have to spend money on something, then find a way to pay for it. Find a way to pay for a surface transportation bill. The money to fund repair of our roads and bridges is running out. The American Farm Bureau and many other farm groups sent a letter stating, “A large portion of the consumers’ cost of food is directly attributable to the cost of transportation. Strong infrastructure, such as highways and bridges, are hugely important.”

The Senate did pass a six-year transportation bill in July. The House needs to do the same.

It is also urgent that the Congress do something about Vermont’s GMO law. If different states are allowed to write different GMO labeling laws, according to Secretary Vilsack, “You’re going to create such confusion in the marketplace that costs are going to go up. It will be chaotic.” A bill to preempt state GMO labeling passed the House, but not the Senate. Secretary Vilsack said that while federal preemption “is not absolutely necessary, it would provide greater certainty to the marketplace.”

The bottom line is this – labeling a product GMO can give the impression that it may be “unsafe.” That suggestion is not supported by science. We should put our foot down and stop any effort to mislead the consumer.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

EPA Overreach

September 3, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

There they go again. The EPA has levied a fine of $37,500 per day on farmer Andy Johnson of Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Mr. Johnson’s offense is that he built a pond for his horses and cattle on his eight-acre property. Before building it, he obtained a permit from the State as required. Never mind, the EPA said he violated federal law by constructing a dam on Little Six Mile Creek which runs through his farm; even though stock ponds are specifically excluded from the Clean Water Act.

The Creek is a tributary which feeds into the Green River. So what. When you get a rain even the ditches feed into the river.

I can relate to this. When I was a young boy, my dad built a dam which collects water. We’re never short of water for our hogs now. As a boy, I used to ice skate on the pond in the winter and fish the pond in the summer. There are geese on the pond to this day. I have other friends that have farm ponds.

I think Mr. Johnson’s pond is good for the environment as my farm pond is. Mr. Johnson points out that his pond provides water for not just his horses but also for eagles, moose, and other wildlife. Former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers enforcement officer Ray Kagel said the “water flowing out of Mr. Johnson’s pond is three times cleaner than the water entering it according to lab tests.” That is because the sediment settles in the pond and clean water flows Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said that the pond was permitted and constructed in compliance with State law. “The Actions of the EPA have been heavy-handed.”

After months of negotiations, Mr. Johnson filed a lawsuit against the EPA to save his farm pond. He said, “We’re going to fight them all the way.”

As I speak, the EPA is in the process of pushing new regulations to expand their jurisdiction over more of our private property. Will they succeed or can we hold our ground? Happy Labor Day – hats off to the working man!

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Back to Illinois

August 27, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Last week, I flew to Illinois – drove down to Springfield to attend Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair. Governor Bruce Rauner, State Senator Darin LaHood, and State Representative Don Moffitt led a crowd of 1,000 people in celebrating Illinois’ number one industry – Agriculture. Their ceremony officially named the Illinois Department of Agriculture Administration the “John R. Block Building.” Broadcaster Orion Samuelson emceed the program. Phil Nelson, Illinois State Director of Agriculture, spoke. I don’t have words to express adequate appreciation.

Thank you to Illinois agriculture. My roots are in that rich, black soil. While at the fair, I was in the hog barn and cattle barn watching the judging. That brought back memories of when I was in 4-H and FFA showing pigs.

From the Fair, I drove North 100 miles to my farm. Along the route, I observed some beautiful fields of corn and soybeans. However, in some places, you could see corn turning yellow showing signs of nitrogen deficiency. We are all looking at different yield projections. Most of them predict a big crop which is weighing heavily on prices. Hard to believe that two years ago we had $7 per bushel corn. This year, on top of the big crop, we have global pressure on all commodities. The U.S. strong dollar makes our ag exports more expensive.

It’s an understatement, but everything that is going on creates a lot of uncertainty. The stock market has crashed. Where do we go from here?

To get things in to perspective, I walked in my corn fields. Every stalk has a nice ear. Wet spots have suffered some because we had so much rain. I think our beans are better than our corn. I am grateful for what I think will be a good crop. I expect a corn yield of 200 bushels/acre, and soybeans at 65 bushels per acre. That’s about the same as last year. After harvest, I will tell you how far off I am.

I feel that the ag industry still has reason to celebrate, even with lower prices. The global demand for food is still going to be strong. We have low interest rates on money borrowed. The U.S. unemployment is 5.2 percent – not bad. Ag industry debt is historically low. Farm land prices are holding steady. Farming has always been like riding a roller coaster. Just hang on.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Presidential Candidates

August 20, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I have resisted the temptation to talk about the Presidential Campaign. But it has become so wild and entertaining, I can’t help myself. Donald Trump has everyone’s attention. He is leading 16 other Republicans in the polls – not as much now, but still leading. He is not afraid to say anything. He tells us he is rich (and he is). He can fix everything – balance the budget. “I’m not beholden to any big company. I’m using my own money.” He went after Fox News. I don’t like to listen to someone bragging all of the time.

I do respect the fact that he is not afraid to say what he thinks. Too often, candidates dance around the issues afraid that if they take sides, they will anger a group of voters. How would Trump fix the country’s problems? He hasn’t told us.

On the Democratic side, suddenly, 73-year-old Socialist Bernie Sanders has shot up in the polls. He is ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. He is also very outspoken. The public seems to love the protest candidates. Extremely liberal (after all, he is a Socialist) running as a Democrat. I don’t think he can win the nomination, but he sure is shaking things up.

Hillary has a new problem since she turned over her private E-mail server to the FBI. We shall see.

There is even talk that Vice President Joe Biden could get in the race. Doubtful, unless Hillary fades.

Back to the Republicans – Jeb Bush might be considered the leader today. At least he is holding his own. But if you look at the trend lines, there are three or four others that are moving up. I thought that Governor of Ohio John Kasich did the best in the debate. He has done a super job as Governor of blue state Ohio. Let’s not overlook neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Governor Scott Walker has distinguished himself as a tough, strong Governor in Wisconsin. We can’t overlook Senator Ted Cruz. Watch him. He is a great debater. To me, he is a little too extreme -- too much of a “war hawk.” Carly Fiorina came out of nowhere and is now in the headlines. She says she wants to “shrink bloated government.” She isn’t the only one. I like her.

In the debate, Donald Trump refused to commit to support the Republican winning nominee. All the rest signaled that they would. The Republican Party should not allow any individual to participate in future debates unless they agree to support their Party’s nominee. Democrats should do the same.

I have no idea who will get the Republican nomination, but I don’t think it will be Donald Trump.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Raw Milk

August 13, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

“Got raw milk? Well, don’t drink it. Too many people are risking their health and the health of their children.” Those are the words of Dr. Richard Raymond, former U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for food safety. His opinion piece in Feedstuffs Magazine sounds the alarm.

Turn back the clock to 1890. We had an infant mortality rate of 25%. Raw milk and bad water certainly could shoulder a lot of the blame. In 1938, raw milk and bad water were still causing one fourth of the illnesses.

When I was a young kid, we drank raw milk. We milked 10 cows by hand, carried the buckets of milk to our house. Then, we bottled it to sell it the next day in my grandfather’s little grocery store. We even separated some of the milk and sold the cream in the store. The skim milk we fed to the pigs. No one drank skim milk then.

The country knew about pasteurization back then, but it wasn’t used much. It wasn’t until 1948 that the State of Michigan mandated pasteurization. It wasn’t until 1973 that the Food and Drug Administration published a rule mandating pasteurization. In 1982, the FDA rule was finally approved. Dr. Raymond reports that “Foodborne illnesses associated with milk and dairy products plummeted to less than 1% after the rule was enacted.”

The pasteurization heating process kills the bacteria sometimes found in raw milk. The process helps to ensure a safer dairy product. However, we are beginning to ignore the risk of raw milk. Illnesses are on the rise. A number of outbreaks of E. coli have been linked to dairy products that were not pasteurized.

We have a movement today of organization and people pushing everything “natural” (whatever that means). Of course, pasteurizing raw milk is not natural, although it is much safer. To insist on raw milk is to ignore science and put your children at risk. We don’t really know what percentage of families is still using raw milk but it’s time they accepted the science of the 21st Century. They try to tell us that pasteurization destroys the healing powers of raw milk. There is no science to verify that claim.

I agree with Dr. Raymond – “Don’t drink that raw milk.”

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Things to Do

August 6, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Congress is out of town and won’t be back until after Labor Day. In some respects, that’s good. They won’t be passing any bad bills. However, it’s really not so good. The Country of Origin Labeling law is still hanging over our heads. Canada and Mexico are ready to impose heavy tariffs on our exports to them. That will hurt our ag industry. They are two of our biggest export markets.

Another issue – I am happy that the Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority before they left town. That doesn’t mean that we have a trade agreement. It’s like hitting a double. It only gives the Administration the authority to negotiate an agreement. We are negotiating with 11 Pacific Rim countries, and there are still some serious road blocks. Dairy is just one of them.

If the trade agreement is accepted by all the countries, we move from second base to third base. Still not home. The negotiated agreement is sent to the Congress by President Obama for Congressional approval. Congressional approval will bring it home to victory. There are no guarantees, but I am still hopeful.

One additional and very important job that the Congress can’t seem to get done is funding our highway system. The House and Senate passed two very different bills. I don’t like either one of them. The House only provided highway funding for three months. The Senate bill funds for three years and longer if they can find the money.

Our lawmakers don’t have the courage to fund a long-term bill that makes the users pay. The truck drivers and car drivers should pay to fix the roads they drive on. Our highways and bridges are in serious disrepair. The primary source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund has always been a gas tax. It was set at 18.4 cents per gallon in 1993 – more than 20 years ago – and never increased. Fixing roads costs a lot more today than it did then.

Don’t call it a tax. Call it what it is – a “user’s fee.” We need a long-term solution to ensure that our infrastructure can efficiently serve our country.

With gasoline at $2 per gallon, down from $4, don’t you think we could afford a few pennies to fix our roads?

Congress will be back in September. We can still hope.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Honey Bees

July 30, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

In the past 2 or 3 years, I have read (I don’t know how many articles) sounding the alarm of the dying honey bees. “Colony Collapse Disorder” will result in a shortage of food crops that rely on honey bees for pollination. We were first warned about this in 2006.

President Obama announced the “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees” earlier this year. We are losing 30% of our colonies each year. Blame it on farm chemicals. Maybe it is just a disease. What is going on?

Well, maybe there is nothing unusual going on. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we have more bee colonies today than we had in 2006 – the year “Colony Collapse” first hit the headlines. The number of honey bee colonies has risen from 2.4 million to 2.7 million in the last 10 years.

Listen to this quote from the Washington Post newspaper – “The number of commercial honey-producing colonies managed by beekeepers is the highest it’s been in 20 years.” The reason colonies are up is because beekeepers are adding colonies. My neighbor just 100 yards from my back yard has a row of bee hive colonies – 15 or 20 of them.

Bee hives are not that hard or expensive to start. Just buy the bees and put them into a new bee hive. Three pounds of “packaged” bees, plus a queen, costs about $100. The Washington Post article even says that if you have a bee colony, you can split it. Then you have 2 colonies, but only 1 queen. No problem – go on-line and order a queen. She will cost about $25. Now you have 2 colonies.

We have always experienced “colony Collapse.” Although it may be worse than it used to be, no problem. We’ll just add more new bee hives. I don’t expect the cost of honey to go up because of a shortage. I’ll bet my neighbor will give me some honey.

Next week, Congress will begin their summer break. They come back after Labor Day. Then, the House is only in session 10 days and the Senate 15 days in September before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. There is a lot of legislation to be crammed into those days.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

River Ride

July 23, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Over the last 2 weeks, my wife, daughter, and I were on a river cruise on the Danube River. The Danube flows along 10 countries from Germany to the Black Sea. We flew into Prague, Czech Republic – a gorgeous old city. Next morning, we were transferred to Nuremberg, Germany where our river ride began. We would cruise and stop in a number of ancient cities, including Passau in Germany, Melk and Vienna in Austria, and ending in Budapest, Hungary.

The boat had about 150 passengers, including 24 that were the Backroads biking group, including us. We bicycled along beautiful (mostly flat) bike paths along the river. One day, we rode 30 miles, two other days – 20 miles, and three other days – 10 or 15 miles. We saw a lot, ate a lot, rode a lot, and drank quite a lot of famous European wine. Favorite cities were Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. Budapest gets first prize. It’s so beautiful at night.

Here are some of my observations.

We biked past fields of corn in Germany that had been destroyed by hail – all the leaves stripped off. Some fields had been blown down by strong winds. There were signs of drought in other places with the corn leaves all curled up. Even when we flew home and spent one night in France, the drought was obviously hurting their crops. Not to leave the impression that all fields were suffering, our bike paths took us through some outstanding fields of wheat, corn, sunflowers, apple trees, and grapes.

We had a chance to meet and talk to many individuals from countries all over Europe – Bulgaria, Netherlands, of course -- Germany, Austria, Hungary, and many more.

One hot issue while we were there was the question about whether the EU countries should step up and bail out Greece. There was no sympathy for Greece – “Why should we give our money to Greece? You made your bed. Now go lie in it.” In the end, the EU did agree to help Greece, but it’s tough love.

Another big issue was being debated in Vienna when we were docked there. That was the nuclear agreement with Iran. Europeans that I talked to wanted that agreement passed and done. No more embargoes. Their logic was this. If we can keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon for 15 years, we’ll see what happens. What other alternative do we have? We’re not going to bomb them.

The U.N. Security Council came to the same conclusion. I’m inclined to agree. Maybe in time, Iran can become a more responsible member of the world family of nations.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on- line to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Let’s Keep A Strong Alcohol Section in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines

July 16, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This is Rick Frank sitting in for John Block. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Today’s Quiz – what has more alcohol – a 12 oz can of beer? A 5 oz glass of wine? Or, a mixed drink with 1.5 oz of spirits? Answer – they all have the same amount of alcohol. 0.6 fl oz.

With all the controversy going on about the new Dietary Guidelines, it’s easy to overlook an item that should not be controversial: a clear and simple restatement of the longstanding advice on moderate alcohol consumption.

The government is putting the final touches on the new Guidelines, which are revised every 5 years. Over the past 35 years, all Federal agencies, as well as public health and consumer groups, have come to rely on the Guidelines’ moderate drinking advice and the definition of a standard drink that has become an essential part of it.

The 2010 edition of the Dietary Guidelines got it right. It states:

  1. Moderate drinking can be part of a healthy lifestyle for some Americans.
  2. “Moderate drinking” is no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
  3. 1.5 fl oz of spirits (40% alcohol), 12 fl oz of regular beer (5% alcohol) and 5 fl oz of wine (12% alcohol) all have the same amount of alcohol and meet the definition of a drink.
  4. The fact that a drink contains 0.6 fl oz of pure alcohol, whether in beer, wine or spirits.

In contrast, the 2015 Scientific Report gave relatively short shrift to alcohol generally and standard drinks in particular: The moderate drinking definition was relegated to a glossary. And presentation of the fact that a standard drink, whether beer, wine or spirits, contains 0.6 fl oz of pure alcohol, is entirely missing from the 2015 scientific report. The concept of alcohol equivalence is disappearing.

This needs to be rectified so consumers may easily understand how their drinking measures up to the Guidelines’ moderate drinking advice. The final report must be revised to reflect the additional information about a standard drink contained in the 2010 Guidelines.

The key “up to one drink/two drinks per day” formulation for moderate drinking makes little sense without a clear definitional reference point within the Guidelines as to what constitutes a drink.

Some have argued that there is no such thing as a standard drink on the basis that restaurants and bars may pour more or less beer, wine, or spirits. This argument totally misses the point. The “standard drink” is a reference point just like the FDA requires that Nutrition Facts for ice cream be based upon one-half a cup serving. While consumers may scoop out more or less than half a cup of their favorite frozen dessert, the Nutrition Facts provide a reference point. The same pertains to the “standard drink.”

The standard drink definition has been endorsed and utilized by numerous federal agencies, consumer and health organizations, and states.

While the Dietary Guidelines won’t by themselves solve the chronic problem of heavy and binge drinking, they do set useful standards to assist those Americans who choose to drink. Defining a “standard drink” makes the Guidelines more relevant and useful.

Until next week, I am Rick Frank sitting in for John Block from Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington