Challenges We Face

May 27, 2020

May 27, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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 Coronavirus came out of nowhere and has crippled the world economy, killing
thousands and thousands of people. The virus is not through yet either. Look at Brazil.
President Trump just shut off travel from Brazil to the US. As our new cases have declined,
things are getting better here. Our economy is starting to open up. We can’t stay locked down.
China is where the virus originated. Loud voices screaming from both parties to see who can be
tougher on China. China allowed the virus to spread all over the world and now they plan to put
a heavy hand on Hong Kong. Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden says President
Trump is too soft on China. What should the US response be? Will President Trump abandon
the “Phase One” China trade deal? Let’s hope not. China has committed to buy $80 billion of
ag products. President Trump negotiated a good deal for the US and especially agriculture. He
made progress on protecting our intellectual property.

Turn to the UK – Prime Minister Johnson wants a comprehensive trade deal with the US
and he wants it done soon. We are ready but the fact that the UK has not finalized a trade deal in
their separation from the European Union may be a problem. Speaking of the EU, they have
adopted some sweeping goals for their agriculture industry that to me are shocking. They want
to transform how Europeans farm and what they eat. They want 25% of their food production to
be organic. They want to dramatically reduce the chemicals used in farming by 50%. Fertilizer
is to be cut by 20%. If they don’t use some chemicals to kill the weeds, they will need a lot more
labor to hoe the crops. They don’t use biotechnology now to keep the corn borer and root worms
at bay. That’s one reason why they use more pesticides than we do. Their goal is to reduce
carbon emissions and improve water quality. That’s good. But here is what will happen. They
will produce less food.

We all know that organic farming delivers less food. If the farmers of the world don’t
accept and utilize new technology, yields could be 30% less. Who is going to starve? Of course,
the world could cut down more forest land in order to produce enough food. I don’t think the EU
plan makes much sense.

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues of the Day

May 20, 2020

May 20, 2020

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

President Trump held a meeting with farm leaders on Tuesday at the White House.
Secretary Sonny Perdue explained how the $16 billion aid package passed by Congress and
signed by the President two months ago would be divided up. This bill is the centerpiece of
President Trump’s effort to save farmers and ranchers. Farmers can sign up for relief checks
next week and after another week money, should be on the way. For some farmers the need is
urgent. Farmers could lose $16 per pig and $128 per head of cattle sold. I know that farmers
and ranchers are grateful for the support and help the President and Congress have extended. The
direct focus on rural America and farmers is something that I have never seen before. Why?

Well, with an election this Fall those votes could be the deciding difference. The other reason is related to the Coronavirus. The importance of food production and food distribution has been in the spotlight. Food industry workers from farm to plate were always overlooked. Not anymore. We all hope that our whole economy can get back to work.

Food and farm employees are working. Some restaurants are opening for customers with
necessary social distancing. Marvin Irby, President of the National Restaurant Association,
reports the industry has lost 8 million jobs and $240 billion in revenue this year.
There is one very important segment of our farm industry that has been overlooked. We
have not provided any money or credit for our biofuels industry. There is optimism now that
there will be another aid package coming in June. Ethanol is a very important market for our
corn. With planes not flying and many of our cars not being driven, the demand for fuel has
been soft.

One last issue focusing on the EU. The European Commission has a new goal –
“sustainable production.” They want to stop promoting meat – they say 10.3% of greenhouse
gases originate on the farm and 70% of that gas comes from livestock. I’m not ready to give up
my steak or pork chops and I don’t think they will either.
Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Mother on My Mind

May 13, 2020

May 13, 2020

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

Being in lock down like most of our citizens and trying to celebrate Mother’s Day made
me think. My mother was so dedicated to my 2 sisters, me and of course my dad. Mom & Dad
were married in 1934 and in 1935 I was born. We were living in a small house with no running
water, no bathroom and no electricity but we had an outhouse. After 2 or 3 years we moved to
another farm house – and we got running water, electricity and a bathroom when I was 4 or 5.
When I turned 6, I went to a one room country school. No running water but we had 2
outhouses. My mother made my lunch each day that I took to school. She helped me with my
school homework. As I look back, it was not easy. She cooked lunch for my dad and the hired
man that worked for us every day. Think about this. The American family is the foundation of
our great nation and our mothers’ dedication, persistence, and love have served as our inspiration
to work hard and succeed.

I went to West Point – graduated and served in the 101 st Airborne Division. Then, back
to the farm in 1960. Fifteen years later I was appointed Illinois State Director of Agriculture.
Four years after that, off to Washington, DC to serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for
President Ronald Reagan. My mother was always there encouraging me, coming to D.C. for
special ag events. Mom and dad are both gone now, but Mother’s Day makes me look back at
how important a family can be. That’s where we can learn personal responsibility, values and
dedication. Thank you to all the mothers out there.

Now to take a quick look at issues of the day. 1) Looks like our nation is starting to go
back to work. It will be a slow process. Let’s hope it can be done without another surge of
coronavirus. 2) I think President Trump should be careful about how hard he hammers China.
We don’t want China to back out of the trade deal we signed with them. The farm industry has
enough trouble now. 3) House Democrats are pushing a massive $3 trillion relief bill. I will talk
more about that next week.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Virus is Expensive

May 6, 2020

May 6, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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 cost of unemployment and economic hardship from the global coronavirus pandemic
is no small change. We have not had to face anything like this since World War II. The
projected debt at the end of this year was supposed to hit 79% of our gross domestic product
(GDP). But now with all of the new spending bills it will likely explode to 101% of GDP. Look
back at the end of World War II, our debt level had grown to 106% of GDP. With economic
growth and sound money management we brought that debt level down to 23% by 1974. In
almost every year since then (almost 50 years) our debt has kept climbing. Many economists
consider the level that we are looking at now as dangerously high. That makes me question how
much more do we need to spend. I think the money approved for farmers, ranchers and food
assistance programs will be a big help in saving a lot of farms and ranchers from bankruptcy.

However, it will not begin to cover the losses from trade disputes and low prices. We will get $16 billion in direct payments. Row crops (corn, soybeans, cotton) will get almost $4 billion. Cattle farms – $5 billion. Dairy – $3 billion. Hog farms – $1.6 billion. Specialty crops – $2 billion. There will be $3 billion to purchase food for food assistance programs. I guess it should not be any surprise there is growing pressure to spend even more money. We will spend at least $3.5 trillion because of the virus. If we spend more, it should be directed to keep workers on the payroll and keep small businesses alive.

Nancy Pelosi and other big spenders want the federal government to bail out states and
local governments. That’s the last thing that we should do. A lot of states have been making bad
spending decisions for 10 or 20 years and that includes my farm state, Illinois. New York would
also qualify and probably California. We should not do anything to bail them out. It is not free
money. Our children and grandchildren will be expected to pay it back. We can expect to
borrow more than $4 trillion dollars this fiscal year. Let’s step back and see if our economy
begins to recover.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Tough Times

April 29, 2020

April 29, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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 food industry is trying to cope with serious supply chain problems. Coronavirus has
forced dramatic change in our food production and distribution system. Restaurants and schools
are closed. They did provide 40% of our food. That food now needs to go to the grocery stores,
but restaurant food is not packaged correctly for grocery stores. Another problem is that with
people staying home all the time to eat, they don’t want as many fruits, berries and greens. They
want to buy nonperishable food for their pantry. Therefore, produce suppliers don’t have the
market they expected. Farms in Florida say that they have the labor to pick ripe squash, but the
market will not pay the cost. Dairy farms are dumping milk. Some fruit and vegetable farms are
plowing their crops under

Take a look at our meat industry. It seems like every day another major meat processing
plant is closed. We have farms with hundreds or thousands of pigs ready for market but they
can’t find any plants that will take their pigs. There is even some consideration of euthanizing
some market hogs. I am having aa tough time finding a market for my pigs. The pigs keep eating
expensive feed and get bigger. Beef and chicken processing plants are having some problems
also.

We would not have seen these plants shut down if it were not for coronavirus. Too many
of their workers turned up sick from the virus. Fortunately, President Trump signed an executive
order to go back to work. If that isn’t enough to worry about, corn, soybean, and cotton farmers
are watching their prices hit the bottom.

In case you were not aware, 40% of our corn is processed into ethanol and distillers' grain
but the market for ethanol has collapsed with the petroleum market, and one-third of our ethanol
plants are shut down. It’s hard to remember a more difficult time for the Ag industry. In the
early 1980’s we had a farm recession and farmland values were cut in half. We had to pay 18%
for borrowed money. We don’t have that problem today. Hold on.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Tough Year

April 23, 2020

April 23, 2020

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

Look back to when this year started – economists and ag experts were all predicting an
increase in net farm income. We had a trade deal with China which would give a dramatic boost
to grain and meat exports. Nothing could stop us. Then came coronavirus. In the beginning we
didn’t expect that little problem halfway around the world could hurt us. In February Rob
Johansson, USDA Chief Economist had this to say – “we expect to see a $3.1 billion bump in net
farm income. It should be a better year on the crops side and livestock side.” Unless something
unexpected comes out of the blue to rescue us, it will be a tough year. Corn and soybean prices
have fallen more than 20%. Cattle and hogs are down more than 30%. Net farm income is
expected to fall by $20 billion. With the world economy frozen because of the virus, it is not
likely that international demand will come up and bail us out.

There are some positive numbers that should help to lift our spirits. February pork exports to China surged 544% above last year. For the first 2 months of this year, our pork sales to Mexico, Japan, China were up 42% above last year. Beef exports beat last year by 21%. Chicken hit a 6 year high. Some of these export numbers are impressive, but I think as the virus has come to dominate the world, it will be almost impossible to sustain an export surge. Having said that, I still expect China to step up and honor the commitment to buy our products. That could make a big difference. Also, federal government money could be a lifeline. If the economies around the world, including our own, could go back to work, that would help. The coronavirus has ended up shutting down a number of very important processing plants. That has hurt farm prices for most animals.

Anything we can do to get the food system back to normal will be helpful. Opening
restaurants would be great, but we’re not ready yet and when we do, we can expect social
distancing and limits on the number of people allowed in. Yes, the food and ag industry is
paying a big price but so are many other workers. Thank you to our doctors, nurses and
healthcare workers. We all must support each other and fight our way to the finish line.
Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like
to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Food Industry Challenge

April 16, 2020

April 16, 2020

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

Let’s start with some good news. Russia, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and other oil producing
countries agreed to cut production by 10% – about 11 million barrels. That should give us a
modest lift in fuel prices which should help the price of ethanol and corn. My judgement – don’t
expect a big boost until we start driving our cars and flying our planes. Congress has authorized
$16 billion in farm aid. President Trump said he is “lighting a fire under USDA to get payments
out.” “We are going to be working with small farmers, the cattlemen, all the producers.” That’s
the end of the good news.

One of our nation’s priorities is to keep the food flowing but because of the coronavirus we are facing some serious disruptions. Just last Sunday, Smithfield Foods closed down its pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That plant is no small thing. They employ 3700 workers, processing 130 million food servings per week. They buy pigs from 550 independent farms. Why did they close? They have 300 employees with coronavirus. Producers that send their hogs to Sioux Falls will have to go someplace else now. But other processing plants already have too many pigs. I know because on my farm in Illinois it is getting more difficult to find a timely market. Prices for market pigs have crashed 30% in the last few weeks.

Beef cattle prices took a big dive also. An important beef processing plant in Greeley,
Colorado just closed yesterday. The chicken business is facing some of the same problems. We
can’t keep the food supply chain moving unless we are able to address the labor supply and that
means deal with the virus. I didn’t even mention the thousands of gallons of milk that are being
dumped. Schools and restaurants are closed.

I hope we are getting close to the point where we can go back to work. In the EU, Spain,
Italy, Austria and Denmark are preparing to start. We took for granted a normal economy that
worked. I’m afraid it won’t be normal anytime soon.
Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Challenging Times

April 8, 2020

April 8, 2020

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

There isn’t a lot of happy talk in the U.S. or around the world. These are depressing
times. The Coronavirus sickness and resulting deaths are all you see on tv, hear on the radio or
read in the papers. Concern about the virus and the health of our citizens has dominated, but
now a lot of leaders are trying to figure out how and when they can put their economies back in
business. The economic distress is costing millions of jobs and income for so many workers.

Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said, “this is a huge unprecedented hit.” She
expects the unemployment rate to hit 13 percent and then move higher. Our Congress and
President Trump have come together to provide billions and billions of dollars to fund programs
to help small businesses and workers that have lost their jobs. Farmers will qualify for the loans.
Secretary Sonny Perdue has been criticized on how the Department of Ag is giving out
government money – who gets the money? He said, USDA would “distribute stimulus payouts
in a fair and equitable manner.” I am confident the Administration will do the best they can. We
have 42 million low income food stamp recipients. Most of them cannot get home delivery.
Many are elderly and don’t want to take the virus risk by going to the store. Now our
government is trying to figure out how to get the food delivered. Who will pay for the delivery
charge?

Nothing is easy. If we focus on the ag industry the unanswered questions are endless.
Oil prices have tanked. Ethanol prices hit bottom. Ethanol plants are closing because they can’t
afford to operate, so they don’t buy any corn. Half of our corn is processed to make ethanol.
Why did fuel prices collapse? 1. We aren’t driving cars. 2. Oil reserve storage facilities in
countries around the world are almost full. 3. Saudi Arabia and Russia have turned on the oil
hydrants to drive down prices and put their competition out of business.
Positive news – there is word that the oil countries will meet later this week. Maybe they
will cut a deal. We hope.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Virus and Low Prices

April 2, 2020

April 2, 2020

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

We have never seen anything like the Coronavirus. It has been infecting countries all
over the world. I guess that reminds us that we live in a global economy. This virus is an
infectious disease that knows no borders. I am impressed how Americans – rich and poor, rural
and urban, even Republican and Democrats, have come together to defend our nation against a
common threat. I’m not suggesting that we don’t have any political conflicts. But the Senate
last week passed a $2 trillion stimulus package by unanimous vote – Republicans and Democrats
standing together. This is a war and we must fight it. President Trump says that we will need
another month of lock down. There is talk of one more stimulus package.

President Trump is joining with Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass “a very big and bold” infrastructure bill as a component of the next coronavirus relief legislation. I guess we need to spend money to get our jobs and economy back to where they were. Another subject very vital to the ag industry – we need workers. Ag Secretary Sunny Perdue is cheering for the State Department. They announced changes to the H-2A and H-2B visa programs. They will authorize temporary visas without in-person interviews. That will dramatically speed up the process. We need workers now as the planting crop season is at hand.

There has been a lot of concern about making sure that food gets to the consumer.
Families are getting their food from the grocery stores or having it delivered. In more cities the
restaurants are closed except for take-out. Consumers purchased 77% more meat in March than
before. And still, meat prices in the last 3 weeks have dropped 3.5%. What is going on? Iowa
Senator Grassley has called for an antitrust investigation into the beef industry. It has been a
surprise to me to watch pork prices. They keep going down. I realize one problem is that we
have too many market pigs and calves. Especially pigs – we have 4.3% more than last year.
Hang on for the ride.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

The Frozen Economy

March 26, 2020

March 26, 2020

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

After months of uncertainty, the biofuels industry got some good news. The EPA had
been granting exemptions to small refineries so they were not required to blend ethanol with
petroleum fuel. A January ruling by the 10 th U.S. Circuit Court put a stop to EPA’s small
refinery exemption. Then we heard information from the Administration that the Justice
Department might challenge that Court decision. President Trump said this week the
Administration would not challenge the Circuit Court’s ruling. Thank you President Trump for
standing up for the ethanol industry. Thanks to Iowa Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst
for their efforts. We are already suffering enough with the collapse of oil prices. The
Coronavirus has frozen the global economy and our farmers depend on global markets. A month
or two ago we had limited optimism about farm prices and income in this new year. USDA
projected net farm income to be up 3% to $96.7 billion. The President’s deal with China has
started to pay off. They are buying corn, wheat, pork and chicken big time. Still it’s hard to be
optimistic.

Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau President, reminded us, “the stress out there in
farm country is really high-level.” Corn and dairy prices have fallen. The milk market can’t get
any lift. The collapse of the oil market has hammered the price of ethanol and that has pulled
corn down. Remember – about half of our corn crop is used to produce ethanol. I know that
China will need some soybeans, but how much is the question since African Swine Fever has
killed half of their pigs. With the economy around the world shutdown to stop the spread of the
Coronavirus, how long can we afford to sit around like this? Europe is asking the same question.
French President Macron said, “It is impossible to live – even in self isolation – and to cure
people if we do not continue economic activity.” President Trump wants the U.S. to go back to
work by Easter. Let’s hope that we can. Last Tuesday was Ag Day – but under current
circumstances it wasn’t much of a celebration.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Coronavirus

March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020

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

It seems like overnight we went from a booming economy to shutting everything down.
Schools are closed, businesses are working online to avoid contact. “Social distancing” is the
new way to live. In some states they are even closing restaurants and bars. And what ever
happened to “March Madness?” Sporting events are cancelled. Stock markets and commodities
take a dive. All of this happened because of a global health crisis – the coronavirus pandemic.
China has been hit the hardest. Europe not far behind. Here in the U.S. we are taking
drastic action to slow the progress of the virus. I am impressed to see the serious effort that
President Trump, State Governors and cities are making to limit the damage to our economy, and
lives of our citizens.

President Trump and Congress are working together. They want to keep our economy
from falling into recession. The House and Senate are passing bipartisan stimulus bills. The cost
could be more than a trillion dollars. With the debt that our country already shoulders you would
think someone might worry about piling on more debt. No one is even talking about that. They
are talking about food security – make sure the food chain works. Treasury Secretary Steven
Mnuchin says our economy isn’t in a recession now, and should recover later in the year. He
says we will need to help support our airlines and small businesses and workers that get laid off
or lose their jobs. There is talk about giving everyone $1,000.

I want to point out that there is some hope. It appears that China may be starting to
recover. Last Friday China reported only 8 new cases of the virus. Kids are going back to
school and workers are going back to work. China is making some regulatory changes which
will open the door for more of our beef and distillers dried grain (DDG) to be shipped to them. I
am becoming more optimistic. Hopefully, China will be able to buy that $40 billion worth of ag
products from the U.S. Yes, I am optimistic, but I won’t bet the farm on it.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Today’s Agriculture

March 11, 2020

March 11, 2020

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

I was on the farm in Illinois last week. After that tough weather that we had to deal with
last year – it was beautiful. The soil is dry. Not the muck that made harvest almost impossible.
We weren’t able to get all of the anhydrous applied last Fall for this year’s corn crop, but when I
was back, the applicators went to work and now we are done. We will start planting in April,
and it is exciting to think about a new crop year.

In a little over a week it will be Ag Week beginning March 23 rd . When I step back and
compare today’s farming to the industry when I grew up, the change is more than I could have
imagined in that day. We had 2 old horses, their names were Burt and Bill. They pulled our 2-
row corn planter. Our planter today is 32 rows wide. We plant 4000 acres – not the 120 we
planted back in the day. We didn’t have any weed killer then. We had to fight the weeds with a
cultivator and high school kids with hoes. It’s too much to explain, but we cultivated our corn
cross ways as well as with the rows. We used a check wire across the field to make all of that
possible.

For 2 or 3 years my dad picked corn by hand. Then we got a picker that picked off the
ears which we stored in the ear corn crib. Later the sheller would come to the farm and shell the
corn leaving a big pile of corn cobs. Those corn cobs were used to help start the coal furnace in
our house. The same cobs were used to start the furnace in the one room grade school where I
went for 8 years.

Our hog production today is much different. In those early days our baby pigs were farrowed in a small hog house. We didn’t breed sows for babies in January – too cold. Barns are heated today, and we use farrowing crates. The crates help protect the babies from being laid on by their mothers. Looking back to the 1970’s, we were still having baby pigs born in the field – in the woods. Not today – Everything is inside.

We must be proud of our ag industry today with innovation, precision farming, volume
and efficiency. As we look ahead to a new year, we can celebrate a great industry.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade

March 5, 2020

March 5, 2020

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

I will be on my farm in Illinois this week and next week I will report what I find. For
now, realizing that almost 30% of our ag production is exported, world markets can be the
difference between farm profitability and loss. We now have negotiated favorable agreements
with Canada and Mexico (USMCA). We have a deal with China also. Now, they need to be
enforced. The United States and our ag industry will see big benefits.

Next on the list, our trade negotiations will begin with talks with the UK. As UK splits
from the European Union, they are anxious for a new trade agreement with the US. British
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that the UK wants to “rigorously protect their National Health
Service.” Johnson said, “We want to uphold our high standards of food safety and animal
welfare.” My reaction is – there shouldn’t be any barriers there. Our food safety and animal
welfare can measure up to any other country in the world. We are already talking to the Europe
Union in hopes of negotiating a big reduction in their Ag trade barriers. Their barriers are not
based on science. They have shut the door on most genetically modified food products while we
eat them every day. We can’t feed the world if we refuse to use new technology to increase food
production. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue challenged Europe to accept genetically modified
crops and animal growth hormones. He said, “overly burdensome and unnecessary regulatory
restrictions hold farmers back from taking advantage of new technologies and producing more
food with fewer inputs.” Reform won’t be easy. French President Macron says he will fight to
protect E.U. farm subsidies.

According to the USTR many of our trading partners use huge trade tariffs to protect
select industries. Under World Trade Organization rules, those tariff rates are locked in place
with no sunset clause. President Trump does not want the US to exit the World Trade
Organization, but it must be reformed. That’s enough on trade.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Coronavirus

February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020

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

Think about this. Just 2 months ago we were ready to celebrate Christmas. After more
than a year of a trade war with China, China agreed to buy $40 billion worth of our farm
products in 2020. That would be a big boost to prices. Another positive development – the
effort to impeach the President was put to bed. All the while the stock market kept setting new
records. Good times for all. But in 2 short months – almost overnight – the Coronavirus
threatens to blanket the whole world. China has more than 80,000 identified cases and 2,000
deaths – the numbers keep going up. Cases in S. Korea – 900 plus. Italy – more than 220. We
have Coronavirus here in the United States. Some of those with the virus were brought back
here from Japan.

Stock markets around the world are shocked by the threat. Our market has crashed, and
we don’t have 100 cases. It won’t be easy to stop. We live in a global economy. We sell our
farm products all over the world. That trade deal with China may come up short. Just when we
thought the world economy was ready for a good year, now we don’t know what to expect. We
can hope the virus can be isolated and stopped. Maybe it will run out of gas in the next month or
two. The flu virus is mostly a wintertime problem. Maybe we can make a vaccine to stop the
coronavirus. But we don’t have one now.

In spite of the threat, our farmers, ranchers, small businessmen - the whole ag industry –
we have to keep doing our job. We’ll be planting corn in a little over a month. The old crop
needs to be sold and shipped to some other country. Take care of our pigs. Fortunately, they
don’t have African Swine Fever as they do in China. At this time, we are hoping for a pretty
good year. USDA is projecting a higher farm income this year. Farm debt keeps going up with
a $10 billion jump expected this year. Fortunately, interest rates are very low. We continue to
work to expand trade. President Trump was in India this week to talk trade. We need to keep
doing our job and hope the virus can be stopped.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

New Year - Down on the Farm

February 20, 2020

February 20, 2020

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

We still have some snow on the ground at our farm in Illinois, but it is a good time to
plan next year’s crops. Which fields will be for corn and which for soybeans? What hybrids and
seed numbers to plant in different fields? Can we expect better prices or just more of the same?
Farm income made a record $123 billion in 2013. It went down from there and bottomed out at
$62 billion in 2016, climbing to $78 billion last year. The carryover of corn has been on the
decline each year since 2016. That has helped to lift income.

Keep in mind crop prices are a product of supply and demand. Supply could be big
because we can’t expect another year with millions of acres unplanted and never harvested.
Yields will probably be up. Price and volume are on one side and then on the other you have
cost of production. We don’t expect a big move up in cost of seed, fertilizer, and crop
protection. Don’t overpay for land rent and we might come out ahead. I predict we won’t get
the kind of federal government support that we got last year. The trade war with China is fixed
for this year, despite the Coronavirus. I think China will be a big buyer this year with African
Swine Fever devastating their pork industry. They now have bird flu and have had to kill
thousands of chickens.

The countries leading the increase in meat consumption are: China number one, U.S.
second, followed by India, Brazil and Mexico. Remember all those animals are eating corn and
soybean meal. That can lift our grain prices. We know that our farmers and ranchers are
carrying more debt and have weathered some tough times in recent years. We can’t be sure, but
this year should be better.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues of the Day

February 13, 2020

February 13, 2020

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

I think we are all aware that many countries in Africa have a long way to go to modernize their ag industry.  Their food systems need to be transformed to help their people.  A positive step has been taken.  United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed Agnes Kalibata of Rwanda as Special Envoy to provide outreach and leadership to bring food security and productivity to millions of small farmers in Africa.  Special Envoy Kalibata is well qualified with a doctorate in Entomology from the University of Massachusetts.  Good luck.  It won’t be easy.

On this same subject of helping the African ag industry, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to establish a new ag center in St. Louis called Gates Ag One.  Their focus will be to help small holder farmers in low income countries become more productive.  I have been on those small farms in Africa.  They are 100 years behind us.

Back to Washington DC – with the State of the Union behind us and impeachment dead, we have a budget to talk about.  This week President Trump put forward his budget for 2021.  Keep in mind the Congress last summer approved a spending plan for this year and next year.  The President signed the bill but now says he wants to change the budget for 2021.  He wants spending cuts in most departments.  It is his “conservative dream budget.”  Cut commerce by 37%, EPA by 27%, US AID by 15%, Agriculture by 8% (crop insurance subsidy to be cut).  The only departments that get any more money would be defense with a tiny .01% uptick.  Homeland Security would get 3% more.  Veterans Affairs gets the biggest bump of 13%.

President Trump is sending the message that he wants to cut spending to help balance the budget.  He says there will be no cuts in Social Security or Medicare.  But here is what will really happen.  The President’s budget is “dead on arrival” like it is every year.  Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo) said he will not even hold a hearing on the President’s budget.  He stated, “nobody has listened to the President’s budget in the 23 years that I have been here.”  He is right.  Forget the budget now.  It is more fun to watch the Democratic party struggle to choose a candidate to run against President Trump. 

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Busy Week

February 6, 2020

February 6, 2020

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

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week were something for the record books.  On Monday, the first state Iowa held their primary to begin the selection process of choosing a Democratic candidate to run against President Trump this fall.  On Tuesday President Trump gave his State of the Union address to lay out his priorities for this year.  And on Wednesday the Senate put a knife in the Democrats effort to impeach President Trump.  With the President acquitted it’s time for the Congress to get to work.

President Trump has been under constant assault by his political critics for 3½ years.  Now that the election process has kicked off politics will dominate.  I don’t expect that we can get much done.  I know the President wants to negotiate a trade deal with the UK and the European Union.  That won’t be easy with the EU.  They have one of the most unfair, market distorting agriculture support systems of any developed country.  Can you believe – the European Union spends 40% of their money on farm subsidies?  They have a long list of tariffs on ag products, not to mention their non-tariff barriers.  It’s about time for someone to take them on.

This year the President wants to get started on repairing our nation’s infrastructure.  That won’t be easy, but we desperately need to get started. But let’s not break the bank in the process.  We don’t want to add more to our national debt.  We are projected to end this fiscal year at $1.02 trillion in the red.  And we are expected to continue piling on more than a trillion dollars in new debt every year for the foreseeable future.

Our economy is thriving.  Our workers enjoy a “blue collar boom” with record low unemployment and rising wages.  But we just need to get control of spending like a farm must do, or any family must do.  Excessive debt is a dangerous road to ride.  Let’s take our foot off the gas.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Milk

January 30, 2020

January 30, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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 subject that I want to focus on today is milk.  We keep reading about how many dairy farms have sold their cows and closed their barns.  We can only hope that the new USMCA on trade will help our dairy sales to Canada.

But I found some information in the Wall Street Journal about milk that is very interesting.  In the last 4 years, milk sales have fallen by 300 million gallons.  What’s going on?  The Coca Cola Company and dairy producers joined to create Fairlife, a company pioneering the sale of ultra-filtered milk which has 50% more protein and 50% less sugar than regular milk.

In five years, their sales jumped from zero to $450 million.  Other dairy companies are jumping in the market trying to catch up.  Ultra-filtered milk sales are up 30% in the last year.  The product has 8 grams of sugar and 13 grams of protein per serving.  Regular milk has 12 grams of sugar and 8 grams of protein.  Customers want more protein and less sugar, and they don’t care much about the level of fat.  Whole milk sales are up 2.5% in the last year.  Non-fat and reduced fat sales are down 4.4%.  Consumer tastes are changing.  I think customers are always looking for something different.  Ultra-filtered milk is not cheap.  It costs about twice as much as regular milk.  The “Ultrafiltration” removes the sugar found in regular milk.

Certainly, the dairy industry is concerned about competition from plant-based products that use the name “milk,” like almond milk.  Regular milk sales have been falling by a little over 100 million gallons per year.  But plant-based milk has been coming up about 20 million per year.  You can see that plant-based milk is not our only problem.  The dairy industry has its challenges, but if we can be creative maybe that can give us a lift.

One other subject – impeachment.  President Trump is not going to be impeached.  He continues to take actions that lift our economy and create jobs, while the Democrats waste time on impeachment.  If they don’t like him or his policies, there is an election in about 9 months.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

American Farm Bureau and More

January 23, 2020

January 23, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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, I am calling this program in on the phone.  Farmers and the whole agriculture industry fought through 2019, a very brutal year.  Exports, prices, trade war and weather took a costly toll. 

Now we need to turn the page and look at 2020.  Last weekend President Trump spoke to the American Farm Bureau Convention.  He told us “the best days for American Farmers are yet to come.”  “China respects me now. They have committed to buy $80 billion of U.S. ag products in the next 2 years.”  That would be an enormous change.  Sales to China in 2018 totaled $9 billion. That was a 50% drop from 2017.  Secretary Perdue has promised our farmers that USDA will enforce China’s pledge to buy the $80 billion of our products.  He said, “now let’s grow stuff, let’s produce and let’s sell it.”

Farmers and ranchers at the Farm Bureau Convention were hoping the President would announce his changes to the Obama regulations known as Waters of the U.S.  Getting rid of that rule was one of President Trump’s promises when he ran for election.  American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall described that Obama rule as “the largest federal land grab of our farms and our lands and taking our private property rights in the history of our country.”  Farmers can’t wait for President Trump to “ditch the rule.” 

President Trump is already in the process of changing the school lunch rules.  He will give local school districts more freedom and flexibility in deciding the food available for school lunches and summer meals.  The President has been working to cut all kinds of regulations.

Turn to the Congress.  It sounds like they are spending all their time trying to impeach the President.  However, they did pass a bipartisan bill in the House to modernize the H-2A Guest Worker Program.  That bill has the strong backing of the American Farm Bureau.  The bill would help provide needed farm labor to pick the strawberries and milk the cows.  It would give those workers legal status.  The bill passed the House, but it’s future in the Senate is in doubt.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues of the Day

January 16, 2020

January 16, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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 ag industry is excited as a number of trade deals are coming together. We will have a phase one deal with China signed this week. Our annual exports to China that have fallen below the $20 billion mark will jump to $40 billion per year. The Senate should vote to pass USMCA. We have a new agreement with Japan. Here is how important those countries are to the American farmer - China, Canada, Mexico, and Japan – those four countries account for more than 50% of ag exports. I think it’s time to celebrate.

There is one disputed issue that this Administration has not been able to fix. Corn farmers are not satisfied. Did you know that 40% of our corn is processed into ethanol and distillers dried grain? Our EPA has provided exemptions for small refineries to avoid the target
of 15 billion gallons of ethanol added to our gasoline. EPA says that they will insure that the 15 billion gallon number is met.

Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are not satisfied. This is their statement “No matter what the EPA says about the impact of waivers to oil companies making billions of dollars, farmers and biofuel producers feel the negative impact of the agency’s actions.” Goeff Cooper, President of the Renewal Fuels Association said, “The EPA action fails to deliver on President Trump’s commitment.” I would say this dispute is not over yet.

Since we seem to be in a constant confrontation with China, let’s look at China. The Chinese population is 1.38 billion. That is more than 4 times our population of 330 million. With all of those people their land mass is roughly the same size as the U.S. There is the important difference. We have twice as much arable crop land as they do. Unless something dramatic happens, they will need to import a lot of food to feed all those hungry mouths. That is our opportunity.

Last subject – Conservation Reserve Programs. That was part of the 1985 Farm Bill when I was Secretary of Agriculture. The purpose was to take fragile, erodible land out of production. We have about 22.3 million acres in the program now. That grass land is scheduled to increase to 27 million acres in the next year or two. Adding a few acres to the reserve will help wildlife and could lift our prices a little.

John Block Reports from Washington

Stock Market and Middle East

January 9, 2020

January 9, 2020

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

As we closed out a very volatile 2019 with some significant victories on trade, on cutting regulations, and on approving conservative new judges for our court system – I did not mention the huge gains in our stock market. The market jumped more than 20%. Some people might argue that only helped to enrich the already rich. It’s more than that. Workers in rural America and across the U.S. own some stocks and they are not all rich. Bigger than that would be the retirement funds that have been invested in stocks for our workers. 

I remember on October 21, 2016 an article in Politico (a Washington, DC based news company) had this to say – “Wall Street is set up for a major crash if Donald Trump shocks the world on Election Day and wins the White House.” He did win, and the stock market didn’t crash. It shot up the next day and hasn’t stopped climbing.

Another subject – last week Iran got an explosive message from President Trump. Our deadly drone strike killed one of the Middle East’s most powerful terrorists, General Soleimani. He was Iran’s military commander and for years has targeted and killed 600 or more U.S. soldiers. His team had plans to launch many more attacks on our people and allies. Last year when Iran shot down one of our drones President Trump considered some retaliation but backed off. But when Soleimani’s terrorists attacked our U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that crossed the red line. Iran has threatened to retaliate and has already fired missiles into some of our bases. 

We shall see where we go from here. We don’t want to escalate the conflict, but at least Iran must realize that they have overplayed their hand. We are through turning the other cheek while they terrorize our allies and kill our citizens.

Having watched the conflicts and turmoil in the Middle East for 40 years, I would like to get out of there. We don’t need their oil. Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Look Back and Ahead

January 2, 2020

January 2, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you bythe National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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 –

It’s a New Year. 2020 got here so fast. I want to look back at 2019. For the American ag industry, I think the weather made our production challenges more difficult than I can remember, and we have farmed through some tough years. Last spring was so wet it was impossible to get the seed in the ground on time. Millions of acres were left unplanted. When harvest time came, it started raining again. Rivers flooded crop fields. There is still corn unpicked in some Northern Midwest states.

Not everything last year was bad. President Trump will sign a huge first phase trade deal. China has agreed to buy $40 billion of ag products this year. During the years 2013-2017 they purchased an average of $22 billion. The trade agreement is almost double and will help to lift our industry out of our slump. Lighthizer projects “China’s total purchases of food, energy, manufactured goods and services will increase by $200 billion.” That’s not chump change. Of course, it is not done until it is done, but I am optimistic.

Another big trade victory was the passage of USMCA. It should be a big boost to our dairy industry, and they sure do need some good news. We also have a new agreement with Japan which opens a big new market for our pork. Although the yearlong trade conflicts did hurt our farm prices, we will now get our reward. President Trump is “bringing home the bacon.”

It was amazing that everything came together at the end of the year. Surprise – we got a new budget and no government shut down. The one cloud still hanging over us is the impeachment circus. Republicans should be able to get that behind us soon. Progress on trade issues can give us a lift this year, but we still have some serious head winds and the strongest head wind is over production. With normal weather we can plant and harvest more acres and the yield will be up.

USDA projects a 5% increase in corn acres and 10% increase for soybeans. We already have too much milk. Remember market prices are driven by supply and demand. We will need a hungry world to feed this year.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Christmas

December 26, 2019

December 26, 2019

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

Merry Christmas to everyone. I realize that Christmas is not a holiday to celebrate for
some people in our country and many more around the world. We should keep in mind however
that the founders of our nation did celebrate the birth of Christ and religion served as a guiding
light and foundation for our country.

Today I want to tell you a little bit about what it was like on the farm when I was a little
boy growing up. I was 10 years old and my father, grandfather and I had to get up, go out and do
the chores. Milk the cows. We had 8 cows that we milked by hand - morning and night, every
day. You don’t get Sunday off or Christmas day. It was my job to go to the hen house and gather
the eggs. We raised pigs on the farm, but no baby pigs were born in Dec, Jan, or Feb. It was too
cold. We didn’t have a heated barn as we do now. Even baby pigs born in March in those days
needed heat lamps. Many times, we had to bring the newborn babies into our basement of the
house to warm them up.

Anyway, after we got chores done, we would come to the house, open our Christmas gifts
under the tree. I was so excited because Santa had brought to me a 4-10 shot gun. During that
Christmas break from school my grandfather took me hunting rabbits with my new gun. We were
in a field with some blackberry bushes and grass. We saw a rabbit. The rabbit knew it wasn’t safe
for him, and he started to run. I was ready and I took a shot, but I missed. I hunted with my
grandfather other times and was able to get my own rabbit. My dad wanted to show me how to
use the shotgun. His plan was to shoot a pigeon on the fly. We went beside the barn and were
able to get 3 or 4 pigeons to fly out. My dad was ready. Suddenly I called out to him, “don’t shoot
the white one.” Bang – too late. That one shot brought 2 pigeons down, including the white one.
I couldn’t believe my dad could do that.

Back to Christmas day. After opening the presents my cousins, aunt, and uncle would join
my mother, father and sisters for a delicious family dinner – my father opened with his Christmas
prayer.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Exciting Week

December 19, 2019

December 19, 2019

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

Just when I had concluded that we couldn’t get anything done here in Washington, everything happened at once.

We have a trade deal with China.  According to the Washington Post “China will spend $50 billion on US farm goods, tightening its intellectual property protections and opening its financial services markets.”  In return we did not impose new tariffs that were scheduled to be imposed last Sunday, and we reduced the ones that are in place.  Keep in mind this agreement is just the first stage of continued negotiations.  There is more to be done.  This positive news is very exciting.  Soybean prices are up and so is the stock market.

Also, on trade -we are going to get a vote on USMCA.  Mexico and Canada are our 2 biggest farm markets.  Looks like we will get that trade agreement passed.  That was one of President Trump’s highest priorities when he ran for election.  Another surprise is how hard the Congress is working to avoid a government shutdown.  Maybe we won’t need another continuing resolution. Perhaps the Congress is coming to realize that the public doesn’t have any confidence in them.  2020 is an election year.  Maybe they should get something done.

Democrats in Congress are voting to impeach President Trump this week.  They are in a rush to get the impeachment circus over with.  The Senate trial will be in January.  The Republican controlled Senate will not vote to impeach.

It’s almost Christmas. Time to celebrate.  The conservative party in the UK is celebrating.  Their candidate Boris Johnson delivered a humiliating defeat to the British Labor party.  The Labor party has shifted far to the left on so many issues like taxes, free this and that for everyone.  That is where many of our Democratic presidential candidate have moved.  I don’t think our blue-collar workers here in the U.S. will accept such liberal policies any more than the British working class. That should worry the Democratic party as we look toward our next election.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Football

December 12, 2019

December 12, 2019

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

On November 28 we celebrated Thanksgiving. Christmas will be here before you know it. Christmas trees will be decorated with lights and gifts all around. Here in the United States we have so much to be grateful for. For much of the year we are so busy we don’t take the time to appreciate what we have.

Unemployment is at a record low of 3.5 percent. Individuals are coming into the workforce that had been on the outside for too long. Companies looking for labor are reaching down to individuals that maybe didn’t go to college, but with some training they can satisfy company needs. You read that income in the last year only rose by 3%, but our low-income workers got a 7% boost. That’s a lot. They work so hard on the farm, repairing my combine, building houses and on and on. I love them.Fly the stars and stripes, give our pledge of allegiance, sing the National Anthem.

Standing proud of our country reminds me of Colin Kaepernick who played for San Francisco. He took a knee during the National Anthem in 2016. Disrespect for the flag has cost him as it should. His protest of social injustice and police brutality is fine, but not when they play the National Anthem. He isn’t playing for any team now. The NFL arranged a league tryout for him in November. That didn’t work out. When I turn on the tv to watch Sunday football, I don’t miss that ungrateful protester.

We have something else that makes me cheer. Remember in 2016 when President Trump ran for office. He pledged to rewrite the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico (USMCA). We have a deal. Now it needs to be ratified. All this good news competes with the impeachment noise that seems to be the only thing the Democrats are working on.

We don’t have a budget for this year. We don’t have a spending plan. Congress has only a few days to get this done. If they don’t, we will shut down the government or pass another continuing resolution. It’s not surprising that Congress has such a low approval rating. They have earned it.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Farm Economy and More

December 4, 2019

December 4, 2019

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

I want to cover some trade issues today, but first let’s take a look at our farm economy.
It’s better than it was last year – better than it was the year before. $92 billion net income is the
forecast. Where is it coming from? The answer according to USDA’s Economic Research
Service, 31% of the $92 billion comes from the Dept of Agriculture. USDA provides money to
support farmers hurt by the tariff war, and crop insurance has stepped in to carry farmers through.
Projections are that corn farmers will see a 20% increase in their net income this year. Wheat
farmers can expect a 35% boost, soybean farmers 34%, and cotton farms can look for a 18%
increase. Dairy, with a significant jump in milk prices, expects 47%. Pork producers will come
home with 24% more money. Cattle up 10% and poultry down a little.

Farmers and ranchers have been suffering since 2014. Could this be the turn around? Well,
it’s not a real turn around unless we start getting more money out of the market. Thanks to the
Department of Agriculture farms will be able to stay in business for another year. Some good
news for the ethanol industry – New York State, the 4th largest fuel market opened the door to sell
15% ethanol gasoline. There are still 5 states that do not allow 15% ethanol in their fuel. New
York won’t be pumping 15% ethanol fuel overnight, but it is coming. Other states that approved
E-15 earlier this year saw E-15 sales jump 46% compared with 2018.

Turn to Trade – Just when I was getting optimistic about the U.S. China Trade dispute and
all the tariffs – out of nowhere President Trump tweets new tariffs on Argentina and Brazilian steel
and aluminum. Trump is unhappy with the “massive devaluation of their currencies.” We don’t
know when tariffs will be imposed. Perhaps we could see an agreement to back off.

My judgement is that we have too many balls in the air. Let’s get the China deal done. Put
the pressure on Nancy Pelosi to vote on the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
Last subject is an H-2A bipartisan labor bill that could be very valuable to our ag industry.
We need workers to milk the cows, butcher the hogs and pick the strawberries. It’s too soon to
know if this bill has a chance.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Thanksgiving

November 28, 2019

November 28, 2019

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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, I have a number of subjects to talk about. The Trade War with China
seems to be a priority every week. The Congress passed a bill with overwhelming
support criticizing China for human rights abuse. Yes, they have been criticized
before for human rights violations, but this is new. This is China’s interference in
Hong Kong riots. Our Congress expects President Trump to sign the bill. But if he
does, that could blow up any hope of getting our trade conflict fixed any time soon.
China does not welcome U.S. criticism. President Trump has not said if he would
sign the bill. He called the Hong Kong unrest a “complicating factor” in their
negotiations. It’s never easy.

Turn to Europe. They have offered to drop all of their non-tariff barriers on
our auto sales to them. Terrific -- but what about our farm products?
USDA has announced more trade aid payments for our farmers to help cover
the cost of the trade war. On first look you could say, that’s good. The ag industry
has suffered too much. But this generous precedent could be a problem in the future.
A word of caution comes from Joseph Glauber, the former USDA Chief Economist.
“Don’t expect this in the future.”

When I step back and think about the rollercoaster ride the farming business
has experienced, I am thankful that I have been able to hold on. We can’t control
our prices, or the weather.

Sometimes the government will do something unanticipated that will hurt our
markets, and then Uncle Sam will reach out with a helping hand. So, with this year’s
crop in the bin, I look out to 2020. It could be a great year, or it could be a disaster.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, it makes us think about our lives.
We should be grateful that we live in America. Look at the rest of the world -- wars
and conflict in the Middle East, hunger in Africa. Our economy is booming,
unemployment is at a record low. According to the American Farm Bureau our
Thanksgiving dinner didn’t cost any more this year than last year. That’s a bargain.
Thank you, God!

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Challenges We Face

November 21, 2019

November 21, 2019

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

I have a number of subjects I will put on the table today.  I want to open by reporting that I thought the National Association of Farm Broadcasters had an outstanding convention last week in Kansas City.  I loved it.  Then I went to my farm in Illinois on the weekend.  We finished our harvest.  Corn and beans are in the bin.  Our yields – although not even close to last year - were better than I expected.  Now we focus on buying fertilizer, seed and chemicals for next year’s crop.

We need better prices, and the best solution is to expand our exports.  Passage of USMCA (the US Mexico Canada Trade Agreement) would be a big first step.  House Democrats want to make sure the labor rules are enforceable.  Labor unions are almost always against trade deals.  Richard Trumka, head of AFL-CIO is in no hurry.  If Nancy Pelosi would allow a vote in the House, and she says it will be soon, it would pass.  Just get it done. 

Turn to the China Trade War.   Commerce Sec.  Wilbur Ross said, “China wants a deal.  We think we’d like to make a deal – We are down to the last details.”  Once this first phase is done, China will be a big buyer of our farm and ranch products.  Yes, we have and will continue to have some serious disputes with China, but they are back to buying our chicken.  That trade door was closed in January 2015 because we had avian influenza.  We have been free of that disease since 2017.  With China’s escalating demand for meat because of African Swine Fever, they are expected to buy $1-2 billion of our chickens.

Speaking of China – did you know that of the 1 million plus international students that come to the U.S. for higher education, 33.7% are Chinese?  It would be good for our country if we could build a strong economic relationship with China. That country has 1.4 billion people and they don’t have enough crop land to feed their population. 

My last issue is about glyphosate, better known as Roundup.  Roundup is by far the most used crop protection weed killer in our country.  Roundup has been under assault as a carcinogen risk to human health.  That attack has not stopped the use of Roundup, but now the charge is that it hurts the environment.  Roundup is a great weed killer, but the critics argue that we need the weeds for the bees and butterflies.  Okay. But we don’t want the weeds in our corn fields.

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C.  If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues at NAFB

November 14, 2019

November 14, 2019

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

After I record this week’s radio commentary, I will head for the airport to fly straight to Kansas City to attend the Farm Broadcasters Convention.  There is no shortage of issues to talk about.  I am so sick of listening to the left wing politicians’ constant attack on President Trump and the impeachment hysteria.  Get over it!  If you don’t like him, we have an election next November and you can vote for his challenger.  Of course, no one knows who that will be.  It is all politics.  USMCA, which is a much-improved trade agreement over NAFTA is just sitting there waiting for the House to vote.  They don’t want to give Trump a victory.

We will run out of money to run the government this month if we don’t get some kind of a deal to fund operations for a period of time.  We would hope for the rest of the year.  The biggest road block is that the President wants some money for his wall to help secure our southern borders.  Of course, Democrats don’t want that.  Many of them want an open border.  Also, they are critical of President Trump because he continues to press our European allies to pay their fair share (2% of their GDP) to fund NATO for their common defense.  Germany, the richest European Country pays less than 1.5% of their GDP.  We are paying 3.2%.

There will be a lot of discussion at the Farm Broadcasters Convention focusing on our industry, agriculture.  We had some good prices for corn and soy beans in years 2012, 2013, and 2014.  Then they crashed and have not recovered yet.  Farm debt is expected to hit a record $416 billion this year.  That debt number is up 40% from 2012.  On top of that most farmers struggled through a tough weather year.  Our crop production is down which should help support prices.  Some industry analysts expect this year’s corn production to be cut by 6% and soybean by as much as 20%.  Look at the demand side and it’s not very encouraging unless you raise pigs.

The African Swine Fever epidemic is expected to slash global pork production by 20%.  Those dead pigs won’t be eating our corn or soybeans.  I shouldn’t say it, but we need a drought in some of the countries that are our competitors.  That would lift prices.  We have a lot to talk about at NAFB.  It will be fun.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade Deals

November 7, 2019

November 7, 2019

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

All we hear about are the trade deals we can’t get completed.  Our new agreement with Mexico and Canada (USMCA) sits in limbo without Congressional approval.  We withdrew from the newly negotiated Asian trade deal the day President Trump took office.  We are still deeply concerned if we will be able to end the trade war with China.

But did you know that China and 16 Asian nations are working toward a new Regional Economic Partnership?  The countries will include China, Philippines, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and maybe India.  The target time to sign is next year.  I would say it could be a big deal.  The U.S. seems to be on the “outside looking in” on too many trade agreements.  Maybe phase 1 of our trade wars with China can be settled.  President Trump wants to sign an agreement with Chinese President Xi in the U.S., hopefully in farm state Iowa.  Talks continue.  China wants removal of many of the tariffs now in place.  We shall see.

I find it interesting and encouraging that agriculture - farmers and ranchers - seem to be in the headlines every day.  I have never seen the time when politicians of both parties made a major effort to get support from our industry.  Democratic candidates including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and almost all the others have toured ethanol plants in Iowa.  The one candidate that has not is Bernie Sanders.  It is a new political world out there with our industry in the spotlight.  Newspapers and TV are giving more attention to agriculture and Rural America then I could ever imagine.

Next week I will attend the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) Convention in Kansas City.  I have been attending their annual conventions every year going back to 1981.  I will be moderating a panel on Wednesday afternoon.  We will be looking at our farm economy today and how it compares to the 1980’s.  I will also be on the farm in Illinois next weekend.  I would love to finish harvest.  I know farmers are making some progress but as of last weekend US farmers still had almost half of our corn to pick and 75% of our soy beans.  Way behind normal.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Congressional Circus

October 31, 2019

October 31, 2019

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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 U.S. ag industry is riding a rough road right now.  President Trump says a Phase I “trade deal with China is ahead of schedule.”  If we can get that done, China will have every reason to buy “big time” in our market.  They can’t get enough meat.  With African Swine Fever still killing their pigs, their pork prices are up more than 70%.  They are buying beef also and now U.S. chicken.

Our corn farmers are not at all happy with the demand for ethanol.  EPA has given special exemptions to our small refineries.  Some of our ethanol plants in the Midwest have had to close. But here is some good news.  China may come in the door and buy a lot of ethanol.  China wants their fuel to be 10% ethanol like ours.  But they don’t have enough corn to process.  Their ethanol production capacity comes up short.  They cannot even come close to producing enough to reach their 10% target.  Their logical solution would be to buy more corn or ethanol from us. 

I was on my farm last week.  What a relief to escape this circus of a federal government that we have here in DC.  Instead of passing necessary legislation, every conflict, every decision is all politics.  Nancy Pelosi won’t bring the USMCA trade deal up for a vote.  Every day Democrats come up with one more demand.  We must insist on an inspection of Mexican factories to ensure that they meet our labor rules.  They must build new infrastructure to present cross-border pollution.  Now they want to add some language to the trade bill to protect pensions of union members.

Our Congress has serious work to do.  The current resolution to keep our government open for business expires November 21.  Not much time and we don’t have a House-Senate spending agreement.  We could get one, but the clock is ticking.  They could pass another resolution to extend the time to keep the government in business.  Or they could fail and close down the government.  What a dysfunctional nightmare.  They don’t have time to do their job.  They are too busy trying to impeach President Trump.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Bring ‘Em Home

October 24, 2019

October 24, 2019

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

Kurdish fighters are moving to North Eastern Syria.  Turkey is moving in to their position.  U.S. Troops are pulling out of that region of Syria and for two weeks Republican and Democrat politicians have been screaming from the rafters that President Trump’s decision leaves our allies- the Kurds - at risk of deadly Turkish attack.  Now the Islamic state could rebuild its power in the Middle East.  Also, Russia will expand their influence.

Well, lets just see what happens.  President Trump said in his campaign that he wanted to stop fighting endless wars.  He said one year ago that he wanted out of Syria.  Thousands of our young men and women have died fighting wars in the Middle East.  We have spent trillions of dollars.  It is about time the President said, “enough is enough.”  Trump sent Vice President Pence to Turkey to negotiate a truce.  At least for now the truce seems to be holding. 

Now the burden of providing stability and peace in that region is falling on the shoulders of other countries.  Maybe Syrian President Assad will help to eradicate the Islamic State fighters and Turkey, our ally and a member of the European Union can step up and police the northern Syrian border.  Even Russia may accept some responsibility.  There is so much destruction in some of those countries and people without homes.  Let someone else clean up and rebuild.  We already are delivering food and humanitarian aid.  Yes – we will still have a small number of troops in the Middle East but it’s time to pack up and come home.  I remember the Vietnam War and the lives and money lost.  We don’t need to police the whole world.      

Turn the page – corn growers and the ethanol industry are not happy with the exemptions given to small refineries.  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is promising “the agency will ensure that the fifteen billion gallon ethanol target will be met next year.”  This dispute is not over. 

Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer tells us – “U.S. and China are making great progress” toward reaching a trade deal.  We’ll end on that positive note. 

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Rough Road We Ride

October 17, 2019

October 17, 2019

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

We are all quite aware that the Ag Industry has had it tough the last 3 or 4 years. Let’s look at what we have experienced. Some of these numbers come from Successful Farming and Top Producers. 

Look back to 2013, just 6 years ago, when net farm income crested at $123.7B. Then crop, and live stock prices collapsed. Net income dived down to $62B in 2016 – cut in half. We have been trying to claw our way back up with some success. Up the ladder from $62B in 2016 - $77B in 2017 - $84B in 2018 and expect $90B this year.

We are still $32B below that 2013 income number. Although we seem to be coming back some, we have had to make sacrifices just to stay afloat. Ag industry working capital has been eroding. Farm debt continues to rise. We’re not rushing to buy new tractors or combines.
I thought about trading for a new planter but decided that the old one works just fine.

Now we all know that times have been difficult, but there is some positive news. The world is hungry for more meat. Yes – the press has given a lot of attention to the plant-based burger, but sales of red meat, beef, pork and poultry are on a steady climb. That is after several
years of decline. “U.S. exports of meat have grown an average of 4% per year during the past decade, and USDA expects that trend to continue.” Here in the U.S., Scott Brown at the University of Missouri says, “the fairly strong domestic demand has helped maintain livestock prices that would have fallen a lot more given this kind of expansion.” We are not going to back away from meat here at home and meat exports are expected to climb 7.5 million tons by 2028. Countries leading the increase in meat consumption are China – #1, USA #2, India #3, Brazil #4 and Mexico #5. With a resolution of the trade war in sight and a hungry world we may be looking at
a brighter future.

Last subject – To those who may not be aware President Trump last week delivered a message to “rural America” through the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. As farm broadcasters we are delighted and grateful to have that level of attention from the President of
the U.S.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That

October 10, 2019

October 10, 2019

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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 meat industry in the U.S. has been shaken by the explosion of fake meat. Go into your favorite fast food restaurant and you can order a burger that’s not meat. It tastes like a hamburger, but it is soybeans and peas and who knows what. Beyond Meat is one of the companies selling the plant-based burgers and the company’s stock is up 4-fold this year. The meat industry is fighting to stop their new competitors from using the word “meat.” It’s not meat. The dairy industry doesn’t want to hear the word almond milk either. We’ve got something to chew on now. The battle has just begun.

Here is some good news. For years we have been told – red meat is bad for you. Processed meat must be avoided. Now we have a new scientific review by a respected team of researchers. They report that the connection between red and processed meat and cardiovascular health, cancer risk and other health outcomes is not clear. The evidence is not there to recommend that we reduce our consumption of red meat or processed meat. The scientific community is divided on this issue. Consumers will be confused but I’ll feel good when I order my steak and bacon burger.

Some other positive news is that U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer and Japanese Trade Envoy signed a new bilateral trade deal. The agreement will give U.S. agriculture equal access to the Japanese market that was negotiated in the Asian trade deal that President Trump pulled the U.S. out of. President Trump called the new pact with Japan a “game changer” for farmers and ranchers.
Trade talks with China this week. Optimism is not what it could be. On Monday President Trump “blacklisted” 8 Chinese companies. The U.S. will not sell them products that they use in surveillance of Muslim minorities in Western China. Our action is not going to be a positive step for trade negotiations. China has been buying more of our soybeans and pork in the last week or two to warm the atmosphere. Now we have poured cold water on the meeting. I still hold some hope.

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

The Harvest

October 3, 2019

October 3, 2019

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

Last week I was on the farm.  Looking out over the fields of corn and soybeans, I couldn’t help but recall how hard it was to get this year’s crop in the ground.  We did get some of our corn planted the last week of April and then the rain came.  We couldn’t do much until June 1st. That meant that half of our corn and all our soybeans were planted late.  We don’t need an early frost.  Spring planting season was tough for almost all farmers in the Midwest.  At long last after thousands of dollars spent on seed and fertilizer, long hours of hard work, we can ride the combine and watch that golden corn roll in.    

When I was on the farm last week, we had one day of harvest and then 5 inches of rain poured down.  We hope to get back to harvest this week.  We have never started this late.  Our early planted corn is yielding 240 bushels per acre at 25% moisture.  That is good.  I don’t expect our late planted fields to come close to that. 

Our pigs look good – healthy and happy.  They are happy they don’t have African Swine Fever.  My pigs are happy about the new trade deal that we have with Japan.  Get those pork prices up to show some respect for pigs. 

 While on the farm I met with our supplier of seed, fertilizer and crop protection.  We don’t even have this crop out of the field and we need to get started for next year.  We will be putting nitrogen in the ground for next year’s crop as soon as our soybeans are harvested.  Input costs don’t appear to be coming down.  The price of corn and soybeans is nothing to cheer about.  We need something to stimulate prices for our crops.  A trade deal with China could be a game changer.  Tell the U.S. Congress to go to work and pass USMCA.  Japan has agreed to cut tariffs on beef, pork, wheat, cheese and much more.  Increasing exports would boost prices.  We have worked so hard over the years to develop global markets for our production.  I remember in 1978, Illinois Governor Jim Thompson sent me to lead a team of Ag leaders on a trip to China.  I was Illinois State Director of Agriculture.  That was a long time ago, but we have been working for a long time to find customers.  Our farm exports so far this year are down 7% below where they were last year at this time.  We need to turn this thing around if we want to help the Ag industry.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

GE Salmon

September 26, 2019

September 26, 2019

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

I will be on our farm in Illinois later in the week.  We haven’t harvested any corn or beans yet, but it is time to get started.  When I look out over our fields, I can’t help but think about the roller coaster ride it has been over the year.  Prices up, then down – surplus then shortage.  Here is a headline in the Wall Street Journal, November 28, 1980.  “Big income prices loom as world demands more food.”  That was almost 40 years ago.  The experts then were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to feed the people in future years.  But look what happened.  With all the new technology we have a global surplus.  Prices are down because we have too much food.  I don’t expect the world to run short of food.  If the market economy raises prices, we will find a way to produce more. 

With the time left I want to talk about bio-engineered salmon.  GE Salmon should be coming to market soon.  It has taken 20 years for AquaBounty, a small company, to put it’s GE Salmon on the market.  The Food and Drug Administration ruled in 2015 that the fish is “safe to eat” and there is no nutritional difference between GM and Conventional Salmon.  GE Salmon can grow twice as fast and consumes less food than Atlantic Salmon.  90 percent of Salmon consumed in the US is imported.  We need some farm raised GE Salmon.

It took AquaBounty 3 years to get labeling approval.  Alaskan Senator Murkowski would like to force more delay.  She says GE Salmon is an unhealthy Frankenfish.  I think Members of Congress should respect the finding - that FDA Canada has already approved GE Salmon, but we can’t get our act together.  I guess I’m not surprised.  The Congress can’t get anything done.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Farm Safety Week

September 18, 2019

September 18, 2019

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

Ever since the past administration rewrote the WOTUS (Waters of the U.S.) rule, farmers have complained about the government’s over reach.  President Trump has acted.  Agriculture Secretary Perdue had this to say- “Repealing the WOTUS rule is a major win for American agriculture.  President Trump is making good on his promise to reduce burdensome regulations to free our producers to do what they do best – feed, fuel and clothe this nation and the world.”

One of the most important issues of the day is the push to pass the USMCA trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.  Many of our farm leaders have come to town to pressure Congress to act.  Secretary Perdue has invited former Secretaries of Agriculture, Republicans and Democrats, for lunch and a press conference.  We have all signed a joint letter urging Congress to pass USMCA.  Farm broadcasters across the country will be reporting on our meeting.  Getting the trade agreement done secures our relationship with our two closest neighbor countries and biggest trading partners.  Another very important value in getting USMCA behind us is that it will help give us some momentum to move ahead with a deal with China.  An early October meeting is expected between our Trade Ambassador Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and the Chinese Vice Premier.  Let’s hope we can get something done.  China just put in a big order for U.S. soybeans and U.S. pork shipments to China this year are up 62 percent. 

I will be on the farm in Illinois next week.  We hope we can get started with the corn harvest.  Farm work can be dangerous.  Secretary Perdue issued a proclamation making this week – September 15-21 as National Farm Safety and Health week.  Be safe this harvest season. 

In closing I want to pay tribute to John Ochs who passed away on August 6 with funeral services on October 26.  John served as my Press Secretary when I was Illinois State Director of Agriculture and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.  John is well known and respected by our nation’s farm broadcasters.  He was a great guy and close friend.  He had many valuable creative ideas for me to do when I was Secretary of Agriculture.  He had me riding a horse at the Indiana State Fair, bringing President Regan to USDA for a press conference, singing a song on the Grand Old Opry, and hosting farm leader events on my farm in Illinois.  John will be missed.  Our prayers are with his family.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Today’s Issues

September 11, 2019

September 11, 2019

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

They are back. House Members and Senators, after a long summer recess, are back to work. Let’s hope they can get something done. Our fiscal year ends September 30 so they have 3 weeks to pass a stop gap spending bill if we don’t want a government shutdown. There is also a lot of pressure to pass the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. Farm leaders from across the country have come to D.C. to pressure Congress to get it done. Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic team don’t seem to be in any hurry. Although trade talks with China are on the agenda, no one knows what will happen. Larry Kudlow, National Economic Council Director, said the trade war with China could go on for years. We can’t accept their theft of intellectual property. Farm organizations coming to town will be pushing for a resolution.

Here is another subject of great concern to our farmers. Lawsuits claiming that glyphosate - Roundup weed killer - can cause cancer. California wants product labels that say glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans. EPA has announced that Roundup will not cause cancer. California has pointed to the World Health Organization which stated in 2015 that glyphosate “probably” causes cancer. That UN organization also warned that you can get cancer from pickled vegetables and caffeine. So – if no more Roundup, then no more coffee. We’ll see how that sells. EPA has done extensive reviews of glyphosate and they do not accept the California position. Other responsible countries stand shoulder to shoulder with our EPA. That includes Canada, Australia, the European Union, Germany, New Zealand and Japan. Our EPA says the California warning language is “false and misleading.” We have been using Roundup to kill weeds in our corn and soybean fields since the 1970s. This fight is not settled yet.

One last subject – we have been waging war in Afghanistan for 18 years. President Trump wants to get out of there. He started negotiations with the Taliban, but just when it looked like we could find a solution, the Taliban killed a number of innocent people, including one U.S. soldier. That did it. Trump said the talks are “dead.”

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That

September 5, 2019

September 5, 2019

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

China is in the headlines every week.  We can’t escape.  Did you know that in China this is the year of the pig?  Every year is the year of some animal but how crazy is it that African Swine Fever has devastated the Chinese pork industry during the official year of the pig?  China is by far the worlds largest pork consumer.  But recent reports suggest that half of China’s pigs have died or been slaughtered.  Think about it this way: if you were a pig farmer and your neighbor pig farmers became infected with swine fever what would you do?  You would rush to send your pigs to market – get the money before they get the disease.  That’s what many farmers have done.  There is no easy solution.

The Chinese farmers are not even close to being able to feed that country’s 3.3 billion people.  They are going to be hungry - very hungry for imported meat.  World meat prices should be strong even with a trade war.  That’s enough on China.

We have a new report on marijuana that should be frightening to a lot of people.  With the rapid expansion of marijuana sales both for recreation and medical use, now the Surgeon General has released a new advisory.  Marijuana will damage the brain.  “Pregnant women and young people can experience damaging effects on the developing brain.”  Also keep in mind that newer strains of marijuana are increasingly more potent and dangerous.

Last subject – the food and Ag industry have hundreds of trade associations and organizations with the responsibility to represent their industry in Washington, DC and abroad.  I’m sure you are aware, but we have some new companies that want to produce meat.  I’m not talking about hog barns of pigs or cattle feed lots.  I’m talking about growing animal cells in a factory situation.  They might end up with chicken or beef burgers.  At this point they call it cell – based or cultured meat.  They don’t have anything on the market yet, but they have their own trade association, the Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation.  They must be serious.  My pigs on my farm will not be happy with that fake meat.  Neither will I. 

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

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That

August 29, 2019

August 29, 2019

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

I have watched and rode the roller coaster of farm markets all of my life, but I have never witnessed the wild ups and downs that we are seeing every day now. Will the trade war with China get worse or will we reach an agreement? I guess we’ll just hold on and continue the ride. ProFarmer corn and soybean estimates suggest we won’t have as much surplus as the August 12 USDA reports. 

Some good news on Sunday – President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe announced that the U.S. and Japan had reached a preliminary deal to lower Japanese tariffs. Ag exports to Japan could increase by as much as $7 billion according to U.S. Trade Ambassador Lighthizer.

A subject that we hear so much about is hemp but there are so many unanswered questions. It is now legal in some states and not in others. A truckload of hemp worth $1.3 million produced in Oregon and headed for a market in Colorado was stopped and taken under Idaho government control. Industrial hemp looks just like marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are both illegal in Idaho. There are still a lot of legal gray areas that you might want to explore before jumping into the hemp business.

Now I want to put on the table for consideration something that is not just an ag issue. It affects all our people. If you live in Canada, you can buy prescription drugs for half the price that we pay in the U.S. That’s not fair. That’s unacceptable. U.S. citizens are driving across the border to buy drugs. Insulin, a drug for diabetics, costs 10 times as much in the U.S. as in Canada. Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden have teamed up to pass a bill to fix the problem. Here are Senator Grassley’s words – “Everyone can agree that the price of many prescription drugs is too high. These skyrocketing costs hurt seniors, lower income earners, people with disabilities and all Americans.” The fact that the big drug companies sell their products to other countries so much cheaper than they sell to us makes no sense. Yes, we support free markets and don’t like price controls, but something must be done.

Hats off to the hard working blue collar workers this coming Labor Day!

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues of the Day

August 14, 2019

August 14, 2019

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

Corn and soybean prices have taken a dive this week, USDA estimates our farmers planted 90 million acres of corn this year.  The trade didn’t expect that many planted acres.  And if we really did plant that many, we are certain to see our yield decline because of the difficult planting season.  Crop projections are only part of the hammer on our prices.  President Trump does not sound optimistic about the trade deal any time soon.  He is not even sure the trade negotiators will be meeting in September.  The U.S. has labeled China a “Currency Manipulator.”  In a surprise announcement, the President will not impose an additional 10% tariff on $300 billion in Chinese exports in September.  That’s good.  Speculation is that China may be hoping to delay action until after the 2020 election.  Get a good deal or keep the tariffs in place – that’s what Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley said.

Another costly development – the EPA is going to award 31 small refineries exemptions from the 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard Compliance.  Now the refineries will not be required to blend biofuels such as ethanol into the gasoline.  We’re talking about 4 billion gallons.  Corn farmers and the ethanol industry are furious.  That will cost farmers millions of dollars while Big Oil gets hundreds of millions.  The EPA is doing one thing that we are happy about.  EPA will no longer approve weed killer labels for Round Up that say, “known to cause cancer.”  California has been using such labeling.  EPA says that labeling is “a false claim that does not meet Federal government requirements.”  Now we can expect a big fight in the courts.

Another big fight – the US Department of Homeland Security has said no food stamps or other public aid to green cardholders.  Our law says the government can deny entry or legal residency to immigrants deemed dependent on public assistance.  That’s the law.  The White House says the rule “will preserve our social safety net for vulnerable Americans.”  Makes sense to me.  Anti-hunger groups are already preparing to file lawsuits.  Now our gun laws are on fire.  Our government and our citizens are at war with each other and don’t seem to want to find the middle ground.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade and GE Tech

August 11, 2019

August 11, 2019

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

As much as we would like to – the Ag industry can not escape the week to week and day to day damage that our industry suffers from the ongoing trade fights.  It is just back and forth.  We were hopeful last week when our trade team flew to China to meet with Chinese leadership.  But now the White House reports no deal, no progress.

President Trump has announced an additional 10% tariff on $300 billion of new Chinese imports.  Tariffs to be imposed on Sept 1.  This is not good news.  Our stock market dived 3%. 

Trade negotiations with Japan seem to be making progress.  President Trump hopes to wrap them up when he meets with Japanese Prime Minister Abe in September.

We have at least one positive note.  Europe has agreed over time to allocate to the U.S. 80% of their tariff quota of beef.  The European Parliament needs to approve the agreement.  The deal is limited to hormone-free beef.  The beef industry is happy.  Still, the EU refuses to address other severe restrictions on Ag trade.  President Trump is threatening to levy severe tariffs on their auto exports to the U.S.

I am so tired of talking about trade.  Let me tell you about an article in the Wall Street Journal on a different subject.  It is hard to comprehend how far environmental extremists are willing to go to stop the advancement of new technology.  With malaria killing a child under 5 years old every 5 minutes in the world, you would agree we need a solution.  We have Target Malaria, which is a Gates Foundation supported research project.  They want to develop genetically modified sterile mosquitoes.  With sterile female mosquitoes the result will be a dramatic cut in the mosquito population.  But it’s not so easy.  Radical environmentalists want no part of genetic technology.  They won’t accept it, in spite of the unbelievable contribution it has brought to mankind.  They were against genetically modified golden rice which added vitamin A to rice.

Golden rice has saved millions of lives.  My conclusion – I guess, environmental extremists favor mosquitoes over mankind?

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

John Block Reports from Washington

The Ag Industry

July 31, 2019

July 31, 2019

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

We keep reading that unless we increase farm production, we won’t be able to feed all the people in the world by 2050.  One way to boost food production is to respond to higher prices.  The market will tell us.  We don’t see that now.  Our farm income is half what it was 4 years ago.  Our cost of food as a percentage of disposable income is 9 percent.  That’s a bargain.  In Africa they spend 70 percent of their disposable income on food.   

In the U.S. only 1% of our people farm but in Africa 65% of their population farms.  In Africa they spend $35 billion importing food from other countries while we export $135 billion worth of food.  I expect my corn to yield 200 by bushel per acre.  Their yield is 20 bushels per acre.  The farming business in our country has witnessed dramatic change in my lifetime.  A lot of other countries are way behind. 

Our industry is driven by innovation, new technology, and an emphasis on efficiency.  Our food industry is so much more than the farm.  For every dollar spent on food, the farmer gets only $.078.  You ask, who gets the money?  Restaurants and food services get $.367 while grocery stores take in $.126.  Much of the food we eat is processed costing $.15 of the dollar.  There are other costs – wholesale distribution, ($.091) packaging ($.023), energy ($.038 cents), finance, advertising and others.

The many different segments of the U.S. food industry provide all kinds of services to the consumer.  The annual increase in the cost to eat in our country has not kept pace with inflation.  We are getting more efficient and more productive every year.

We have a big surplus of corn, soybeans, and milk pushing down prices.  Our market economy is telling us to find new markets or cut back production.  We will ride up out of this valley – hopefully soon.  Europe is suffering from drought and a burning heat wave.  Our spring planting with heavy rains and flooding will give us a short crop, and now if we can end the trade war, the sun will shine.  We have trade talks with China this week.  How fortunate we are to have the great food industry that we have.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Budget Deal

July 25, 2019

July 25, 2019

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

There were a lot of doubters, including myself, but it looks like we will get a budget deal.  It will raise our national debt ceiling and set new spending limits for 2 years.  The new budget will authorize the spending of tens of billions of dollars of new money in the next 2 years.  Just a few months ago President Trump said he wanted to slash spending.   

We were warned two weeks ago by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that our government would run out of money by September.  With the House and Senate both scheduled to be out of town in August, that has put enormous pressure on Congress and President Trump to negotiate a deal quickly.  We don’t want to shut the government down and default on our debt.

Instead of writing a balanced budget, we will continue to run annual deficits beyond one trillion dollars per year.  A column in the Washington Times had this to say – “As prudent observers often repeat; our nation doesn’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.  Individuals addicted to dollars rob banks.  But nations hooked on spending other people’s money don’t have to: they own the bank.”  True.  With a booming economy and tax reform legislation our Treasury is expected to bring in $110 billion more this year than last year, but that won’t come close to keeping up with the spending.  Run away national debt will cost our children and grandchildren.   

The new budget is generous.  Liberals will get more money for domestic programs.  Conservatives will get more for defense.  It is all but impossible to stop this spending train.  Politicians that want to get reelected love to give out goodies to their voters.  And they certainly would never propose to take anything away.

One risk that we don’t hear much talk about is the costly danger of rising debt and rising interest rates.  Interest payments along with entitlement spending are projected to account for nearly three quarters of federal spending growth as we look to the future.  It’s hard for me to imagine our members of Congress having the courage to take the steps necessary to balance the budget.  That would cost them votes and they want to get reelected.

Here is where we are today – leadership in both the House and Senate and President Trump have agreed on a budget deal.  Now Congress has to vote to approve it.  Liberal Democrats are not going to like it.  Republican deficit hawks won’t either.  I think it will pass and President Trump will sign the bill

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade

July 18, 2019

July 18, 2019

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

Some listeners might get tired of hearing about trade disputes.  Why are they important?  Well, for the ag industry it makes the difference between profit and loss because we export 20-30% of our farm production.  Chinese tariffs have been very costly.  Our government will be providing assistance to farmers hurt by the trade war.  Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production says qualified farmers could start getting some money from the $16 billion Market Facilitation Program next month.  Farmers received government support last year and will get some this year.  That will be welcome, but we really want an end to the trade conflict with China. 

Now we have some trade war hawk voices crying out that “a China deal could cost Trump the election next year.”  I don’t agree.  A deal should help the President.  President Trump and President Xi are expected to meet in September.  It would be a victory if something could be worked out by then.

China isn’t the only trade question.  We have negotiated a new agreement with Canada and Mexico.  USMCA needs to be passed by our Congress.  There is strong bipartisan support for the bill, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t let the House vote on it.  She is demanding significant changes.  To me it is all politics. 

Here is what the National Corn Growers Association had to tell us.  “Over the past 25 years American agriculture exports have tripled to Canada and quintupled to Mexico.  Times are tough across the farm belt and reaffirming our relationship with Mexico and Canada will provide a more certain future for American farmers.  It’s time for Congress to pass USMCA!”  Well, I second that motion.

Next week the European Commission’s new Director General for Trade will come to Washington to talk trade.  The EU is a problem.  At this point they have refused to include agriculture in the trade talks.  Let’s not forget about Japan.  We are working with them now to cut a trade deal.  The word is that we could have one by some time in September.  Stay cool.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Down on the Farm

July 10, 2019

July 10, 2019

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

Here I am on the farm in Illinois.  I will update you on what I see, but first I still have our Independence Day Celebration on my mind.  All the national attention and the President’s speech can make us proud.  On my radio program in 1995 – 24 years ago – here is what I had to say then.

“Listen to the speeches of our leaders.  Notice the respect for our military.  Military at the top.  Hollywood at the bottom.  The call is back to basics – education, personal responsibility, family values, the church.  Concern for our own people and nation and reduced willingness to pour billions of dollars into foreign countries.  We see a renewed emergence of the old “can do” independence.  It is not always government’s responsibility.  Get the government out of the way. We can do it.”  Those were my words 24 years ago.  I’m hoping for the same national spirit today.

Now down on the farm our early corn planted by May 10th really looks good.  But then the rain came.  The rest of our corn and soybean planting was not in the ground until the first week of June.  That late planting corn was not knee high by the 4th of July.  This crop is in God’s hands now.  We can only hope for the best.

I’m so happy that our hogs are healthy.  African Swine Fever has devastated China’s hog industry.  With a pause in our trade war with China they say they will buy more pork.  We shall see.  While in Knoxville, I went to the park where they have a 1 room country school house.  I went to a 1 room school like that for 8 years.  We didn’t have any running water – just a well and a hand pump outside.  We had 9 or 10 students – 8th graders with a coal furnace in the room to keep us warm in the winter.  In the back we had 2 out houses – one for the girls and one for the boys.  We had a basketball hoop and played basketball outside weather permitting.  We played games against other grade schools from little towns.  My sisters played on the team because we didn’t have enough boys.  A lot of memories keep coming back.  Some of us would ride our ponies to school.  We had a little barn to tie them up while in class.  Those little country schools have been gone for years.  All the kids now come into town.  It’s good to be back home.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

2019 Independence Day

July 3, 2019

July 3, 2019

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

We have just celebrated another Independence Day – parades, fireworks, flags waving.  My flag is up and waving all the time, but on the 4th of July it is really showing off.  Our leaders were giving patriotic speeches across the nation.  President Trump spoke from the Lincoln Memorial here in D.C.  Some critics said he would be too political.  But it seems to me appropriate for our President to honor our military and the United States of America on Independence Day.  Afterall let’s not forget our nation is the leader of the free world.  Let’s remember what got us to where we are today – Liberty and Justice for All.  Freedom from oppressive government regulations, private property rights.

Our way of life has been threatened many times, but we have always been up to the challenge.  Our nation is more than 200 years old, but that is young compared to many other countries.

With instantaneous 24-hour news, we watch the death and destruction in many countries around the world.  We don’t want that.  We need to appreciate what we have, and never forget that hard work and individual responsibility is the foundation for our success.  We keep hearing a loud call to turn to socialism.  Why would we want to go down that road?  Look at Venezuela and Cuba and others.  The only successful communist countries are those that are moving away from heavy socialistic policies – such as Vietnam and China.  We need to celebrate and preserve our old frontier spirit ringing from the rafters.

What we have today wasn’t handed to us on a silver platter.  It took hard work and determination and sacrifice to develop our country.  We fought the British for our independence.  We fought the Civil War to save the union.  Then we fought World War I and II.  The fact that millions of people from other countries will do anything to get into the United Sates – legally or illegally.  What does that tell you?  Maybe it is telling us that we have something worth protecting and preserving.  Don’t mess it up.

Next week I will be on the farm in Illinois.  I’ll call in from there and let you know how the corn and beans and baby pigs are.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues of the Day

June 27, 2019

June 27, 2019

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

Hot issues of the day – Are we going to war with Iran?  They did shoot down one of our drones worth more than $130 million.  News reports tell us that in response, President Trump agreed to a retaliatory strike against Iran.  But then at the last minute he called it off.  War hawks criticized him for backing down.  I support the President’s decision.  He is giving Iran one last chance to behave like a nation should.  Now if Iran can’t clean up their act, they will pay a big price.

Let’s take a look at the Ag Industry.  Farm income has been cut in half in the last 4 years with income down, bad weather, and a trade war, the challenges continue to mount.

We are experiencing the highest level of farmer difficulties in 7 years.  The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City reports producers hold $427 billion in debt – the most since the 1980 farm crisis.  And when farmers suffer, so do the companies that sell to them.  How many new tractors and combines will we buy?  Not very many is my guess.

There is a silver lining to these storm clouds. – We just have to survive to take advantage.  First, with President Trump and President Xi meeting this weekend, we can hope they can begin ending the trade war.  China’s Vice Minister of Commerce says, “We should meet each other half way.  Both sides will need to compromise.”  I said last week that both presidents can be stubborn, but there is a good reason and pressure to negotiate a deal.  President Trump will be running for reelection.  He needs a victory and there are some reasonable concessions President Trump could make for President Xi.

There is one other development that can help the Ag industry – higher prices.  With the floods and terrible spring weather our crops will be short.  We are already seeing higher prices for some products.  It’s too soon to know how much our yield is cut.  I know you would remind me if we don’t have very much crop to sell, a higher price won’t help.  However, over time if your surplus is cut in the next year or two, we will benefit.  In the meantime, government support programs, including crop insurance, will help to support farmers and ranchers.  We have lived through tough times before and we can do it again.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Uncertainty in Agriculture

June 19, 2019

June 19, 2019

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

They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and a prosperous rural America.  Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary –

Agri-Pulse Daybreak reported “when asked if he could say when the U.S. and China would reach an agreement to end this trade war, the U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Gregg Doud said ‘No is the answer.’” No one knows.  President Trump and Chinese President Xi will be meeting at the end of the month with other world leaders.  Will U.S. and China open the door for ending the trade war?  Knowing how stubborn both leaders can be, I am not very optimistic.

Farmers and ranchers today are focusing on the damage the torrential rains and flooding did to our farm production this year.  We have better prices now with a short crop, but there is so much uncertainty.  Government support money is coming, but no one knows how much or when.  We have lived through these kinds of challenges before, but with farm income at one-half what it was 4-years ago, these are difficult times.  He didn’t say how to do it, but President Trump ordered his administration to “streamline regulations and promote the safety of genetically engineered crops.” The GE crops that are growing today can withstand herbicide sprays to kill weeds and kill destructive bugs.  Our fields today are mostly weed free.  Before we had GE crops, weeds and root worms were everywhere.  We had to cultivate corn and beans.  We hired high school kids to walk the fields killing weeds.  The cost of labor and energy is hard to imagine. 

Developing and getting government approval for those GE crops took an average of 13-years and $135 million.  We do need to speed up the process.  We can’t feed the world without new technology.

We are now ready to develop crops using gene editing technology.  Gene editing does not bring in genes from other kinds of plants.  Gene editing should not require as much regulation.

USDA regulates the crops, but FDA regulates GE animals.  The positive thing is the administration wants to give a green light to streamline. 

The farming business today is not what it was 30 years ago, and in the next 30 years, we will see more dramatic change. 

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Did You Know

June 13, 2019

June 13, 2019

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

Finally – my corn and soybeans are in the ground.  However, as of last Sunday there were 15.8 million U.S. corn acres still unplanted.  The wet spring and ticking time clock have pushed farmers to plant fields before they are dry.  This has been a very tough planting season. 

U.S. corn production will drop like a rock.  We just don’t know how much.  Our soybean crop will also suffer.  President Trump threatened to impose new tariffs on Mexico unless they help to cut off the streams of immigrants from Central America.  Well that got their attention.  Mexico will be sending troops to help close the door.

Also, the word is that as early as next week, Mexico will vote to approve USMCA- our new NAFTA.  Canada and U.S. will still need to vote.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a new 52-page study of school meals in response to the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act passed in 2010.  Our students are eating more fruits and vegetables.  We can only hope that all the ads and national news about what to eat and what not to eat will give us healthier citizens.  Perhaps we will see a reduction in obesity.  A positive note is that the cost of eating more fruits and vegetables isn’t any more today than it was in 2013.  So, get your exercise.  Eat more protein and less sugar and carbs.

Did you know that last year was the wettest on record? Did you know that GMO’s are considered safe to eat by a majority of scientists,  including the National Academy of Science, the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association?  But only 1/3 of consumers accept that view.

Did you know that camels’ milk could be the next super food?  Rich in iron, vitamins B and C, low in fat and can fight diseases like diabetes.

When I was Ag Secretary and in Saudi Arabia standing beside a camel, the farmer handed me a cup of that camel’s milk.  I drank some of it.  I have been healthier ever since.

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C.  If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Tariffs

June 6, 2019

June 6, 2019

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

We all have priorities.  I was delighted when USMCA -- our new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada -- was completed and agreed to.  The next step is to get all three countries to vote acceptance.  We lifted our steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada, which opened the door for approval.

But last week President Trump announced that he would impose new tariffs on Mexico if they don’t “immediately” stop the flow of undocumented immigrants and drugs across our border.

U.S. and Mexican officials are meeting now as I record this program.  Keep in mind most of the immigrants come from Central America and they cross the border into Mexico and head north through Mexico to our border.  Mexico for many years was very tough in keeping their border closed.  Not now.  The onslaught is too much, and they just walk across.  We can only hope that Mexico can come up with a plan to help stop the flow and avoid another tariff war.  Also, I don’t think we can get USMCA passed with U.S. and Mexico in a trade fight.

Mexico and China are our two most important trading partners.  And at this point the trade dispute with China seems to be going nowhere.

On the plus side, Congress passed the huge $19.1 billion disaster aid bill.  This will provide much needed support to the thousands that have seen wildfires, floods, and hurricanes devastate farms, towns and businesses.  The bill provides $3.3 billion for the Agriculture Department.  Support will be there for farmers who have lost their crops and are unable to plant this year because of floods.  The Forest Service will also get funding to recover from wildfires.  This has been the toughest planting season that I can remember. 

On my farm in Illinois we have 80% of our corn planted.  We just got started planting soy beans this week.  The delay will be costly for farmers.

Happy note – Thank you EPA.  They announced approval of year-round E 15 sales.  We could see 15% ethanol in our fuel and that would expand the corn market.  The EPA ruling will likely be delayed by court challenges. 

Get the crops planted…

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Another Memorial Day Passed

May 30, 2019

May 30, 2019

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

Over the last week with Memorial Day we have honored our service men and women that have fought for our country. Some of them paid the ultimate price. Think of the thousands and thousands that didn’t survive. I was just a little boy when we fought in World War II. Then came the Korean War and Vietnam war. When I was in Basic Officer Training – US. Army at Ft. Benning, GA one of my West Point classmates taught me how to play a guitar. Tears come to my eyes. He was killed in Vietnam.

All kinds of memories come back with Memorial Day respect for our heroes. “Rolling Thunder” with hundreds and hundreds of motorcycles roaring into Washington, DC. My neighbor across the street has ridden several years in that salute to our troops.

I drive by in my car, and sometimes on my bicycle, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the largest bronze statue in the world – just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.

As the war with Japan was raging, we lost 7,000 young men in the battle for Iwo Jima. I have a story about that statue and the six boys – mostly 17, 18, 19 year old kids raising the American flag on top of that hill. This story was told by James Bradley the son of one of those young men holding that flag. The first is John Bradley, Wisconsin, the father of James Bradley. Then we have Gene Gagnon, New Hampshire, next – the old man of the team Sergeant Mike Stark, 24 years old, then Franklin Sousley, Kentucky and Harlan Block, an all-state football player.

The last Marine of that brave team that I want to focus on was Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. He survived and did make it back home to the US carrying the pain of seeing only 27 of his 250 Marine buddies make it back. Ira Hayes died at the age of 32 dead drunk, face down, drowned in a ditch. Country music’s great Johnny Cash honors Ira Hayes in a song – “Drunken Ira Hayes.” It is worth listening to.

James Bradley has one last point. If you look at the Iwo Jima statue, count the number of hands holding the flag. There are 13. The man who made the statue was asked why 13 hands and not 12. He said the 13th hand was the hand of God.

God bless our brave heroes that defended our country.

John Block Reports from Washington

Anxiety in Farm Country

May 22, 2019

May 22, 2019

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

I was on the farm last week.  We did get some corn planted but then the rain came again.  Last year at this time we had all our corn and soybeans planted.  The later we are in getting the seed in the ground the lower the yield.  As of last weekend only 11% of corn was planted, in Illinois, 6% in Indiana, 48% in Iowa etc.  The last time the farming industry suffered weather challenges like this was 1992.  Without an abrupt weather change, our yields will suffer a big decline.  A short crop will mean higher prices, which is good.  In fact, we have already seen corn and wheat prices shoot up.  That can help.  But now we have to grow it.  Then we can sell it.

The Ag industry has some big clouds hanging over our heads.  Yes, late planting is discouraging, but we still have a costly trade war with China that seems to be getting worse instead of better.  The Department of Agriculture is working on a $20 billion aid plan to support our industry.  That will help, but farmers would prefer to get their money from the market place.

There is some good news.  President Trump is lifting the tariffs on steel and aluminum that he imposed on Canada and Mexico.  That could open the door for the passage of the US Mexico Canada trade agreement.  Mexico and Canada will be back to buying more of our products.  Tell the Congress to approve USMCA soon.

Our trade negotiations with Japan seem to be making progress.  We have been restricted in beef sales to Japan since 2003.  That’s when we had a couple of cases of mad cow disease and they shut us out for 16 years.  They are buying our beef now.  However, they still have some beef tariffs on our exports which leaves us at a disadvantage.  Our market prices for beef, pork and other meat products are forecast to be strong as we look ahead.  China’s African Swine fever has forced a 30% plunge in sow herd numbers.  The world will be short on pork, and that will increase demand for other meats.

This spring there is a lot of anxiety out in farm and ranch country.  The worry is not at the level it was in the early 1980's when I was Secretary of Agriculture, but it is growing.  We have a very strong national economy, but the Ag industry desperately needs some good news.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Cannabis – The Wild, Wild West

May 15, 2019

May 15, 2019

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This is Rick Frank sitting in for John Block. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and 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 –

Drive a quarter of a mile in any direction while in San Diego and you will see a largebillboard shouting, “Aches and Pains – Cannabis Delivered to your Door.” These pot billboards are visible for all to see. Medical and recreational cannabis have now been approved in a total of 34 sates. I support decriminalization of pot and, for the most part, legalization. But, I am concerned about stoned drivers on the road and the overly permissive message we are sending to our kids.

The recent Farm Bill provision legalizing hemp and establishing programs for its growth and sale could make matters worse. Marijuana and hemp are from the same plant. Hemp may have a maximum of .3% THC, the substance that gets you high, to qualify under the Farm Bill. While the definition of hemp significantly limits the amount of cannabinoids and THC which are permitted, it will be very difficult to fully regulate this provision.

Questions remain as to the legality of cannabis as an ingredient in food or dietary supplements. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a statement reiterating that cannabis and cannabis-derived substances are not permitted ingredients in food or dietary supplements. The FDA is currently taking comments on this issue and will hold a public hearing at the end of the month. Cannabis has not been shown to be safe when eaten like regular foods and supplements.

Cannabis-related products should not be permitted to make health or medical claims. Cannabis-infused foods or supplements are not drugs, have not been approved by the FDA as drugs, and should not be permitted on the marketplace with these types of medical claims. It would truly be a tragedy if parents or children substituted these improperly promoted foods and supplements for critically necessary drugs.

The cannabis industry, like the distilled spirits industry, should at a minimum voluntarily agree to no health or medical claims for these products and should consider limiting the advertising and promotional vehicles to those which reach an audience primarily over 21.

We need a common sense approach to the production, sale, and use of products containing cannabis. Federal, state, and local authorities should carefully monitor all labeling, advertising, and promotions to make sure there are no health or medical claims for these products.

Until next week, I am Rick Frank reporting from Southern California.

John Block Reports from Washington

Global Economy

May 9, 2019

May 9, 2019

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

Is this a global economy or what? We have been in a trade war with China for nearly 2 years. Farm and ranch exports have suffered a dramatic set back. Soybean prices are in the tank and corn is not looking much better right now. Our domestic market can’t save us. We need the world market.

Out of the blue comes African Swine Fever. The disease is fatal to hogs but not harmful to humans. In just a short 6 months China has lost 200 million hogs. Noel White, CEO of Tyson Foods, reports that we can expect a 5% reduction in availability of meat world wide because of ASF.

In order to meet their consumer demand for meat China will have to increase their imports of not just pork, but chicken and beef. Farmers and ranchers in the U.S. with increased meat production suffered with low meat prices last year. This has all changed almost overnight. Domestic supplies of meat in the U.S. will come up short, and prices will rise. I am already seeing this as prices of the hogs we sell have gone up. Amazingly on the other side of the world African Swine Fever strikes and my prices go up. We need a big drought somewhere in the world to give our grains a lift. There is no escaping the reality that we live in a global economy.

Another thing to consider. Even if we get a resolution of the trade disputes with China, with less hogs they won’t need as much corn or soybeans. Dead pigs just don’t eat very much.

Trade talks are expected this week with China. Optimism for a resolution is not what it was. President Trump says China has reneged on their trade commitments and he threatens to add more tariffs. Keep your fingers crossed.

We have trade negotiations with the European Union this week. Where that will go we don’t know because they say, “we are not going to talk about agriculture.”

The U.S. agriculture industry is amazingly productive and efficient. Our production exceeds domestic demand by 25%. We don’t have enough mouths to feed. We need the global market.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Spring 2019

May 1, 2019

May 1, 2019

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

Last Sunday former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar died. He served 36 years in the U.S. Senate – what an outstanding leader and great guy. In 1985 we had to write and pass a new farm bill. As Secretary of Agriculture I wanted to create the Conservation Reserve Program. I worked with Senator Lugar to get that done. That spring 1985 I flew to Indianapolis and on the 600-acre Lugar farm with the Senator at my side, I announced the Conservation Reserve Program.

Another experience with Senator Lugar – there’s a picture hanging in my office. I am looking at it now. There we are side by side. This time not on a farm, but in our running clothes with 100 other runners. We had just completed the Gov’t 3 mile run south of USDA. He will be missed.

Now I want to say something about the agricultural chief scientists from 20 countries that met in Japan last week. Their focus was on advancing global food production, science and technology. Population in the world is growing, people are living longer. We are going to need to produce more food. They remind us of the risk that we face with a world population traveling from country to country. Who knows what disease or plant problem may end up in my field.

We worry now about African Swine Fever finding its way to our farms. China has lost 20 percent of their hogs. We don’t have foot and mouth disease, but some other countries do.

On the positive side, in recent years suddenly we have gene editing and genetic engineering technologies that are revolutionizing the food production industry. We can’t imagine what is coming next. It is a good thing that the world’s leading agriculture scientists are looking to the future. With farm income half what it was 4 years ago, river floods and storms – times are tough. We need some good news.

President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe played a round of golf last Saturday. We hope that will lead to a quick Ag- only trade pact with Japan. President Trump travels to Japan later this month. Keep your fingers crossed.

I will close with a quick update on the U.S. Mexico Canada Trade agreement. Passing it is not going to be easy. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley says if President Trump does not lift steel and aluminum, tariffs on Canada and Mexico, “USMCA is dead.” There are some difficult hurdles, but I still think we can get it done.

John Block Reports from Washington

Down on the Farm April 2019

April 26, 2019

April 26, 2019

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

Earlier this week, I was on the farm in Illinois, and I want to talk to you about that.

I had a chance to meet and talk to neighbors and friends, and I always ask them about their concerns.

They want the politicians in Washington to get to work dealing with some of the nation’s problems. They have heard so much about collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice, and they are sick of it. Special Counsel Robert Muller’s report of 448 pages after two years found no collusion with Russia by our President or any other American citizen. It is over, and they didn’t even mention obstruction of justice. Concerns out here in the heartland focus on low prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, even dairy. Farmers want an end to the trade disputes. We are not happy about new restrictions on Cuba. Trade will suffer. Also, on Easter Sunday, they were praying for some good weather. Because of the late spring, planting has been delayed. I will remind everyone that if we do get a break in the weather, our industry is good at what we do. We will put that corn in the ground.

On another subject – the crisis on our Southern border is not going away. Now, we have civilian militia groups patrolling the U.S.-Mexican border. There are so many illegals crashing the border that ICE and the military can’t stop the flow. Not that we don’t need legal immigration. Here in rural America, the support for border security is close to unanimous.

And the last priority out here in the nation’s heartland is infrastructure – roads, bridges, rivers, locks and dams, etc. This is a national need that Republicans and Democrats should be able to work on together.

Here on the Block farm, we are ready to start the planting, weather permitting. Our hogs are healthy and happy. Since the African Swine Fever cut Chinese hog production, our pork prices have jumped up. Even with the low grain prices, farmland prices are holding steady. The farming business is full of uncertainty. There is so much that we can’t control. But I love it.

I am John Block, just back from the farm. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

What’s Ahead

April 18, 2019

April 18, 2019

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

This weekend I will be on my farm in Illinois.  When I booked my flight, I thought we might be planting corn.  Not likely – too much rain.

At this moment I am looking at the latest U.S. Dept of Agriculture projections for crop carry over after harvesting this fall.  Ending stocks of corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton are all projected to be at record or near record levels.  It is shocking to look at these charts – especially soybean carry over – almost 900 million bushels.

Farms today are looking at low prices.  Unless weather problems cut production, the global harvest prices will not respond.  Perhaps the only hope rests on trade to elevate demand.  We need buyers for surplus farm commodities.

I think President Trump’s tariffs and trade disputes can deliver positive results, but we are paying a short-term price.

It is encouraging that there are positive vibes coming from our trade negations with China.  We have an election coming up in 2020 and you can be assured President Trump needs a deal he can tweet about.  Keep in mind that China’s economy is suffering.  The tariffs have taken a toll.  In the first quarter of 2019, China’s imports increased 1.4% and exports dropped 4.8%.  With African Swine Fever Chinese pork imports will explode.  This year projections are for a 41% surge.

Now that I mention ASF I compliment the National Pork Producers Council for cancelling the annual trade show this June.  Too much risk of bringing swine fever to our shores.  The right decision.  

Trade talks have been going on this week with Japan our fourth largest foreign market – Japan bought $13 billion worth of Ag products last year.  Our U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has been leading those negotiations.  We have been losing some of the Japanese market because with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in business now, without us those members have an advantage.  I expect the negotiations with Japan to advance quickly and we can reclaim our priority position with Japan.

Here is another high priority for US Agriculture and North America – We need to ratify the US-Mexico-Canada agreement and lift our tariffs on Canada and Mexico.

Farm country wants and needs to get something done.  Put the heat on our government representatives.  Can’t wait to get to the farm…

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Creativity

April 11, 2019

April 11, 2019

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

From farm to fork the food industry is doing more than its share to hold inflation down.  The US Department of Agriculture projects only a 1 percent increase in the cost to feed your family this year.  The past 20 years the average annual increase has been 2 percent.  Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue had this to say, “I intend to help USDA live up to our motto to do right and feed everyone.”

We are creative.  The food and Ag industry are changing all the time.  When I grew up we had to cultivate our corn twice.  Maybe hire high school kids to hoe the weeds.  Not today – we just spray a weed killer.  Weeds are gone.  Less trips over the field.  Less labor and double the yield.  The world will continue to produce an abundance of food with precision farming, genetically modified crops and new technology that we can’t imagine today.

I read that nitrogen fixing corn may be on the horizon.  That could really cut the cost of raising corn.  We are growing meat in the lab now.  We should not call it meat.

 Also, Burger King and some other fast food restaurants are selling the impossible burger.  You can order a Big Mac beef burger.  Or a plant based Schamberger.  No beef.

Reports say it tastes just like the real deal – Big Mac.  Combine the miracle of heme, a chemical found in animal blood with soy protein and we have a meatless burger.  Somehow the heme makes it taste like beef.  Farmers and especially cattle ranchers are not happy with Schamberger.  How many customers will buy the Impossible Berger instead of the beef burger?  The Impossible Berger cost more.

We have a growing number of people that say they want “natural” food.  They don’t want processed food.  Well, that new Schamberger doesn’t seem natural to me.  There is no limit to the creativity of a free economy.

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C.  If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Swine Fever & USMCA

April 4, 2019

April 4, 2019

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

What should we focus on today?  Let’s start with African Swine Fever.  ASF is the deadliest disease threatening the pork industry.  It is estimated that China has lost as much as 30% of their swine.  We don’t have any vaccine to protect our pigs.  Fortunately, the virus does not infect humans.  With the liquidation of so many animals in China, pork prices have skyrocketed.  Our pork exports to China are off the chart.  ASF is spreading to other countries including eastern Europe.  We need to do everything we can to keep it out of the U.S.  If we get African Swine Fever, other countries will shut down all our pork exports.

Now that we are talking about trade let me suggest that of all the legislation that needs to be passed, perhaps the most important is USMCA.

USMCA is the new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada – an improved and updated NAFTA.  It should be easy to get it passed but it won’t be.  Some Democrats want changes in the deal.  It’s also a fact that they don’t want Trump to win anything.  President Trump isn’t helping the effort since he wants to keep steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada.  Senator Grassley said, “we’ve got to get rid of the tariffs or nothing is going to happen.”  He is right.

Last subject – GMO’s and Gene Editing.  Science is making it possible to do things that former generations never imagined.  Most of the corn, soybeans and some other crops that we grow are not what they used to be.  With genetic engineering, they resist root worms and other critters that can damage the plants.  The plants are not affected by our weed killers either.  We get a big bump in yield with less labor and energy.

We have a gene editing technique called CRISPR which has given us cows born without horns.  GMO technology makes it possible to move a gene from one organism to another.  When scientists do gene editing they can just alter one particular gene in an animal.  They are not bringing in outside genes.  All this science has opened the door to the most shocking announcement. But not surprising, a Chinese scientist moved ahead with gene-editing of humans.  What’s next – designer babies?

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

John Block Reports from Washington

No Collusion

March 28, 2019

March 28, 2019

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

Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary –

After 2 long years of distraction and political attacks, Special Counsel Muller released his report.  “The Trump campaign did not conspire or coordinate with the Russian government.”  “The Witch Hunt” is over and done with.  The cloud is lifted.  Attorney General William Barr ruled- “No evidence to support obstruction of justice.”  It is time for our elected government officials to focus on the real issues facing our country.  I don’t suggest we should not hold Russia accountable, but we do have other things to do.  We have a crisis of 1 million illegals crashing our southern border.  Each day border patrol officers are releasing into our country 1,000 immigrant family members. (each day – 1,000.)  Some members of Congress are saying it’s nothing – Don’t worry about it.  They are wrong.  Laws are being broken and our border security is failing.  Our elected officials – both parties should negotiate a legislative solution.  We need legal workers to butcher the hogs and pick the strawberries.  Citizens of this country should demand action.

We have other work to do.  How about fixing our roads and bridges and especially locks and dams?  If we are going to be a world leader, we need an infrastructure that will deliver the goods.  Think about it this way.  To get this done will be costly.  But for those of us that use roads, bridges and waterways, we should pay a “users fee.”  How about raising the gas tax?  It has not been increased for more than 35 years.  Be creative.

I was on a conference call yesterday with AG leaders across the country.  It was the Trump AG team.  The governor of Nebraska updated us on the damage the storms have inflicted.  In Nebraska and surrounding states more than 5 million baby calves were drowned.  Millions of acres under water.  Our waterways are so old.  They need a lot of work.

Another very important piece of work for our Congress – get to work and pass our new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada (USMCA).  It’s good for agriculture and good for our country.

Finally, thank you to the Trump Administration for their decision to delist the gray wolf as an endangered species.  We have more than 5,000 gray wolves in the U.S. and Canada has 50,000. And the Canadian wolves don’t even have to get a passport to cross the border.  Maybe we can prevent them from killing our baby calves and sheep.  That does it for this week.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues of the Day

March 21, 2019

March 21, 2019

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

Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary –

Let’s begin with hemp.  When I was a little boy, hemp was growing wild on the roadsides and ditches.  It was harvested to make rope during World War II.  It is a close relative of marijuana, but it is not the same.  Our government still outlawed the growing of hemp along with marijuana.  But now pot is getting a green light in most states and that has opened the door for hemp.

With surpluses and low prices for most farm crops, there is a wild rush to grow hemp to make money.  The number one state now is Kentucky.  Kentucky hemp sales skyrocketed last year by 3½ times the year before.  Prices doubled.  For this year the state of Kentucky has approved 50,000 acres for hemp production.  Farmers are still waiting to find out how USDA and FDA will regulate cannabis-based products.  At last – hemp has a future.

Farms in the Midwest have had to deal with a tough winter.  Recent floods have brought serious damage.  No question planting season will be delayed.  We just don’t know how long.  We keep hoping the weather uncertainty should lift grain prices.  A positive development – look to China.  With China’s African Swine Fever epidemic, their hog numbers have crashed by 16%.  Keep in mind pork is China’s number one meat.  China bought 52 million pounds of U.S. pork last week.  Hope we can get a trade deal.  Then – our grain exports will explode.

This week President Trump has been talking trade with Brazil.  Those talks may offer some hope for agriculture.  But be aware Brazil wants tariff free access to our sugar market.

Turn to Europe – President Trump says he wants the EU to get serious about our trade negotiations.  They refuse to even talk about AG trade.  That’s nothing new.  They have always looked for a non-tariff barrier, or any way to block our AG exports.  That’s not fair trade.

The EPA is moving to allow year-round use of E15 (15% ethanol fuel).  Consumers need to pressure fuel stations to make it available.  Big oil doesn’t want that competition.  Increasing the gallons of ethanol in our fuel is a big deal for corn farmers.  It is a good thing.  Costs less than petroleum and burns cleaner.

Finally, I don’t want to miss the chance to put this on the table – GE salmon (genetically engineered).  I want to buy it and eat it.  It has been approved by FDA for sale and should be in the supermarket this year.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

The President’s Budget

March 13, 2019

March 13, 2019

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

They are all friends, supporters, and allies of healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.

Thank you.

  And now for today’s commentary –

Issues of the Day.  The President’s Budget.  If everything goes according to plan, when we enter our next fiscal year, October 1, we will have a budget passed by the Congress with President Trump’s signature.  The process has started.  It is a 4.7 trillion-dollar budget.  President Trump wants an increase in defense spending and a cut in almost all non-defense discretionary programs.  The White House proposal calls for a sharp reduction of 30% for the EPA; 22% cut for Transportation and 15% cut for the Department of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Veteran Affairs and Defense all get a bump up.  And, of course, more money for border security. 

Now before we scream too loud in protest or cheer in support, keep in mind that Presidential budgets are designed to let the public know what the President’s priorities are.  When all is said and done the Congress writes the budget.  Congressional critics are already saying the President’s budget is “dead on arrival.”  From my point of view, a 5% cut across the board in our next budget would be alright with me.  I don’t support another big increase in defense spending either.  We already have, by far, the biggest military in the world, and we are pressing other countries to pay more.

With a closer look at the budget plan for USDA, there are work requirements for food stamp recipients, a reduction in government spending on crop insurance, and conservation programs, and about everything else.  The budget with a 15% cut does not match up very well with the farm bill passed last fall.

Now that we are talking about a budget let’s take a look at the nation’s debt.  The debt level has exceeded 22.2 trillion dollars and is rising.  Both political parties are quick to spend money.  That’s how you get elected.  I understand President’s Trump effort to spend less and maybe someday we could balance our budget.  This debt load will be on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren.

The Congress is supposed to complete the budget by September 30th.  We can expect a brutal political fight in the process.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Land Grab

March 6, 2019

March 6, 2019

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

Did you know that Congress passed legislation authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund to spend 9 billion dollars to buy private land?  The Department of Interior doesn’t have the money to take care of the millions of acres they own now.  This “land grab” Bill, 700 pages in length has gotten almost no attention.  The federal government already owns almost 1/3 of the land in our country.  Look at a map of our Western states.  The federal government owns almost half of the land in the West.

I thought we would favor private property.  The government should not be using our tax money to buy our land from us.  We should be using private land to feed our cows, drill for oil, mine for gold.  Our government already has way too much land. 

Much of the land the government owns now could be put to much better use.  Lease it out to private business and raise our infrastructure.  Two weeks ago, the Trump Administration opened 57,000 acres of federal land for lease by ranchers and energy companies.  The sage-grouse lovers were really angry.  Let them scream.  That grouse doesn’t own the land.  The American people do.

The Democratic House voted for the “land grab” bill - not surprised.  But the Senate did also.  Now the only chance to kill this ridiculous legislation is for a Presidential veto.  President Trump has not vetoed any bills since elected.  This is his chance.   

In the days of Newt Gingrich leadership in the House he said, “Congress shall allow no net loss of private property to the Feds.  For every acre the government plans to purchase or seize, it must sell off at least one acre in return.”  That is the rule we should insist on now.

I thank Steven Moore a fellow at the Heritage Foundation for alerting me about this land grab socialism.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C

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

John Block Reports from Washington

China and N. Korea

February 27, 2019

February 27, 2019

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

Priority government issues of the day would have to be trade negotiations with China and President Trump’s meeting with N. Korea leader Kim Jong-un.

Our Ag industry has been hurt because China stopped buying our products when President Trump imposed tariffs on a long list of Chinese exports.  He did that because China’s trade policies are not fair.  Someone needed to pressure China to clean up their act.

Serious top-level talks are in process this week.  A positive outcome will do more to help lift our farmers and ranchers than any other single thing.  After two bad years, and the 2019 projections are not good, we need a lift.  President Trump knows this.  He also knows that with the Presidential election coming up in less than two years, he needs a victory. 

President Trump has postponed any increase in new tariffs as talks continue.  I expect to see a big jump in our sales to China as a final trade deal is hammered out the sooner the better. 

Issue number 2 – President Trump is in Vietnam this week-not a vacation.  He is meeting with “little rocket man” Kim Jong-un.  We hear all this nice friendly talk, but whether N. Korea will back off from nuclear weapons is questionable.  The fact that they are meeting in Vietnam just might suggest to the N. Korean leader that his country might want to get on the road to prosperity and success that Vietnam chose after the war with U.S.

North Korea is impoverished, while Vietnam has a thriving economy with its business industry booming.  Its economy is growing at 7%.  Vietnam is still communist, but with a market economy, the country has global respect.  Compare that to N. Korea -  all they have that might get your attention is their military marching.  With all kinds of trade restriction on N. Korea and other countries thriving like S. Korea next door.  You might think Mr. Kim would be smart enough to give up his nukes and join the family of nations.  Let’s hope President Trump can convince him to do that.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Debt

February 21, 2019

February 21, 2019

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

They are all friends, supporters, and allies of healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.

Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary –

Our economy is booming.  Job growth in 2018 averaged 220,000 new jobs each month.  419,000 workers have come back to work.  The labor force participation rate is up to 63.1 percent.  Wages are up an impressive 3.2 percent.  Unemployment for blacks, Hispanics, and women is at historic lows.

Manufacturing added 32,000 new jobs in December and the elite said, “no hope for manufacturing.”  Finally, high school graduates without college are being recruited by corporations to come to work.  It is about time.  Big companies complaining about not having enough qualified workers have come to understand – if you need help recruit and train.  I love it.  A lot of people that were having a hard time are now in demand.

We should be delighted that our economy is firing on all cylinders.  So – what is there for us to worry about?  The answer is our national debt.  Our debt as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 77.7 percent.  Japan is at 155 percent and Italy 118 percent.  China’s could be higher than ours.  The reckless fiscal policies of Greece all but bankrupted that country. The European Union bailed them out.

Our national debt is 22 trillion dollars and will be rising by at least another trillion each year as we look ahead.  Here is what Robert Samuelson, a respected economist that writes for the Washington Post had to say: “It is conventional wisdom in Washington that Republican addiction to tax cuts are mainly responsible for the huge budget deficit. That is, at best, a half-truth.  Democrats are equally responsible because they refuse to come to grips with the massive spending on retirement and health care.”

In December 2012 six years ago on my radio program I quoted Samuelson.  Here is what his Washington Post column said then: “It’s the welfare state, stupid.” He is right.  We can’t afford to keep shoveling money out the door that we don’t have.  There are steps that can be taken to control spending and raise more tax money.  Won’t be easy.  Politicians won’t get elected if they take anything away.

Today all the talk in this town is Green, New Deal, Socialism. That guarantees more debt.

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Optimism

February 13, 2019

February 13, 2019

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

Optimism is in the air.  Pessimism is being crowded out.  The second government shut down that looked like a certainty is not going to happen.  President Trump will not get the amount of money he wanted for a wall, but he gets enough to get started.  It will be argued that President Trump caved on the border security fight, but there is other money in the bill to improve security with new technology.  It’s time to move on to other priorities.

At the top of that list is a deal with China to end the costly tariff war.  U.S. Leadership including U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are in Beijing negotiating this week.  President Trump has said he is prepared to delay the planned 25% increase in tariffs scheduled for March 1st if real progress is made.  There is reason to think that both U.S. and China want a deal.  Trumps AG supporters are getting desperate for more trade and the dispute is seriously hurting China’s economy with this stock market down more than 20%.  If our negotiating team in Beijing can reach a positive agreement, then President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet at a later date.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Last week the government released the carry over level of corn, soybean and wheat in storage.  Our farm corn stocks are down 4% from one year ago.  However, our farm soybean stocks are up 30% from last year.  On the plus side the grain in storage is still less than the trade expected.  I don’t predict any explosive price increase but a trade deal with China would help. 

This week I was at a luncheon where House Ag Committee Chairman Peterson spoke.  I have known him for years.  He is a great guy with common sense and good judgement.  He is optimistic about the new farm bill that we were fortunate to have passed last year.  It didn’t get tangled up in the government shutdown.  Ag Committees are usually not very partisan.  There was pressure to impose added work requirements on food stamp recipients, but that didn’t go anywhere.  Chairman Peterson was optimistic that the new farm bill will be good for agriculture and can be implemented quickly.  The Chairman has always worked with both parties.  He is a Democrat elected in a district that voted by a wide margin for Trump.

I like it when optimism rules over pessimism.

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

  Until next week, this John Block reports.

John Block Reports from Washington