Tax Reform

November 9, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and the Renewable Fuels 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—

Tax reform is a hot topic here in the nation’s capital. That doesn’t mean that Congress will be able to pass the legislation. On paper, the planned tax overhaul will increase the national debt by $1.5 trillion (over the next ten years).

Larry Summers, who served as economic advisor to President Obama, argues that there is no rationale for adding to our debt. President Reagan’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Martin Feldstein, is 100% behind the Republican tax reform bill. He had this to say: “The most important reform is to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% (the highest among industrial countries) to 20%.” I agree. We have to compete with other countries. Our big corporations will move to Ireland or some other nation with a very low rate. We already have companies such as Apple with trillions of dollars sitting in other countries. They are not going to bring that money home unless we have a more competitive rate.

The new tax plan brings down the tax rate for individuals except for those that make more than $1 million. Individuals earning less than $24,000 will not pay any taxes. There will be a limit of $500,000 mortgage interest deduction for newly purchased homes. The housing industry is complaining about dropping the deduction down from $1 million to $500,000. Why should we allow the rich to write off interest paid on a $2 million home or maybe two or three expensive homes?

On the plus side, small businesses will be allowed to deduct interest on business loans. That is appropriate. Farms borrow a lot of money for seed, fertilizer, and crop protection. Those are legitimate business expenses.

Small businesses are also excited that the “death tax” may be about to breathe its last. Assets exempt from the tax will double and after six years the tax will be gone.

There will be a limit of $10,000 of state and property taxes that can be deducted. Farmers and ranchers that own a lot of property pay a lot of property tax. That tax has always been an acceptable write-off. This provision could be costly to some.

Our Tax Code is too complex. Loopholes need to be closed and the Code needs to be simplified. Tax cuts should strengthen the economy and create jobs. The tax reform process is just starting. It could change. It could fail. I hope we 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.

John Block Reports from Washington

NAFTA

November 2, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and the Renewable Fuels 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, let’s talk about trade and tax reform. President Trump wants to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Congress is presenting a tax reform package. NAFTA is in the spotlight right now. The whole farm and food industry is worried that President Trump could formally withdraw the U.S. from that agreement.

Eighty organizations and companies sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, saying that withdrawal would be a disaster for agriculture and rural America.

Here is the cost:

1. We would sacrifice 50,000 jobs in our industry and a national drop in GDP of $13 billion.

2. We would erase $800 million in the value of corn and increase farm program costs by $1.2 billion.

3. We would lose $500 million in high fructose corn exports.

Mexico and Canada account for 40% of our pork exports. Canada is our second largest chicken market. 70% of our turkey exports go to Mexico. Mexico and Canada account for 27% of total beef shipments. Dairy exports to Mexico equal $1 billion per year.

If we pull out of NAFTA, we run the risk of losing all of the favorable ag trade advantage that our industry enjoys today. I realize that, overall, we run a trade deficit with both Mexico and Canada, but for the food and agricultural industries, it is positive.

We are making our concerns known loud and clear; hopefully, we can get a reasonable resolution. We did it before.

Just last month, the ag industry joined together to urge President Trump to keep in place the renewable fuels standard. We got that done in spite of the EPA that wanted to weaken biofuels targets. Never a dull moment out here.

On tax reform, the Republicans want to lower the corporate tax rate and cut personal income taxes. That sounds good to me, but where do we get the money to run the government? That is the challenge. I will talk in detail on this issue next week.

Our soybeans are all in the bin at the farm. Corn is maybe a week behind. Be safe in your harvest.

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

The Opioid Crisis - Stop Pointing Fingers

October 26, 2017

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

This is Rick Frank sitting in for John Block. And now for today’s commentary—

The opioid epidemic is a national crisis. Drug overdoses are killing 64,000 Americans each year. It is the leading cause of death for individuals under 50. It requires urgent action and solutions from across our society – the Trump Administration, the DEA, manufacturers, prescribers, distributors, dispensers, and patients.

The recent sensational reporting of the Washington Post and CBS’ Sixty Minutes where a bitter, retired DEA employee blamed the problem on drug distributors does nothing to address this extremely serious problem.

Distributors do not manufacture, prescribe, or dispense opioids. Doctors prescribe. Pharmacists and clinics dispense. And importantly, the DEA annually sets a quota for how much of these drugs can be manufactured and sold based upon what it considers to be “medically necessary.”

Solutions will not come easily but there are some good ideas out there.

1. DEA should reduce the amount of these drugs which can be produced and dispensed annually.

2. “Medically necessary” prescriptions should be limited as to the number of pills and duration – 3- or 7-day prescriptions not a month or longer.

3. FDA should take a hard critical look at current approvals and consider reducing prescription strength and indications where abuse is the greatest and other alternatives exist.

4. DEA should coordinate with State Boards of Pharmacy to pull licenses and prosecute known “pill mills.”

5. DEA and State Medical Boards should carefully scrutinize physicians prescribing hundreds of thousands of pills per year and, where appropriate, pull their licenses.

6. DEA should follow the law and conduct a rulemaking to define “suspicious orders” to assist distributors in knowing where and when a customer should be scrutinized and shipments suspended.

7. Educational programs should be initiated to help the public realize that “leftover” pills need to be properly destroyed or returned. 

Only by working collaboratively can the DEA, prescribers, manufacturers, distributors, dispensers, and the public make a dent in this horrible tragedy impacting large and small communities throughout our nation. Finger-pointing and politically motivated investigative reporting will not solve the problem.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Dusky Gopher Frog

October 18, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and the Renewable Fuels 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—

By now, I should not be surprised when the federal government uses its power and strength to hammer a defenseless individual citizen. Let me tell you about Edward Poitevent and the dusky gopher frog.

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a new habitat rule. On May 21, 2011, they called Mr. Poitevent and told him that his 1500 acres of land in Louisiana was a potential habitat for the endangered dusky gopher frog. There were no gopher frogs on his land.

The last 100 dusky gopher frogs on the planet lived in Mississippi 100 miles away. The Fish and Wildlife Service decided that Mr. Poitevent’s private land would be a natural habitat for the endangered frog.

Turn back the clock to 1960 and before; there were dusky gopher frogs in many southern states – probably on Mr. Poitevent’s land. A biology professor at New Orleans University tipped off the Fish and Wildlife Service about the possibility that the frog might thrive on the Poitevent land. The land is worth perhaps as much as $34 million.

This whole story is absurd. We have an American citizen whose family has owned their land for more than 150 years and, out of the blue, Mr. Poitevent is shocked by the federal government’s demand that this useless frog has special rights to the land. Keep in mind that there are no dusky gopher frogs on the land today, but if they knock on the door you must let them in. The federal government has effectively closed the door on any commercial opportunities that Mr. Poitevent might want to explore.

This is the most extreme example of government overreach that I am aware of; however, not the only one. There are new cases being exposed every day. Endangered species law has tied the hands of ranchers throughout the west. I hope they never find a spotted owl in my corn field. That would shut me down.

This frog case is going to the Supreme Court. Mr. Poitevent said, “They thought I would roll over and give up my land rights – no way.”

I urge all of our citizens to fight for private property rights.

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

Trade Worries

October 12, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and the Renewable Fuels 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—

Worries about our ag trade are escalating. Farmers are desperate. We export more than a quarter of what we produce. Farm prices are in the tank. Any wrong move that would cause us to lose markets would be a devastating blow.

President Trump has threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). That includes Mexico and Canada, two of our largest markets. Renegotiating that agreement is in the process now. The five-year-old Trade Agreement with South Korea (KORUS) is to be renegotiated also. South Korea is another big market for agriculture. Agriculture has a positive balance of trade with all of these countries. However, when it comes to manufacturing and other goods, the U.S. balance of trade is negative.

Yes, there are things that need to be fixed, but when negotiations focus on agriculture – do no harm. The concern in farm country has elevated to a new level.The American Farm Bureau Federation has brought aboard Max Baucus and Richard Lugar, two highly respected former Senators, to form a new group – Farmers for Free Trade. That group will seek to mobilize farmers nationwide to support trade agreements and protect agriculture’s interests.

Since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), we are scrambling to protect our interests in those countries. Agriculture and rural America played a big role in electing President Trump. We have been delighted with many things that he has done in less than a year. The Trump Administration has initiated the process of repeal of “Waters of the U.S.” Farmers don’t need the federal government telling us what we do every time we plow a field. The President has axed hundreds of overreach regulations put in place, by the Obama Administration. 

U.S. ag exports, after 11 months, are $20 billion in the black. We project a $23.6 billion surplus for the year. We want to build on that. A trade war could be very costly to our industry. That’s why we can’t sit quietly and watch. Our voices need to be heard.

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

Renewable Fuels

October 5, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and the Renewable Fuels 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—

At this time when farmers are suffering with low prices for corn and soybeans, the EPA is making a move that could cut the bio diesel mandate by as much as 315 million gallons. This is not good news for the bio diesel or ethanol business. It’s not good news for corn and soybean farmers. We thought the Renewable Fuels Standard and bio fuels mandates were all settled for next year, but I guess we were wrong.

Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said, “There is no rationale for further lowering either the 2018 advanced bio fuel volume requirement or the total renewable fuel volume.”

These suggested changes have the whole ag industry up in arms. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is “on the war path.” He reminds us that President Trump repeatedly offered public support for ethanol producers and the RFS. President Trump told Senator Grassley last month, to assure Iowans and the Midwest, that he had their backs on RFS. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst (D-IA) said, “A bio diesel cut would be bad for farmers, American manufacturing, and rural America,” adding, “I hope that the EPA has not forgotten about the pledges that were made to my constituents and to farmers across the country.”

I don’t believe President Trump will allow the EPA to reverse course and undercut the President’s base of support in rural America and especially the Midwest. Renewable fuel production keeps us on the path to energy security, economic growth, and more jobs.

The encouraging development is that there is a very powerful pushback from the whole ag industry. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will not take this EPA “bait and switch” without a fight. We will see what happens.

The biggest issue in the town now is tax reform. I will focus my program on this issue soon. Today, I want to say we need tax reform – not just tax cuts. If we cut taxes, we need to find the money somewhere to run the government. That means loophole closing is the focus. That will not be easy but necessary.

Finally, let me just say that our thoughts and prayers are with those suffering from the three devastating hurricanes this fall and the poor families in Las Vegas fired on by one crazy shooter. They came to celebrate and listen to country music and they were shot.

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

Priorities

September 28, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and the Renewable Fuels 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 TV has been dominated by hurricanes. The Texas coast was devastated and next, Hurricane Irma hit Florida. Powerful winds destroyed half of the crops. Orange juice is going to cost $2 per gallon more. We should not underestimate the destruction and cost to families, government, or the time to recover.

Why is the news wasting so much of our time debating the football players’ refusal to stand and respect the flag? That’s their problem.

It is time to turn to big issues that can impact the whole country. The Trump Administration is in the process of trying to repeal Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS). Last week, I talked about John Duarte, who was forced to pay a huge fine after he plowed his field and planted wheat without a permit. Regulation overreach of farm and ranch private property must be stopped.

We are in the third round of rewriting the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. Yes – that agreement is old and needs to be updated, but it has been good for the ag industry. I agree we should fix the agreement so our overall trade deficits can be cut back, but “do no harm.” I know Secretary Perdue understands the risk we face.

In my judgment, the most important legislative challenge on the table now is tax reform. Both parties say that it needs to be done. Cut taxes – everyone is cheering – until a decision is made on how to raise revenue to help make up for the tax cut. Some of the loopholes and special tax breaks need to be taken away.

This can be done. President Kennedy and President Reagan both pushed through major tax reform packages. There is bipartisan support for cutting the corporate tax rate to as low as 15% or 20%. Then, maybe our corporations will stop moving to other countries for low tax rates. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the U.S. declined by 25%. Capital and jobs were lost. Can our Congress and the President find some middle ground and give us tax reform? Let’s hope.

I was on the farm in Illinois last week. Crops are good. Hogs are happy. The demand for bacon is off the chart. I can’t help but feel for farmers and ranchers that have suffered from hurricanes, forest fires, and drought. Our prayers are with you.

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

Duarte vs. Big Government

September 24, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and the Renewable Fuels 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—

You may have heard about the John Duarte wetlands case. John Duarte, a California farmer, bought 450 acres in 2012. He plowed and planted it to wheat. The Army Corps of Engineers, the California Water Quality Control Board, and the EPA came after him. He was looking at a $2.8 million fine and a $40 million mitigation penalty for plowing without a permit. This whole story is unbelievable, but I’m not making it up. Facing a possible bill from the government that would bankrupt him, Mr. Duarte reached a settlement costing him $330,000 in civil penalties and $770,000 in wetlands credits. The fight is over – for now.

According to Gary Baise (also with OFW Law and Chair of the Trump Agriculture Advisory Team), who helped to get this case settled, “This case leaves many open questions.” I talked with Mr. Duarte last spring. I couldn’t believe what I heard. The farm had some wetlands and swales. The farm drained into a couple of creeks which are classified as “waters of the U.S.” The government said that he violated the Clean Water Act. I didn’t think the government could deny a farmer the right to farm his land. We have property rights. Duarte used a chisel plow, and the government said it was moving the soil, and that was not allowed. When he bought the farm, it had been in the Conservation Reserve Program. The government said that you need to get a permit to plow land that had been in the Conservation Reserve Program.

My farm in Illinois has some low places in some fields that could be classified as wet lands. The fields are along Spoon River – a “water of the U.S.” My understanding is that there is an exemption for normal farming under the Clean Water Act. The Army Corps of Engineers’ position was that since the land had not been farmed in 20 years, Duarte needed a permit to plow. Okay, if that is the way it works, I have land in the Conservation Reserve Program that has not been farmed in more than 10 years. If I don’t keep the land in reserve and decide to plow it and plant it to corn, do I need a permit? Would they even give me a permit?

I don’t think we have heard the last of this question. The settlement with Duarte is very confusing and is frightening to farmers across the land.

Next week, I will be on the farm in Illinois – harvest time!

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

Voter Fraud

September 15, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and the Renewable Fuels 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—

Do we have a problem with voter fraud in this country? President Trump thinks so and he is not alone. Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carolina have passed voter I.D. laws designed to stop voter fraud. Left leaning organizations and even the Democratic party is fighting against that legislation. Why would anyone be opposed to putting a stop to illegal voters?

Newly released state data from New Hampshire is shocking. 6,540 people registered to vote in New Hampshire on election day November 8, 2016. They used out-of-state drivers’ licenses and their votes were accepted. The State Attorney General Joe Foster issued an order that no one could be turned away. Their votes were accepted even though it was pretty obvious they had driven over from Massachusetts or some other state. Those 6,540 voters from other states may have said that they had moved to New Hampshire…not true. 5,526 of the voters never did get a New Hampshire driver’s license.

So, here is what happened.

Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire by 2,736 votes. Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte lost her Senate seat to a Democrat by 1,017 votes. It is pretty obvious that out-of-state fraudulent voters stole those two elections.

This is the United States of America. We are not some third world country where dictators buy and steal to maintain power. I am not suggesting that we have voter fraud in every state. In fact, I would not expect very much fraud in rural America. That’s not who we are.

However, big city liberals have not accepted controls to limit voter fraud. They are filing lawsuits. They argue that efforts to ensure election integrity suppresses votes. If it suppresses those illegal votes, that is fine with me.

Enough on that subject. I have harvest on my mind. I will be going back to the farm in Illinois next week. I think our corn will be dry enough to begin harvest. Soybeans are also starting to turn brown. Can’t be sure, but I expect a pretty good crop. With a lot of grain, we need to keep opening export markets.

Distillers dried grain is now starting to flow into Vietnam. China is accepting more GMO varieties. China’s imports of U.S. soybeans hit a record high in August.

Farming is a dangerous business. Be careful. Be safe.

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

To Do List

September 7, 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—

September is here. Labor Day is behind us. The To Do list in this town by the end of the month is a heavy lift. First, we have disaster relief for those devastated by Hurricane Harvey. But we have to raise the debt ceiling to have the money to help. In fact, we have to raise the debt ceiling so we can borrow more money to avoid default and keep the government open. The Congress has a miserable 12% approval rating and President Trump is at 36%, according to a CBS poll. Can they get all of this done?

Also, I must put on the table tax reform. President Trump is already out on the speaking circuit. He is challenging Congress to get it done. He says tax reform is pro-growth Reagan style. The priority is to reduce business tax rates to encourage U.S. companies to bring back home the billions and billions of dollars they hide overseas. Simplify the Tax Code; get rid of the loopholes. “Tax relief for middle income Americans. Keep jobs in American, create jobs in America.” Trump’s words.

Seven out of 10 voters say passing tax reform should be a top priority. It is very popular with farmers and small businesses. However, we know it will not be easy. We have one powerful force helping us. If Members of Congress and even the President want to get reelected, they need to take care of business.

There is something going on behind the scenes that Robert Samuelson shines a light on in the Washington Post – growing confidence and optimism. It can provide the lift that we need.

In 2006, before the recession, 60% of Americans identified themselves as middle class. With the recession, optimism collapsed, but now we are back. 62% feel they are middle class and rising. The American Enterprise Institute says, “We’re back economically.” 59% of people say jobs are plentiful. In 2010, only 10% felt that way. Trump has convinced most workers that their jobs are safe and will not be outsourced abroad.

Although the official government report says that worker earnings are up just 2% from a year ago, economists at the San Francisco Federal Reserve believe that they may be up nearly 4%. If that is true, it might help to explain the growing optimism.

The To Do list is challenging, and I’m not even talking about North Korea.

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.

Stay tuned. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Headlines This Week

August 31, 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—

What are the headlines this week? The floods and destruction of Hurricane Harvey have hammered the Texas Coast. We have seen pictures of people on top of their cars, on top of their houses, reaching for help to escape the flood of water. All reports tell us that federal, state, and city officials have been doing all they can to ease the pain. President Trump went to the flood area on Tuesday. Human suffering is obvious; but what about the cattle?

There are 1.2 million head of cattle in the flooded counties. That is 27% of the cattle in Texas. Ranchers have been trying to move them to higher ground but it is not so easy. Many will drown. And after the floods recede, there will be no food for them. Families, farms, and ranches will need a lot of help to rebuild their lives. It will take years.

Another issue that I have talked about before has to do with the federal government’s ownership and control of so much land in the west. The federal government owns as much as one-half or one-third of some states. President Obama added more acres by declaring new land as national monuments.

I think President Trump should put some of the land into private hands or maybe state control. Ranchers and farmers rely on these lands. If they were in private hands, we would see jobs created and businesses established.

Another subject that I have not spoken about is the question of whether we should tear down or remove our Confederate statues and monuments. I say no. They are part of our history and many of them are works of art. I don’t think they suggest that we support slavery. We must admit that there was a time when slavery was acceptable in countries all over the world. If we decide that we must get rid of the statues, where do we stop? The U.S. Capitol has hundreds of them. Do we remove Democrat Senator Robert Byrd’s rooms at the Capitol since he was once a KKK member?

Last subject is the reality that no NFL football team seems to want to bring Colin Kaepernick onto their team since he refused to stand as the national anthem was played. He said he did that because blacks are not treated fairly. If that is what he thinks – fine, but refusal to stand during the playing of our national anthem disrespects our country, our flag, our military. That is disgusting conduct. I don’t need him on my team.

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

August - Not Easy

August 24, 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—

August is supposed to be a month of vacation and relaxation – not this year. We have had rallies of the alt-right in a number of cities. Their critics stand up and try to shut them down. Law enforcement tries to keep the two sides apart. A crazy, hateful driver mowed down people, killing one in Charlottesville. In Barcelona, Spain, a terrorist driver did the same thing. It’s hard to understand this kind of hate.

After 16 years of war in the Middle East, President Trump announces a new strategy. We have lost 20,000 troops and spent a trillion dollars over there and what do we have to show for it? In the campaign, President Trump said he wanted to pull out and come home. For a long time, that has been my preference. We don’t need to protect the Middle East oil anymore. We have our own. President Trump has changed his mind. His argument is that we don’t want Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists to plan attacks on the West like one in Barcelona.

I like the fact that the President singled out Pakistan. He said, “Pakistan is housing terrorists that we are fighting.” We will not telegraph ahead of time everything we are going to do. That’s what President Obama did. It is encouraging that President Trump is relying on his military leaders. He is not going to micro-manage their every move. “We are not nation building.” “Out NATO allies will be expected to step up and do their part.” “We are weary of war without victory.” Well, so am I. I hope his new strategy works.

On the trade front, we have just opened trade talks with Mexico and Canada – two of our biggest trading partners. We want to reduce our trade deficits with our neighbor countries. NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) has been good for agriculture but, overall, we run a trade deficit of $60 billion with Mexico and Canada. How can we shrink the deficit without hurting our ag trade balance? – that is our challenge.

The plan now is to wrap up the negotiations by the end of the year. If there is one thing that makes the ag industry very nervous, it is the risk of a trade war. I can’t wait for the Congress to get back and begin work on tax reform; and maybe another crack at Obama care.

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 Bill

August 17, 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—

Today, I’m going to talk about the farm bill, but before I get started on that, my thoughts on the tragic Charlottesville riots where a hate monger from a different state slammed into the crowd with his car killing one young lady and injuring many others. The intention of the white nationalist rally was to prevent the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. The result was death and destruction. President Trump condemned the Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazis. “Hatred and bigotry have no place in America.” He also said, “There is blame on both sides.”

I agree, but this is not the first example of race rioting and probably will not be the last. Remember Ferguson, Baltimore, Dallas – and other examples of confrontation fueled by the violent left; property destroyed, cars burned, stores ransacked, police officers shot. There are bad people out there on both sides. We don’t need these kinds of unlawful and sometimes deadly encounters.

Now, let’s consider the farm bill. Congress started writing farm bills in the 1930s to help farmers through the Great Depression. Every four or five years, we get a new farm bill. The farm bill is more than farm programs. Nutrition programs, including food stamps, spend about 80% of the money. Then, we have farm supports led by crop insurance, conservation, and the Forest Service. Our current farm bill runs out September 30, 2018 – little more than one year from now. There has been some talk of separating the nutrition programs from the farm programs. That will not work. Food programs and farm programs need to find common ground. I think they will. There is pressure to cut the overall spending, but then the question is, who do you take the money from? And, the battle begins.

On the food stamp front, one approach to save some money would be to impose some work requirements on able-bodied recipients. We have twice as many on food stamps today as we did when I was Secretary of Agriculture.

Crop insurance could be a target, but I think it will stand its ground. Cotton is looking for help, and so is dairy. Wheat production is down, and they may be able to justify some bump up in support.

The House and Senate Agriculture Committee Members are having hearing sessions with farmers and others interested in the bill. This is just the beginning. Secretary Perdue took an RV tour with stops in five Midwest states. These are listening sessions now, but the real business will start soon.

My opinion on the 2018 farm bill, when all is said and done, is that it will not be very different from the one we have now. 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.

John Block Reports from Washington

GE Salmon

August 10, 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—

Today, I have a fishy story to talk about, but before I get started on that, what do you think of the nation’s economy? I know the farm economy is not booming, but consumer confidence is off the chart – a 20% jump from last year. Unemployment is down to 4.3%. The stock market keeps hitting all-time highs. Second quarter growth is at a solid 2.6%. President Trump says it is going to 3%. How long can this economic explosion be sustained? We shall see.

Now the fish story –

Here is a headline in the Washington Post paper: “Regulations slow GMO salmon sales in U.S., but Canadians are eating tons.” I don’t think that very many people are aware that the U.S. government approved the sale of GE salmon. We just haven’t been able to decide what the labeling requirements should be. The Canadian government jumped out ahead of us and now they are eating genetically modified fish.

These fish are Atlantic salmon – farm-raised. They reach market weight twice as fast as regular Atlantic salmon. They reach market size and weight in a year and a half, and consume 10% less feed. The Atlantic salmon that have not been genetically engineered take three years to reach market weight.

The GE process gives Atlantic salmon a growth hormone gene taken from a Chinook salmon. All of this new food production technology is hard to imagine. What if my pigs could reach market weight in three months instead of five months? We haven’t heard the last of this. There will be other fish and other animals genetically engineered. They will eat less feed and grow faster. 

Aqua Bounty is the company producing these amazing salmon. The company plans to farm-raise the salmon at a plant they bought in Indiana and hope to hit the U.S. market in 2019. The fish is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is “as safe and nutritious for humans as conventional salmon.” That doesn’t mean the labeling process will be easy. We have had a long running battle over the labeling of GE foods.

Eric Hallerman, a fish genetics expert at Virginia Tech, predicts “GE fish and other animals will be on market shelves around the world in the future.”

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 headed to the farm in Illinois to check on the crops and pigs.

John Block Reports from Washington

Sanctions on Russia

August 3, 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 U.S. Congress can’t agree on anything. However, they did agree to impose new sanctions on Russia. The vote was almost unanimous. The action is punishment for the Russian cyber intrusions into last year’s election. In addition to the sanctions, the bill restricts President Trump’s flexibility in dealing with Russia. Presidents are responsible for managing our international relations and they are not happy when the Congress ties their hands. That is a big problem for President Trump. He has felt all along that he could negotiate a better deal and better relationship with Russia. After all, we need to work with them to stabilize the Middle East.

I accept the fact that Russia hacked into our election. Russia is hacking, China is hacking, we are hacking. Every country hacks and every country has spies. Democrats seemed quite satisfied with the modest sanctions imposed by President Obama on Russia. But, with Trump as President, they are singing a different tune.

I am not happy with the Congress for restricting President Trump’s flexibility. The European Union is not happy either. Russia is one of their biggest trading partners. Also, they are working on an oil pipeline from Russia to Europe. Russia provides one-third of European oil. The European Commission President had this to say: “America first cannot mean Europe’s interests come last.”

Of course, now Russia feels that they must respond to our sanctions. They are kicking more than 300 U.S. diplomats out of Russia. Do we need a new Cold War? Piling sanctions on Russia escalates hostility.

We need to make a deal with Russia – give the President a chance. Together, maybe we can get rid of ISIS; end the fighting in Syria; put more pressure on North Korea; agree not to hack into each others’ government, businesses, or politics; find a way to end the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. We can’t get anything done if we just escalate hostility.

The legislation does provide for new sanctions against North Korea and Iran which President Trump does support.

My objection to all of these sanctions is that they are dictated by the Congress. Such decisions should be left to the President. Maybe the Congress should concentrate on the health care bill, tax reform, and a budget.

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

Gene Editing

July 27, 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—

To kick this program off with some serious facts, let me ask – did you know that 7% of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows? One in five adults doesn’t know that hamburgers are made from beef. Three in ten don’t know that cheese is made from milk. That tells us how far our national population is removed from the farm. The ag industry is not well understood.

Take genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GE crops have been a remarkable, unbelievable success from a farmer’s point of view. We don’t have to hoe fields by hand. The weeds are gone. We don’t need to use as many chemicals fighting not only weeds but pests like root worms and corn borers. Our yields are up.

However, since Monsanto’s GM crops came on the market in 1992, consumers’ skepticism cannot be tamped down. A Pew Research Center study reports that 40% of Americans believe that GMOs are bad for your health. Why so many people refuse to listen to science that assures them that GE foods are safe, healthy, and no risk is beyond me.

Scientists have developed GE crops by taking DNA from a different crop and inserting it into a plant. We now have on the horizon a little different process to improve a plant or animal. The new process, called gene editing, doesn’t take from another kind of plant. Gene editing just alters or changes the genes in the plant or animal itself.

The process takes much less time and is more precise than GMO breeding. Will gene editing be easily accepted by the public at large? That is a good question. DuPont Pioneer has developed a drought-resistant corn. We have some farms right now that wish they had some drought-resistant corn.

My judgment is that, over time, new technologies will be accepted. If for no other reason – we will need the food. And, we can not produce enough without 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.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That

July 20, 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 will talk about a list of hot button issues today.

First, how can the liberals justify their lawsuit to block President Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity? Don’t we need to know about the level of voter fraud that we have in this country? What are they afraid of? How many people are voting more than once? How many non-citizens are voting? How many dead people are voting? “Vote early and vote often.” If we have a problem, we should clean it up. The Left is terrified. They might lose some votes.

Next issue – Horse slaughter. For the last several years, the U.S. Congress has closed the door on horse slaughter and horse meat processing in the U.S. Unwanted horses have had to be shipped to Mexico or Canada for slaughter. That can be a long trip. Some horses don’t get to make that trip. They just get shot and buried in the South Forty. We have some good news. The House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to keep the slaughter ban in place – a very close vote (25-27). This may not be the end of the slaughter ban. The full House or Senate could still bring the ban back. Fingers crossed. There is a good market for horse meat in Europe and even Japan.

Turn to Europe. Is Europe ready to do some serious reform of their farm programs? They say they are. The European Union spends 40% of their budget on ag subsidies. Developing countries complain that they cannot compete with that. This is funny. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “The European Union pays enough subsidies to fly each cow in Europe around the world first class and still have money left.”

The U.S. and Korea are set to open talks to discuss ways to improve the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement. We have a $27.6 billion trade deficit with Korea. However, ag trade with Korea is doing just fine. Our beef farmers are delighted. We shipped $1.1 billion worth of beef last year, which is double what we shipped before the Trade Agreement took effect. Korea is our number 2 beef export market in the world.

We are renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Look to the other side of the world and China has a $250 billion trade surplus with the U.S. There is so much riding on all the trade disputes and negotiations. Generally, the U.S. runs a huge overall trade deficit. But our agriculture runs a significant trade surplus. Our U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer has promised U.S. farmers “to do no harm” in the negotiations.

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

Forest Fires

July 13, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

There aren’t any forest fires here in the east near Washington, D.C. No raging fires near our farm in Illinois. But the front pages of the Washington Post and the Washington Times both tell us the west is burning. Thousands are fleeing wild fires – forests and range land burned to a crisp. Earlier in the year, 1.2 million acres of range and farmland went up in smoke in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Cattle herds were burned up. The cattle that survived don’t have the hay or grass for feed.

Further to the west, hot weather and drought are drying out the Forest Service land (under the U.S. Department of Agriculture). USDA is responsible for 190M acres and the Bureau of Land Management has 70M acres. I interviewed Bill Imbergamo, Executive Director of the Federal Forest Reserve Coalition. He updated me on the severity of the situation. In Wyoming, the Medicine Bow National Forest fire more than doubled overnight. The Dixie National Forest in Utah has been burning old bug-killed spruce trees that the Forest Service did not harvest. Northern California, Southern California, and Colorado have thousands of acres of baked landscapes.

Now we all understand that there is risk of fire when it gets too dry and hot, but do we have to accept this level of destruction? Mr. Imbergamo says “no.” I agree. We need to manage our forest land better. Dead trees should be taken out. Thinning the amount of trees and brush will limit the amount that can burn. In some cases, “controlled burning” is the answer.  Often times, when the Forest Service tries to do the right thing, they can expect a torrent of lawsuits. Animal rights groups don’t want anyone to do anything. It might disturb the spotted owl. There could be some other endangered species nesting in the woods. In the Lassen National Forest in California, they said they had to protect the black back woodpecker.

Our priority should be our people, their homes and lives. Even woodpeckers don’t want their forest to burn. You might think that with the millions of acres being burned and misery inflicted on our citizens that we could find the will and resources to do something.

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

Donald Trump

July 6, 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—

Today, I’m going to talk about President Donald Trump – policies, issues, tweets and all. Yes, I think he tweets too much or, at least, he should limit his tweets to policies and avoid personal attacks. I understand why he would want to get even. The mainstream media has never gotten over the fact that he won the election and they will do what they can to destroy his Presidency. They detested his priorities that he announced as he ran against Hillary Clinton. And now that he is President, he is doing what he said he would do.

You could argue that Trump’s biggest victory to date is that we have a new, solid Conservative on the Supreme Court – Neil Gorsuch. Just last week, a court’s ruling has revived part of the President’s travel ban. President Obama’s “regulatory assault is over.” President Trump began repealing Executive Orders the day he walked into the White House.  From agriculture’s point of view, the move to ditch “Waters of the U.S.” was our number one objective. 

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been able to undo, delay, or block more than 30 environmental rules. He has pushed to expand our sources of energy. “Drill baby drill.” The Keystone pipeline and the North Dakota pipeline are back. The “U.S. is now the world’s energy superpower” (from the Wall Street Journal). 

We haven’t even built a wall to halt illegal immigration, and the numbers showing up on the border have dropped by 40%. 

After being called to task by Trump to do their part in national defense, the European countries have agreed to increase their defense spending and help more in the Middle East to eradicate ISIS.

Although President Trump has been able to follow through on many of his campaign promises, the Congress sits in deadlock. What will happen with “Repeal and Replace Obamacare”? I have no idea. Tax reform, infrastructure, roads, bridges, locks and dams –without legislation, nothing will get done. We don’t have a budget at this point either. No one can expect to get everything they want. We need some compromise.

There is some talk (not much) that maybe the Congress should stay in town and work and not take the whole month of August off. That might not be a bad idea.

In closing, in spite of the frustration, I am excited that ag and rural America has a powerful seat at the table. It would not be wise to ignore the small town deplorables with a gun and a Bible that elected Donald Trump.

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

Ag Issues 2017

June 28, 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—

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture posted the announcement of this year’s World Food Prize Foundation laureate. At one time, he was the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and now runs the African Development Bank – Akinwumi Adesina. He has been a leader in transforming African agriculture. In attending that event, I talked to Secretary Perdue and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. They both think the Trump Team is moving the country in the right direction. It isn’t easy with serious policy divisions in the Congress and in the country. I thank them both for their leadership.

Will we ever get Obama Care off the Table? It needs to be fixed or repealed. President Trump met with Indian Prime Minister Modi this week and pushed to get India to lift its trade barriers. India has refused to import U.S. poultry for 10 years and continues to close the door on our pork. They have been slow-walking their process to approve our biotech crops.

Secretary Perdue and Ambassador Branstad will be in China this weekend. Very exciting! After years of being shut out of that market, a cargo of U.S. beef has been accepted in China. China is potentially a big market for our beef. To celebrate the breakthrough into that market, our Secretary of Agriculture and Ambassador will sit down to a dinner of Nebraskan beef in China. They could have had that beef right here at home. But they have a lot of trade work to do.

The Waters of the U.S. rule has been threatening farmers and ranchers since it was imposed by President Obama. That rule interferes with good farming practices and farm property rights. It is just a start, but the Trump Administration is going to repeal it. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said that a replacement rule would be released by the fourth quarter this year. Here is what Speaker Paul Ryan had to say: “The west has finally won over the Obama Administration WOTUS rule. This regulation would have been a disaster for rural communities in the west and across the country, giving Washington near-total control over water resources.” I say, get this done and we will have reason to celebrate again.

The 4th of July is almost upon us. God Bless America and I am John Block from Washington.

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.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That 2017

June 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—

Tip of the day— “Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.” “One in five adults don’t know that hamburgers are beef.” We have a major education challenge.

Now to look at some priority issues of the day. Trade has to be near the top of the list. I think the ag industry is very well-represented. President Trump has nominated Gregg Doud to serve as chief ag negotiator in the Office of U.S. Trade Representative. Gregg has farm interests and Washington trade experience. He worked for Senator Pat Roberts and, before that, for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. He should have no trouble getting confirmed. Our other power players on trade are U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Lighthizer worked on the ag trade agreement with the Soviet Union when I was Secretary of Agriculture and Ross just opened the door to sell beef to China. He said China could reduce its $347 billion trade deficit with the U.S. if they purchased less cattle, soybeans, and industrial goods from other country – and buy more from the U.S. Sounds like a good idea to me.

While talking about trade, President Trump’s change in our Cuban relationship looks like a step backward. It doesn’t look like the relationship will change very much. We still have diplomatic relations. Although trade did not increase with President Obama’s outreach to Cuba, he opened up travel opportunities. The reality is until the Congress changes the law to allow private credit for Cuba to purchase our food products, they are not going to buy.

Finally, take a look at the new farm bill, which must be completed next year. Getting it done is not as simple as it should be. Conservative Republicans in Congress want to increase work requirements for “able-bodied” food stamp recipients. Keep in mind the “farm bill” has 2 parts – nutrition programs and farm programs. If the food stamp work requirement is passed this summer, it will hurt our chances of passing the next farm bill. Although estimates are the work requirement could save $400 billion over 10 years, a lot of moderate Members of Congress would not like the cut. The whole farm bill process could blow up.

I think we should keep nutrition and farm programs together. “You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.”

Stay tuned…

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

Government Overreach

June 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 talked this week with John Duarte, a California farmer. He is in trouble. He bought 450 acres in 2012. He plowed it and planted it to wheat. He now faces $2.8 million in civil penalties because he did not get a permit to plow and plant. He wasn’t even allowed to harvest his wheat crop. The Army Corps of Engineers and California Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board said Duarte needed an EPA water permit to farm that land. 

He needed a permit since the land has numerous swales and wetlands. This farm land drained into Coyote and Oat Creeks which are classified as “water of the United States.” The charge is that he violated the Clean Water Act.

Lawsuits are going back and forth. Duarte sued the Army Corps of Engineers for violating his Constitutional rights. The government counter-sued for failure to adhere to the Clean Water Act. John Duarte told me that in addition to the $2.8 million that they say he owes, other costs could exceed $30 million.

I didn’t think the federal government could deny a farmer the right to farm his land. We have property rights. My farm in Illinois has some low places in some of our fields that could be

classified as wetlands. The fields are right along Spoon River – a “water of the U.S.” We have other low spots that we have tiled so they can be farmed. My understanding is that “normal farming practices” are exempt and you don’t need a permit to plow. However, since the Duarte land had not been tilled in recent years, the government said that makes a difference.

Well then, what about the millions of acres that farmers have in the Conservation Reserve program for up to 10 years? Are they not allowed to plow and plant that land when it comes out of the reserve if it has some wetlands?

This whole Duarte situation is frightening to all of agriculture. 

Such regulatory overreach could potentially put our whole industry in a straight jacket. Gary Baise in our law firm has been asked to help represent John Duarte. We need to win this one for agriculture.

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

Trade and Climate Change

June 8, 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—

Two subjects today – It is time to renegotiate NAFTA, but we don’t want to get into a fight that could cost agriculture. Mexico does not have any tariffs on our farm exports. Mexico spends $19 billion on our commodities. Fortunately, the plan right now is to renegotiate a new agreement quickly – hopefully this year.

We have a conflict with Mexico over their sugar sales to us. Their sugar is subsidized, driving down our sugar prices and hurting our farmers. U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says, “We are quite optimistic.” In fact, we have an agreement if it survives the criticism. A sugar agreement would take one dispute off the table. We still have a huge manufacturing product trade deficit with Mexico. As we try to fix that, we don’t want to lose our ag advantage.

The second subject today is –The Paris Climate Agreement. President Trump said, “We’re getting out. And we will start to renegotiate and see if there is a better deal.” Green environmental elites are horrified. The President concluded that the agreement as written is bad for the U.S. National agreements are required to be approved by the Senate. President Obama just signed the Paris Agreement last September, but never sent it to the Senate for approval. Look back to 1997 when the Kyoto Climate Protocol was signed by President Bill Clinton. President Bush refused to implement that agreement. Since 1997, we still have seen our emissions drop faster than Europe.

According to the Heritage Foundation, if we had accepted the Paris Climate Treaty requirements, an American family of four would pay $30,000 more in higher electric prices over the next decade. The cost to the American economy would be $2.5 trillon. The opinion page of the Wall Street Journal last week had this to say: “The Big Con at the heart of the Paris agreement is that even its supporters concede that meeting all of its commitments won’t prevent more than a .17 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures by 2100.” That is almost nothing.

If we are actually going to experience global warming, we can’t do much to stop it. Look back in time 500 years or thousands of years. The earth saw global warming and global cooling and we didn’t even have cars then. Future generations here on earth will just have to adjust to the change.

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

Branstad and Horses

June 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—

I have two subjects to cover today. One that is very hopeful – Governor Terry Branstad, now Ambassador Terry Branstad, is headed to China. The other issue, which is not very hopeful, has to do with horses.

Ambassador Branstad – as Governor of Iowa, he was very close and supportive of the ag industry. He served as Governor twice. In fact, he was Governor of Iowa when I was Secretary of Agriculture. I remember clearly how aggressively he was pushing me and President Reagan on ag issues – especially trade. Trade will be one of his top priorities now, trying to get China to back off of their 30% tariff on ethanol and their duty on distillers dried grain (DDG) exports, just to mention a couple of Chinese market restrictions.

Our new Chinese Ambassador has a long history of friendly relations with China, but his job will not be easy. It does look like he is positioned to open the Chinese market for our beef which has been closed for years.

Horses – there is a lot of waste in government. Here is one ridiculous, outrageous example of how the government spends your tax money. The Bureau of Land Management spends $50 million each year to feed, house, and care for 46,000 wild horses. On top of that, there are 73,000 wild horses in Western states living on ranch land and destroying the grass and countryside. We were spending $20 million in year 2000. The number keeps multiplying – now up to $80 million.

We have too many horses. Our smart and common sense government closed down all horse slaughter in the U.S. in 2007. Since then, if you have an unwanted horse, you can shoot it and bury it on the South 40, or you can send it to Mexico or Canada for processing. The meat is then exported to Europe or Asia. They are happy to buy and consume horse meat.

With all the unwanted horses in the U.S. costing us millions of dollars, it is time to process the horses in the U.S. If we just can’t accept that, then send them to Mexico or Canada. They know what to do.

By the way, President Trump’s budget proposes to cut that $50 million wasted on horses. Unfortunately, I am afraid the Congress is more inclined to waste your money.

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

Budget

May 25, 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—

Back in March, President Trump gave us a look at his budget plan. Although without much detail, it made clear to us that one of his highest priorities was to downsize the federal government. And, he would do that by cutting spending. He had already said that he did not intend to touch Social Security or Medicare.

Now, this week, OMB Director Mulvaney has released President Trump’s budget plan. I don’t see very many surprises. It is the Trump plan to “reform the welfare system” and replace dependency with dignity to work.” We are looking at $3.6 trillion in cuts over 10 years and a balanced budget in 2027. USDA farm and food programs are in the cross hairs of the attack on spending. The next farm bill, to be completed in 2018, would have to be different. Big savings in food stamps and crop insurance could reach $228 billion over the next 10 years. With new work requirements for those who don’t have children and aren’t disabled that might make some recipients think twice if they really want to work.

We have 44 million people on food stamps – almost as many as at the height of the recent recession. Now, we have near-full employment and the number has not come down very much. OMB Director Mulvaney asks “Are there folks on food stamps that shouldn’t be?” The Trump Administration would plan to work with the states to ensure proper enforcement of the requirements.

Trump’s plan does not overlook crop insurance. The crop insurance that farmers pay for to protect against losses is 60% subsidized by the government. That means that a farmer only pays 40% of the cost of the insurance. That level of subsidy is a little hard to defend. Trump wants to put some limits on the crop insurance plan – no more than $40,000 to any one farmer. The argument against that limit is that big farmers would not participate. The White House would limit eligibility for all commodity support programs to only farmers earning less than $500,000 adjusted gross income. That would save a lot of money.

Keep in mind that this is the President’s budget. Most Presidential budgets are “dead on arrival.” The Congress writes the budget and the spending bills. However, Presidential budgets can have some influence. Trump is a negotiator. I agree that the food programs and farm programs need to be reworked.

Although President Trump says Social Security and Medicare are off limits, there is a lot of money there. I think some reform is justified. When Social Security was started, life expectancy was 65; now it is almost 80. Stay tuned.

I was on the farm last week. Corn and beans are in the ground.

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

May 18, 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—

“Trump’s Tax Plan Would Spur Growth” – that is the headline in a recent Wall Street Journal paper. First, let me say that President Trump’s tax reform plan is not very specific. I think that is good. The Congress will write the legislation anyway. We all know if we are going to cut the tax rates, we will need to find the money somewhere. There is one very bad idea that some Members of Congress are considering.

We just filed our taxes last month. Farmers and many small businesses borrow a lot of money to buy seed, fertilizer, and pay machinery expenses. We deduct that interest charge from our income. That is a legitimate cost of doing business. But, there are some Members of Congress that are thinking about denying that deduction to raise more tax money. This is a red flag. Make sure the Trump Administration and our Members of Congress know how devastating that would be.

The other subject today is organic food. Should we be suspicious? Is it really organic? Two extensive articles within two weeks in the Washington Post raise that question. One article headline is “Why Your ‘Organic’ Milk May Not Be Organic.” After months of research and milk testing, the Post is not convinced that High Plains Dairy in Colorado is delivering legitimate organic milk. The operation has 15,000 cows which is 100 times bigger than the typical organic dairy farm. Cows are in feed lots more than pastures. Their milk was tested and it is about the same as conventional milk. So why are we paying so much more for it?

The second article in the Washington Post provides great detail covering one whole page. It reports that 36 million pounds of soybeans were shipped from Ukraine to Turkey and on to California. Somewhere along the way, shipping records changed from standard soybeans to “USDA Organic” – suddenly, the value of the shipment shot up $4 million dollars. Besides the fake organic soybeans, we have been accepting tons of corn that is falsely labeled organic. It is fed to livestock and chickens so that the meat and eggs can be labeled organic.

There is a German testing company that has found significant levels of pesticide in Chinese crops that are supposed to be organic. About one-half of the organic labeled corn and soy that is fed to our livestock and poultry is imported. And, it may not be organic. Science tells us that organic is not any better for us than standard food but it sure costs a lot more and it may not even be organic.

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 and next week, I’ll be down on the farm.

John Block Reports from Washington

GE Science

May 11, 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 am encouraged. I think that we have some pretty strong voices in the Trump Administration speaking out in support of agriculture. Our strongest voice comes from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. He said after meeting with 75 Senators “their number-one, two, and three priorities were trade, trade, and trade. The good news is that I’m a ‘grow it and sell it kind of guy’.” I might add – I think Perdue has the President’s ear. Now, it looks like we will be able to get our U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer confirmed next week. I know him from the Reagan years. He will be a strong supporter of our industry.

The President finds the time to trash more job-restrictive regulations every day. Illegals trying to cross our border have dropped by three-fourths. Also, refugees trying to come to the U.S. have fallen by nearly as much. That brings up the subject of labor for our farmers and ag industry. That is a concern, and will be a subject for another week.

Today, I want to talk about a moth – the diamondback moth. The diamondback is the most serious pest of Brassica crops such as cabbage and broccoli, etc. Vegetables in California, Florida, Texas, and other states are at risk. If field tests at Cornell University to find a solution are approved by USDA, we may have an answer.

Perhaps genetic engineering can come to the rescue. Here is how it could work. Male months are genetically engineered. They are released to mate with female moths. But because the males have been generically engineered, their offspring die before they reach adulthood. And so, the number of moths that can damage crops are drastically reduced and you won’t have to spray chemicals to kill them.

That is the same way GE is being tested to cut the mosquito population that causes Zika virus. Less mosquitoes means less chance of Zika virus. What other opportunities might be within our reach? We can only imagine.

Genetic engineering – new science at work – this is just the beginning.

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’s Agenda

May 4, 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—

It’s only been a week since confirmation, but Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has hit the ground running. He has ordered that schools be given more flexibility in their school lunch programs, more local control. They won’t be forced to reduce the sodium (salt) in the food served. He wants the food served to taste good. Also, schools can apply for a whole grain waiver. Perdue said, “Schools need flexibility in menu planning so they can serve nutritious and appealing meals.” His stance is consistent with President Trump. They don’t want the federal government dictating everything.

The Secretary of Agriculture has a long list of responsibilities. Nutrition programs are 60% of the budget. Trade is high on the list. Perdue wants to negotiate a trade deal with China. His deal would be “China – you buy our beef and we will buy your chicken.” They import $2.6 billion worth of beef, but none from us.

Closer to home, we have other trade disputes to confront. Our milk market in Canada is not open and Canada subsidizes their lumber exports to us. Thanks to Secretary Perdue’s influence, President Trump is not going to rip up NAFTA. That’s good. Countries all over the world take steps to encourage favorable trade for their country. It can be tariffs, non-tariff barriers, or subsidies. The U.S. is not without our own distortions, but we have fewer barriers than most countries.

Hopefully, President Trump’s nominee for Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthiser, will get confirmed this week. Our industry exports 25% of what we produce. It is critical that our Trade Representative be confirmed. President Trump wants to renegotiate all of our trade agreements.

Besides the President’s Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Sonny Perdue needs to nominate his Trade Under Secretary. When I was Secretary of Agriculture for President Reagan, I worked with President Reagan’s Trade Ambassador, Bill Brock, all the time. It is in Secretary Perdue’s best interest to build close relationships with other members of the President’s Cabinet. I know he will. He has served as Governor of Georgia and appreciates the value of allies.

I said Secretary Perdue is not sitting idle. He is going to Iowa later this week. Will he meet with Iowa State Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey? The word is that Northey is under consideration for Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. There is a lot going on. I didn’t even mention that Perdue wants to increase the acres in the Conservation Reserve Program.

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

Sound Science

April 27, 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—

Last week on Saturday, it was Earth Day. I always thought of Earth Day as a celebration of the earth with its natural beauty and, of course, the food and crops it provides to feed everything living – especially mankind. But this year, it became a “March for Science.” Thousands marched and rallied from coast to coast.

I am all for science. We need to spend more resources on scientific research of all kinds. We live longer today – thanks to science, a better diet, and better health care. Different marches were prioritizing some science above other science. Many felt sound science made the case for global warming (climate change). A friend of mine at the OFW Law firm saw a marcher with a sign that read:

“I am pro science

I am pro farmer

I am pro GMOs”

I like that because GE crops have the backing of science. They are as safe and healthful as any other food. And they are much better for the environment, using less chemicals and much less labor and energy. They are less expensive.

I hope all of those marchers are as committed behind GE crops as some of the other success stories of science. It is encouraging to note that Bill Nye (the “Science Guy”) – the famous TV entertainer who used to say GMO’s were bad – has now changed his mind. Mr. Nye had this to say: “What changed my mind is being able to (sequence genes) 10 million times faster than they used to be able to do it.”

Farmers for thousands of years have been working the earth to produce more food for a growing world population. Today, our scientists can select the genes they need to alter a plant so that plant can reject the bugs and worms that attack it. They can inject genes that make a plant more drought-resistant. They can put vitamins in plants to save children from vitamin deficiency. That’s sound science.

In closing, I want to say how proud and excited that – at long last – Sonny Perdue is now confirmed as our Secretary of Agriculture. I was at USDA the morning after confirmation when he spoke to 200 of his employees and other ag leaders. He complimented the Ag Team. He said we are in this together, took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves – time to get to work.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

How Do We Raise Prices?

April 20, 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 can report that I was on my Illinois farm last week. Weather was beautiful and we planted 360 acres of corn. Then it rained. At least we got started. It is always exciting when you first hit the field with hope and optimism of a good crop. With grain prices scraping the bottom and farm income cut in half, we need a good year.

Farmers in this country are looking for ways to lift their prices. Some think we should have more conservation reserve acres. We have 24M acres of environmentally fragile land out of production now. The government pays land owners to put it in grass. With less acres growing

grain, we can expect better prices and less soil erosion. Senator John Thune (R-SD) wants to pass legislation to raise the conservation acres from 24M to 30M. The first question is – how much would this cost? I thought we were trying to reduce spending.

Another way to boost prices would be to increase exports. You cannot have coffee with farmers at the Grand View Restaurant without the subject of more exports on the table. When President Trump met with the Chinese President, exports were on his list. China

has blocked exports of our beef to their country since 2003 because we had a case of mad cow disease. Fine – other countries did the same, but most have lifted the ban long ago. That was 14 years ago. China is the second largest beef importer in the world, but we don’t have any of that market. Australia has most of it.

Most people don’t know this, but we have closed the door on Chinese chicken. Now if we open the chicken door, maybe they will open the beef door. Let’s hope. Of course, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had many important issues to discuss, but trade was not overlooked. Secretary of State Tillerson, our Commerce Secretary Ross, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin all pushed for more U.S. exports. The U.S. and China agreed to put together a “100 day plan” to reduce our trade deficit with China. You have to start somewhere.

Since we are not going to be a player in TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), we have to getindividual countries to open their markets. Go to any farm event anywhere in the country and the question is – “How are we going to increase demand and lift prices?” That’s the challenge.

As we rush to plant this new crop, be careful. Don’t take chances. 30,000 individuals are killed in farm accidents each year. 

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

Confirmation Process

April 13, 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—

This week, I stopped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and met with Governor Perdue’s Chief of Staff and Policy Advisor, Brian Klippenstein. It was a short visit but we all agreed that we desperately need to get Sonny Perdue confirmed. All of the ag departments, from trade, forest service, nutrition programs, farm programs, and on and on need their leaders. We don’t have them because we don’t even have a Secretary of Agriculture.

Fortunately, at least, we have a date set for confirmation – 5:30 pm on April 24. There are a lot of reasons for the delay, but one that did not get attention until recently was the fact that Senator Menendez (D-NJ) had put a hold on Perdue’s confirmation. Why? Because Sonny Perdue has always supported ag trade expansion, including trade with Cuba. Menendez has always fought against doing anything with Cuba.

Another major concern for the ag industry is that we don’t have a U.S. Trade Ambassador confirmed yet either. President Trump met with the Chinese President last weekend and pushed agriculture trade, but he didn’t have our Trade Ambassador with him because he isn’t confirmed. Our candidate is Robert Lighthizer. He enjoys strong bipartisan support, but there is controversy over a waiver that he needs. At one time, he represented some foreign governments. For some reason, that is just another road block.Lighthizer served as Deputy Trade Representative for President Reagan. When President Reagan took office, he inherited a grain embargo against the Soviet Union. Being shut out of that market was killing U.S. farmers. At my request, President Reagan lifted the embargo. After the embargo was lifted, the Soviet Union wanted some assurance that we would not be closing the ag trade door on them again. We needed a “grain trade agreement.” Deputy Trade Representative Lighthizer helped to negotiate that agreement which I signed with the Soviet Trade Minister in 1981. Lighthizer knows agriculture. Here is what he had to say in response to a question from Senator Pat Roberts: “Senator, I have a long history with agriculture. I assure you we will prioritize agriculture.”

The sooner we can get our Secretary of Agriculture and Trade Ambassador confirmed, the better for our industry and our country.

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

Slow Process

April 6, 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 took his oath of office with a priority list of actions he wanted to take in his first 100 days. It has not been easy. In the first place, I don’t think his team had prepared enough to move quickly on getting his nominees through the Senate approval process. Second, the Democratic Party has not gotten over the fact that they lost. And, they are still fighting to discredit President Trump, delay and obstruct everything.

Sonny Perdue was a late selection for Secretary of Agriculture. That was back in January. At his request, I met with him two months ago – on February 6. He asked for my advice on staffing the Department of Agriculture. We talked about the challenges that a new Secretary might face. I thought he would be confirmed by the end of February. He has broad bipartisan support. Six former Secretaries of Agriculture endorsed him for confirmation. I never imagined it would take this long.

Farmers and ranchers are up in arms over the fact that we don’t have a Secretary of Agriculture yet. The House Ag Committee sent a letter to the Senate leadership. “We strongly support the speedy confirmation of Governor Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture.” Perdue’s path to confirmation has been blocked by other priorities that have dominated the Senate’s time. Getting the approval of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court has taken forever. Senate Democrats say they will filibuster to block his confirmation. If that happens, Republicans say they will change the rules, the so-called “nuclear option” where Mr. Gorsuch would not need 60 votes but could be confirmed with 51.

Senate Republicans predict he will be confirmed this Friday. Hopefully, Governor Perdue could be confirmed this week also. It’s about time. The Farm economy is suffering with low prices. It is hard to get the job done without a leadership team. As I talked about a couple of weeks ago, a devastating wild fire burned 1.5 million acres in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, killing thousands of cattle and hogs.

President Trump ordered the Department of Agriculture to authorize emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve land. My Knox County, Illinois Farm Bureau is raising money to help those poor families that lost everything in the wild fires.

Finally, while talking about priorities that need to be addressed, we still don’t have Robert Lighthizer confirmed as U.S. Trade Ambassador. More on that next week.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Unsustainable Debt

March 30, 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 am out of town today and speak to you by telephone. We all know that President Trump has an ambitious agenda. One of those projects is to balance our budget. Our rising debt is frightening. It has hit a higher level as a share of our national economy than any time since President Truman. Truman was able to reduce the debt by the time he left office.

That will not be easy for us to do now. Fifty years ago, two-thirds of government spending was discretionary. They cut defense – World War II was over. They cut other programs. At that time, only one-third of spending was mandatory. Today, two-thirds ismandatory. Our big spending is on auto pilot.

At this point, it doesn’t sound like the Congress or President Trump have targeted entitlement programs for any reductions. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and our debt payments will continue to go up. With an older population and rising interest rates, it’s hard to imagine how we can get control of our rising debt. There won’t be much money for defense or discretionary programs.

In 2021, the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money. Social Security Disability Insurance reserves will be broke. The list of shortcomings goes on and on. With our debt at 77% of GDP now and projected to continue to grow, we need to get serious about a solution. It can only be fixed by spending less or taxing more. However, the Republican Congress and President plan to cut taxes – corporate income tax and individual tax.

Our elected officials need to have the courage to make necessary cuts in the entitlement programs. Everything should be on the table. We could help that Highway Trust Fund with a fuel tax increase. We haven’t raised that tax for 25 years. We are living longer and working longer. Raise the Social Security retirement age. When Social Security insurance was introduced under President Roosevelt, the average life expectancy was 65 years.

We don’t know if Speaker Paul Ryan’s 20% “border tax” on products imported into the U.S. will survive. That would bring in a lot of money to help with the budget and to move forward with tax reform.

Dealing with our debt problem is so difficult because politicians fear that they will not get reelected if they raise taxes or take away any government supports or subsidies. Our debt level rose under President Bush and then doubled to $20 trillion under President Obama. Businesses and farms can’t live like this and neither can our nation.

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

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 fa