This and That

September 20, 2018

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 -

Vladimir Putin of Russia wants to raise the age for his citizens to receive retirement benefits. That is what we should do to reform our Social Security retirement program. Russian citizens have been protesting. Nearly 300 people have been arrested. They marched toward Red Square and the Kremlin. Our Congress is afraid to even talk about the subject, even though it is a fact that our life expectancy is so much larger than it used to be. 

President Putin wants to raise the age to qualify for benefits for men from 60 years to 65 years. The opposition is so strong that he may be forced to back off of that plan.

Turn to China – their pork prices are spiking. They are experiencing an outbreak of African swine fever. China has 700 million pigs – half the world’s population of pigs. They want to contain the outbreak. Of course, they could just buy more pork from us. It’s more costly with our tariffs in place. African swine fever is not easily eradicated. No vaccines or effective treatments are available. Humans are not at risk, but the virus is deadly to pigs. The disease has spread to four provinces. It will not be easy to contain the epidemic. They might have to buy our pork.

I want to put the subject of immigration on the table. Our agriculture industry is having a difficult time finding the labor to do a lot of farm chores. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has legislation to overhaul the H-2A guest worker program. It is called H-2C. His bill has a lot of critics because it requires our employers to verify the workers’ legal status. I don’t think it is going anywhere now. We need a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and there just isn’t any interest in compromise.

And when we do some day decide to deal with immigration – yes, seal the border. But what about the thousands who have come here on legal visas? Homeland Security reports that 700,000 failed to depart as scheduled. Seven months later, 421,000 were still here. 

About 200,000 never leave. That is about how many sneak in over the border. It is time we stopped ignoring visa overstays.

I’m on the farm this week. Harvest time.

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

Until next week, I am John Block in down on the farm.

John Block Reports from Washington

Agriculture’s Message

September 13, 2018

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 -

I wasn’t going to go down this road, but a CNN discussion and article that I have in front of me should not be ignored. Here is their criticism – they used internal e-mails from USDA that show “big food lobbyists are working hand-in-glove with agency staffers.” Now, they do admit that no one is committing any legal violation. But they seem to have a real problem with USDA listening to former employees and food industry leaders.

The e-mails show where the National Grocers Association sent USDA some talking points for Secretary Perdue to use when he speaks to the National Grocers Association. Terrible! Secretary Perdue even used some of the talking points verbatim that were sent to him. USDA Communications Director Tim Murtaugh said, “It is a common practice among speechwriters to gather information from the organizers of events.”

I have given a lot of speeches in my day. I always want to know what issues the audience would want me to talk about. When I served as Secretary of Agriculture, it was very necessary to know where they stood. That doesn’t mean that you would endorse all of their points. If you don’t support their position, explain why. Maybe there is a chance to find middle ground. If I was scheduled to speak to the Illinois Farm Bureau, maybe I would talk to the President of the IFB before preparing my remarks.

The CNN article had this to say: “The federal government should be creating the talking points for a Cabinet head, not a trade association. Government agencies are continuing to pursue the special interest agenda. This is a profound betrayal of Trump’s drain-the-swamp promise.”

The President has been very successful in draining the EPA swamp of regulations. However, we want his Secretary of Agriculture to listen to the farmers and ranchers – listen to the food processors and exporters.

I think we should appreciate the value that lobbyists provide. Farmers and ranchers want to get their advice to the President and Secretary of Agriculture. They want to be heard. Most of them don’t have the connections or time to try to get their message out. That’s why the U.S. corn growers, pork producers, cattlemen, CropLife, and others have lobbyists to ensure that their policy position is understood.

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Uncertainty

September 5, 2018

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 -

The agriculture industry in the U.S. is dealing with a lot of uncertainty. Falling prices and trade wars top the list. We expect our exports to grow faster than our imports. However, for 3 years in a row, that has not been happening. We are losing ground. 

Looking to 2019, pork exports are expected to decline by $300 million and beef by $100 million.

A little bit of good news – poultry will be up slightly, and also wheat. Net farm income is forecast to drop $9.8 billion. Pulling everything down more than anything else – you guessed – soybean exports, which are expected to drop $800 million.

Yes – the trade war has been very disruptive for our industry. But part of the price decline problem is self-inflicted. We are expecting a record crop of corn and soybeans. Our feed lot supplies of beef have jumped up almost 8%. Hog numbers are up 3.4%. Who is going to consume all of this food if we can’t expand exports?

The U.S. and Canada are meeting this week to see if we can get a breakthrough in NAFTA trade negotiations. We did get an agreement with Mexico. Canada is another story. U.S. farm organizations are desperate to keep Canada in the NAFTA agreement. The Canadian dairy supply management program is a big obstacle.

Turn to Europe and we are seeing some positive signs. They are starting to buy a record amount of soybeans. Just this week, they say they want more beef. And now they want to have a free market between the U.S. and the EU on automobiles. I don’t think we expected that.

Turn back to China – they have been our number one foreign market for farm products. However, our farm exports to China this year will be down by as much as 20%. The tit-for-tat, back-and-forth tariffs have messed up trading relationships around the world.

Just to make it clear – we had to take a tough stand on trade. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said: “Farmers understand why President Trump has thrown the flag on China. They’ve been cheating for a number of years since they joined the WTO.”

O.K. I agree, but I hope the pain will force an early resolution.

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Labor Day 2018

September 1, 2018

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 -

It’s hard to believe, but summer is all but gone. We are looking at harvest season. Get that combine ready to go. Labor Day is next Monday. 

Speaking of Labor Day, I want to say how much respect I have for the hard-working men and women that labor in the trenches. I’m not talking about big corporation managers, not talking about political big wigs or university professors. I want to honor the carpenter, the plumber, the factory worker, the farmer growing the food, the rancher caring for the cattle, the workers in the processing plants. I don’t think they get the appreciation that they deserve.

There is some good news. With the shortage of labor today, companies are starting to raise wages – not enough but some. Many young people that were unemployed have now found jobs. Unemployment is at 3.8%. Unemployment for Blacks and Hispanics at is the lowest point ever.

Businesses big and small have started training high school graduates and some that didn’t graduate – training not just carpenters or welders but in technology, manufacturing, etc. Many companies have relaxed their standards for hiring. You may not have to have a college education.

Individuals who have a criminal record – if it is for a minor offense – may be hired. Opportunity has finally arrived for many who didn’t have a chance before. Perhaps they were too poor to go to college – that costs a fortune. Now, they can learn a trade and become a tax-paying citizen.

Have a great Labor Day!

Other issues – it looks like we have a trade deal with Mexico. Details are not all ironed out, but I have a good feeling about this. Now, Canada is coming to the table to see if NAFTA can be saved. Let’s hope they can get it done.

Senator Pat Roberts tells us that “they have made real progress” in the conference negotiations on the farm bill. However, work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients are still a sticking point. There is optimism that it can be completed and passed by the end of the fiscal year – September.

I mentioned that harvest season is here. Be careful. Don’t take any chances. Farming is a dangerous business.

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Wild Fires

August 23, 2018

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 -

Wild fires in California and other Western states have burned more than 1,000 square miles of timberland and grassland. 14 people have died and thousands of homes have been turned to ashes. 14,000 firefighters are risking their lives. Drought and strong winds could continue until the end of the year. Last year, the State of California spent $773 million on fire control. Federal agencies spent $2.9 billion last year.

Isn’t there something that could be done to reduce the destruction? On one side, we have the environmentalists that want to blame climate changes. They can’t bring themselves to accept the obvious fact that the forests are filled with beetle-infested dry, dead wood. And that is the perfect mix if you want a big fire. We need to manage our forests by cleaning out the dead wood and cutting more live trees. There is a market for lumber.

Liberals don’t want to do anything to manage our forests. Cutting trees and clearing dead wood is not natural. Don’t mess with nature. My view is that forest land is a resource and it should be used and managed. If we did that, we wouldn’t have fires as destructive as we have today. I don’t blame it all on climate change. We have always had natural disasters – hurricanes, droughts, floods, excessive heat and cold. The Southwest and Midwest suffered through record heat and drought in the 1930s. Our farms were devastated. We had climate change then.

Controlled burning of the dead, dry ground cover could help. Environmentalists don’t want to do that because that burning is bad for the air quality. But the fires burning in the West this year are not good for the environment either. One way liberals have blocked controlled burning has been to use environmental regulations protecting endangered species.

The timber industry, environmentalists, and government officials need to get together and take some positive steps to limit the destruction. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke both support active forest management.

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Down on the Farm 2018

August 16, 2018

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 -

I am talking to you on the phone from our farm in Illinois. Our corn and soybeans are beautiful. I picked some ears. Most ears are 18 rows round – some are 16 rows. That is a good sign. Our early corn is starting to dent. I think the corn crop is made. A rain would not help the corn vey much but it sure would be good for the soybeans. The ground is dry. Soybeans could use some moisture to help fill the bean pods. Is this crop better than last year? I think so. 

The fact is – there are lots of good crops across the Midwest. The USDA is telling us that. We are cleaning out our grain bins and getting ready for the new crop. Farmers around here predict an early start at harvest. The hot weather has pushed the crop to dry. Today, we shipped a trailer load of market hogs. They will weigh at least 280 pounds each. They grow to 280 pounds in less than 6 months. I have raised pigs all my life and have never seen the herd health as perfect as ours is today. It is exciting to see the corn, soybeans, and hogs doing so well.

Our markets are another story. We can’t predict with any certainty what prices will look like through harvest and into next year. Most farmers have sold their old crop, but the new crop is of concern now. We have two things that weigh heavy on our prices – record size crop and trade war worries. One positive development is that wheat reserves are down. Russia and Ukraine had a bad crop. Keep in mind that Russia is the number one wheat exporter in the world. The European wheat crop wasn’t very good either. That should help to lift corn prices some.

The trade war talk has pushed prices down also. There is hope that we could reach a deal with Mexico – maybe Canada. That would fix NAFTA and then negotiate a deal with Europe. We need momentum toward resolution. That could give President Trump some leverage in Chinese talks. Unfortunately, I don’t expect a deal with China very soon. The reason is this – Trump is serious in pressing Chinese trade reforms and China is stubborn. I think our farm products will be in demand around the world. Somebody will want my corn, soybeans, and pork. It just might be somebody different this year. The trade dispute is shaking up trading relations. In the end, that might be a good thing, but for now – we worry. 

I went to the Illinois State Fair yesterday. Looking at all of the cattle and hogs reminded me of years ago when I showed my 4-H pigs at the fair.

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

Until next week, I am John Block -- down on the farm.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That 2018

August 9, 2018

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 -

Good news – ethanol exports are up 33% so far this year. By year’s end, we should exceed last year’s record of 1.38 billion gallons.

Turn to hogs – we have raised hogs on my farm all my life. I know that a hog barn doesn’t smell like flowers blooming. However, hog farms and other livestock and poultry farms have faced a growing number of lawsuits in recent years. Smithfield Foods just got hammered with a lawsuit verdict awarding $473.5 million to 6 North Carolina residents. They don’t like the smell of hogs. The divide between urban and rural America just gets wider. The farm community will not be as upset with a big corporation like Smithfield having to pay so much, but if it were a family farm, they would be broke. I must admit from my hog farmer point of view that when hog prices are low, their odor is not appealing, but when prices are high, they don’t smell bad at all.

Let’s turn to the Food and Drug Administration. FDA Commissioner Gottlieb reminds us that “milk” is a product of lactating animals. Almond “milk,” soy “milk,” coconut “milk,” etc. should not use the word “milk.” We will see where this goes.

Last week, I talked about lab-grown “meat.” Will they call it meat? Our Secretary of Agriculture and the FDA Commissioner are both competing to be in charge of regulating the new lab foods that will be entering the food chain. We don’t know how this will play out.

Last on my list this week but certainly not least is trade. With a big crop in the U.S., and burdensome supplies of meat, we need markets. The meat glut has hammered a 10% decline in beef and pork prices. Chicken has been hit also. Trade war concerns multiply the anxiety. Grain farmers also worry about the expanded trade war.

There is some good news. Wheat prices are the highest since 2014. With droughts in other parts of the world, global feed grain inventories are falling. Pro Farmer reports: “Record export sales since April, and new crop sales are up 62% from a year ago. Non-Chinese demand has made up for the absence of China.”

O.K. I have my fingers crossed.

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

I am John Block in Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Farm Bill

August 2, 2018

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 -

The current Farm Bill runs out at the end of September. Will we get a new one? If so, when? Thanks to the efforts of Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow, they have negotiated a bill. With the leadership of Congressman Mike Conaway, the House has completed their bill. Now comes the hard part. The two bills must be conferenced. They aren’t the same.

The biggest difference is not farm program supports. It has to do with who gets food stamps. The House bill imposes work requirements on able-bodied recipients. If not work, they must receive job training. Conaway said the goal is to help “millions of low-income Americans climb the economic ladder.”

That will be the stumbling block. I don’t think the Senate will accept very much in the way of work requirements. Senate Democrats will oppose. 

I know the Republican leadership wants to get a bill passed by the end of September before the mid-term election. I hope they do, but I’m not optimistic. Maybe by the end of the year. Farm bills are always difficult to get through Congress.

Another big concern in farm country is the challenge in finding enough workers. At current trends, the Labor Dept. is expected to issue 242,000 A-2A visas this year. That is up from last year’s 200,000. The hopeful news is the House is preparing to debate a new bill to replace the H-2A program authorizing 450,000 workers under an H-2C program good for 3 years. The cosponsors of the bill are Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway and Democrat Collin Peterson. American Farm Bureau supports the bill, but everyone is not happy. The bill requires that all employees use the E-Verify system to make sure they are legal. Also, the workers must have health insurance.

As desperate as the need is for workers, passage will not be easy. Stay tuned…

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

Until next week, I am John Block.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That July 2018

July 27, 2018

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 -

I’m going to focus on some different issues today. Trade is in the spotlight. We can only encourage the U.S. and the countries that we have challenged – Canada, Mexico, EU, and China – to sit down and negotiate a compromise. We need a better deal.

On the uproar over Russian interference in our 2016 election – I agree Russia should not have done that, but let’s be clear – it’s not anything new. Back in 1996, President Boris Yeltsin ran for re-election in the Soviet Union – U.S. and our European allies did everything we could to change the outcome. As recently as 2015, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry paid hundreds of thousands of our taxpayer dollars to try to defeat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  In December 2016 on National Public Radio, Carnegie Mellon University researcher Dov Levin said: “U.S. has meddled in the elections of other nations more than 80 times between 1946 and 2000.” As I said – not new and you haven’t seen the last of it. 

Beef, chicken, and pork producers have a new challenge that they need to worry about. The subject is cell-cultured meat. We have companies that are starting to produce a “lab developed imitation of a hamburger.” Cell-cultured meat is not on the market yet, but the emerging technology has drawn investment from major meat processors such as Tyson Foods and Cargill.

The Washington Post describes the process this way: “Cells of meat are fed oxygen and nutrients like sugar and minerals and can grow into skeletal muscle that can be harvested within a few weeks.” Then you have meatballs. However, we don’t want them to call it meat. That is misleading. It could be just another challenge to cattle, pig, and chicken farmers. I wonder if the critics of genetically engineered food products will support this. It doesn’t seem natural to me.

Big news this week for agriculture – President Trump is offering $12 billion of support to help farmers hit hard by the trade war conflict. Secretary Perdue calls it a “short-term solution to give the Administration time to work on long-term trade deals.”

That’s it until next week.

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

I am John Block in Washington, D.C.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump-Putin Summit

July 18, 2018

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 -

President Trump has dominated all the press headlines in recent days. He met with NATO leaders and criticized them for not doing their share to pay for European defense. He is right, and they are already beginning to respond with billions of dollars more. President Trump has asked the Pentagon to consider bringing home our troops in Germany. We have 35,000 troops stationed in Germany. The European Union has a GDP greater than ours. They should accept the first line of defense of Europe.

This week, the President met with Russian President Putin in Helsinki, Finland. All the news was critical: “Don’t meet with Putin. He’s a bad guy. He interfered in the 2016 election. Can’t be trusted.”

Well, President Trump went right ahead. After 4 hours of private discussion with President Putin, they had a joint 46-minute news conference. President Trump’s review of the summit shocked the news media. Our President, to the dismay of the U.S. intelligence agencies, said that he did not believe that Russia had interfered in our 2016 Presidential election.

However, after a loud blast of criticism, he has backed away from that position. Let’s be honest. Senator Rand Paul is right – disruption and hacking. “We all do it.”

Like it or not, it is clear that President Trump’s disruptive diplomacy is different. He didn’t have much political support to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the “Little Rocket Man,” but he did anyway.

Aside from all the noise about the Russian summit, I think it will prove to be valuable and worthwhile. We don’t have all the details of what was talked about or if anything was specifically decided. But the two largest nuclear powers in the world need to be talking. Maybe something can be resolved.

Will Russia help push Iranian forces out of Syria? Syrian President Assad remains in power in Syria – fine. We are not going to rebuild that country. Let Russia rebuild it. We have a strategic weapons treaty with Russia due to expire in 2021. Get it extended. Pressure Russia to back out of Eastern Ukraine. For our national security, I think it is vitally important to have a working relationship with Russia. And, I think it is good that relationship starts from the top down. That’s where decisions are made.

The farm bill should go to conference this week. Stay tuned.

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump Trumps NATO

July 11, 2018

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 -

Before I focus on this week’s subject, I just want to say a few words about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Scott Pruitt led the EPA as President Trump’s “deregulator in chief.” He aggressively worked to get rid of the regulatory burden that was weighing on our economy and small businesses. I thank him for that. 

However, he buried himself in scandal and is now gone. As a corn farmer and supporter of ethanol, he won’t be missed. While being wedded to Big Oil, he was no help to the ethanol community.

Let’s focus on President Trump’s meeting this week with our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. At a recent rally in Montana, President Trump had this to say: “I’m going to tell NATO, you have to start paying your bills.” He told German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Angela, you owe me one trillion dollars.”

Here is what that is all about. For 14 years, Germany, along with most of the other European countries covered and protected by NATO, have failed to pay what they had promised as their share – 2% of their GDP to finance NATO defenses. Germany is a rich country, but is paying only 1.24% of their GDP. The U.S. is paying 3.57% of our GDP. In 2014, only 3 NATO countries reached the 2% target – U.S., United Kingdom, and Greece. President Trump is right.

It’s time the others step up to the plate. They have started. This year, the nations paying 2% of their GDP is expected to rise to 8. Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg wrote this in the Wall Street Journal: “President Trump has been outspoken on this issue, and I thank him for his leadership. The upswing in NATO defense spending demonstrates that his efforts are making a difference. The NATO alliance of 29 countries represents half the world’s economic and military might.”

Here is what I have to say: The U.S. has the most powerful military in the world, but we should not be expected to do everything.

Finally, trade will also be on the agenda in London. Maybe we can make some progress there. We hope.

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

to www.johnblockreports.com.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Back From China

July 7, 2018

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 -

Here are some of my observations after two weeks in China, leading a delegation of 30 farm broadcasters and farm leaders. It is not the China that I visited 40 years ago. That was 1978 and as the Illinois state Director of Agriculture, I led a team of Illinois farm leaders to China. Our objective was to build a trade relationship with that country.

In that day, the Chinese streets were full of bicycles; not very many cars. Today, their cities are busy – filled with cars and trucks. Traffic is everywhere. And the cars are new. Not old like in Cuba. Their farms are not what they were. They are bigger with modern machinery. We toured a big fish farm, a huge chicken and egg laying business – millions of eggs! China owns Syngenta – the largest supplier of seed, chemicals, and fertilizer in the world. They are spending millions on GMOs and new crop technology.

Perhaps the most impressive contrast to 40 years ago is in the cities. They are huge. People from the country have come to town. Skyscrapers, apartment buildings, millions of people everywhere. 60% of their people now live in the cities. They are hard-working, dedicated, and prosperous. Incomes could average $30,000. Young people everywhere – they aren’t hungry and they aren’t overweight either.

Their stores are just as modern as ours. We were in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and 3 other large cities with populations ranging from 10 million to 25 million. In one city block, I saw KFC, Starbucks, CVS, McDonald’s, 7-11, and Pizza Hut. I thought I was home. With a population of 1.3 billion people, China is no third world country today.

China has concerns about escalation of our trade war, as we do. It should be no surprise the “China Daily” newspaper blames President Trump. However, in meeting with U.S. Ambassador Branstadt and other U.S. Department of Agriculture reps, they made it clear that pressure needs to be exerted to force China to honor commitments made under the World Trade Organization.

President Xi Jinping said, “China is willing to work with global trading partners to make economic globalization more inclusive and balanced.” I still hold out hope that President Trump and President Xi Jinping can find common ground.

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

Until next week, I am John Block just back from China.

John Block Reports from Washington

Keep Food Programs at the USDA

June 28, 2018

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 healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary -

The Trump Administration reportedly plans to move up to $110 billion of USDA food assistance programs to a new “welfare” agency attached to HHS. While advocates of seriously reducing the cost of our welfare and nutrition programs (such as the Heritage Foundation) might find this idea appealing, it is truly very bad for American agriculture.

Food programs have long represented a partnership between feeding the poor and supporting agriculture. Section 32 programs, for example, enable USDA to purchase food items which are in temporary surplus – for example meat and vegetables – and donate these nutritious foods to national and state food assistance programs. In 2016 USDA purchased 11 million pounds of cheese which was provided to food banks and pantries across the US. This helped tackle the highest surplus of cheese in 30 years and provide for those in need.

Since 1946, it has been bi-partisan Congressional policy…as a measure of national security to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities by assisting the states through supporting the non-profit school lunch and breakfast programs. What happens to this laudable goal if these programs are moved to HHS?

On his first day in office, Secretary Perdue wrote to USDA employees: “Do right and feed everyone so that we enhance the American public’s confidence in the important work of the Department of Agriculture.” This can’t happen if the food programs go to HHS. The largest nutrition program being considered for transfer is the SNAP or Food Stamp program. If that is moved, what will happen to school lunch, school breakfast, and WIC…alltargets for serious budget reductions?

Stripped of a large percentage of its budget, will USDA still merit being a Cabinet-level Department? What will that say about American agriculture? Will the urban-rural coalition on Capitol Hill forged by support for feeding programs and agriculture break down and jeopardize enactment of the next Farm Bill? In the last Farm Bill process we saw a letter from 530 organizations, both farm and nutrition groups, opposing the House decision to remove Food Stamps from the Farm Bill. The Senate thankfully dropped this provision. What happens to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees stripped of much of their authority?

While history suggests this idea will not proceed without serious opposition, particularly since it requires Congressional approval, it is truly a bad idea for America’s agriculture. It is always legitimate to review our budget; but reductions should not be accomplished through sleight of hand in moving these programs to HHS thereby denigrating the importance of American agriculture. As Secretary Perdue continues to say, “do right and feed everyone.”

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade and China

June 21, 2018

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 -

I am headed to China this week with 30 farm broadcasters and farm and ranch leaders. We will talk to Ambassador Terry Branstad and other U.S. representatives in our Embassy and spend time with Chinese government leaders. Given the level of trade war attacks that are in place, we will be right in the middle of a very dangerous dispute.

Keep in mind how important China is to our ag economy. They are our number two export market, spending $20 billion on our products. That is 14% of what we sell. Our sales to China have been coming down from a very high level of $26 billion in 2012. One reason for the decline – our prices have been falling.

Last Friday, President Trump announced he planned to hit China with $50 billion of tariffs on high tech goods. On Monday, he just announced another $200 billion in tariffs. China says they will retaliate with tariffs on our ag goods to become effective on July 6. China has been a huge market for our soybeans and Distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGs). A 25% tax on our soybeans will really hurt.

There is not very much time left before all of these tariffs will be imposed. The worry in the country is “off the charts.” As the trade dispute noise has grown louder, the grain markets have tanked. Meat markets have paid a price also. U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Steve Censky said to AgriPulse: “We’re hoping that China will come to the table and engage.”

Well, our ag team will be in China at this very dangerous and historic time. Stay tuned. With all the China storm, we don’t need another trade war, but we have one. Our dispute with Canada and Mexico over the North American Free Trade Agreement is far from settled.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said: “I think U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer believes that we could get a bilateral deal done more quickly with Mexico, and then with Canada, and possibly come back together with all three nations, and hopefully we can get that done sooner rather than later.”

That sounds like wishful thinking to me. Canada’s dairy supply management program is a huge distortion to our own dairy industry.

Maybe our farm team can fix everything while in China – then we can go to Canada. You know, I’m kidding.

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

Next week, Rick Frank will deliver the commentary. I am John Block headed for China.

John Block Reports from Washington

China

June 14, 2018

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 -

Next week, I am going to China. Last November, I was asked by the National Association of Farm Broadcasters to lead a team of farm broadcasters and ag leaders to visit China. At that time, we all knew how important China is to our industry. We knew then that there was some risk of a trade conflict with China, our number one customer. However, we had no idea that it would escalate to the level we face today. Of course, our team can’t fix it, but we will be able to get an up-close understanding of the situation.

We fly to Shanghai next Thursday. Then, we take the bullet train to Beijing. In Beijing, we will go to the U.S. Embassy where we will meet with U.S. officials, including Ambassador Terry Branstad. The next meeting is with Chinese agricultural representatives. Of course, we will walk on the Great Wall. We will then go to three other cities and visit farms. Then, off to Hong Kong for two days, and back to the U.S. on July 4. 

With all of the concern about trade wars and our relations with China, I think our farm broadcasters will have a lot to talk about. It should be an exciting adventure, and I am honored that Tom Brand, President of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, asked me to take the lead.

Now that I have given you a heads up about our China trip, next door we have North Korea. President Trump did have what appears to have been a very successful summit meeting with Kim Jong-un. The President’s critics warned that our President was not prepared for such an important meeting. You can’t trust Kim Jong-un. His father and grandfather both did not live up to their agreements. They went back to work on nuclear weapons. 

I think we have learned that any new agreement will have to be verified. President Trump is not going to let them cheat on a deal. Kim is a new leader and this is a new day. “Complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” would be historic. 

Kim Jong-un has seen prosperous developed countries. But his country is a “basket case” with hunger and starvation. I think he wants a positive future for his people and nuclear weapons will not get him there. This whole process could blow up tomorrow, but I don’t think it will.

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues

June 7, 2018

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 -

It could be announced any time, but we still don’t know. Will the EPA provide a waiver to allow the sale of E15 ethanol blended fuel during the summer? Right now, the sale of E15 is restricted June 1 through September 15. National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Skunes had this to say: “E15 is more affordable at the pump and better for the environment. There is no good reason to limit access to E15 in the summer.”

I say, let’s get it done.

Next week on June 12, President Trump is scheduled to meet in Singapore with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. No sitting U.S. President has ever agreed to meet directly with the North Korean leader. Can we get an agreement to denuclearize North Korea? Some politicians worry President Trump will not be tough enough. We need to be talking instead of getting ready for war.

Keep in mind that President Trump backed out of the agreement with Iran because it wasn’t good enough. It’s hard for me to imagine he would agree to a bad deal with North Korea.

Something else to remember – Kim Jong-un wants to see North Korea prosper. That’s not going to happen with the global restrictions they face today.

Look back – President Nixon went to China. President Reagan negotiated a deal with Gorbachev. Those surprise actions have proven historic, but they weren’t very popular at the time. We know that a one or two-day summit is not going to fix everything. But it is a start. And you can bet that South Korea will be cheering for a deal. I think China would also want a resolution. China was not happy when President Trump was rattling the saber at North Korea.

My last issue is the one that worries the ag industry the most – trade war. The back and forth tariffs between the U.S., China, Europe, Canada, and Mexico are driving our ag commodity prices down. We desperately need expanded trade to lift farm income. The Wall Street Journal reports: “China has offered to purchase nearly $70 billion of U.S. farm manufacturing and energy products if the Trump Administration abandons threatened tariffs.” That sounds good to me. Let’s cut a deal.

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That

May 31, 2018

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 -

I have some different issues to talk to you about today. President Trump and Conservative Members of Congress have been trying to cut back on wasteful spending. The President wants a more efficient government by reforming civil service rules – a “merit system” doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Our federal government has 2 million public sector employees. Because of federal rules, they are 44 times less likely to be fired than private sector workers. It’s almost impossible to get rid of a bad apple. I loved my work force at USDA when I was Secretary, but any business must be able to weed out the small number that are not performing.

Also, the President wants to employ a tool that has not been used in 20 years. He wants the Congress to rescind $15.4 billion of needless federal spending which the Congress had already approved. The above proposal will save some money and make our government more efficient. With a $21 billion deficit, there is much more to be done.

Did you take note that the NFL told their players that when the national anthem is played, “stand and respect the flag or go back in the locker room.” Those are the rules for the 2018 football season. I hear the critical voices. “That is denying freedom of expression, freedom of speech.” Well, don’t forget that those players work for the NFL. When they are working, they need to follow the rules.

I was in the 101st Airborne Division Infantry. I went to West Point Military Academy. The Army would have kicked me out in a minute if I ever did anything that disrespectful. Anyone that does something that hurts the company they work for will be disciplined, or perhaps fired. Certainly, Colin Kaepernick has every right to support a social cause on his own time. But because he refused to respect his country’s national anthem by kneeling when he should have been standing he is out of a job. I don’t care who you work for; you need to follow company rules.

And now, something that maybe you didn’t know. The world is consuming more food, especially meat, every year. Per capita consumption of meat in the U.S. jumped from 193.7 lbs. in 1981 to 214.5 lbs. in 2016. Pork sales have exploded. We sell to 100 nations. Those exports support 110,000 jobs. U.S. farmers and ranchers are the best in the world at producing food.

And, if the world population continues to prosper, our market is only going to grow.

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues and Headlines

May 24, 2018

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 -

Topping the chart on America’s farms and ranches has been worries about a trade war. The United States and China threatened tariffs and trade restrictions. We announced $150 billion of levies on Chinese goods coming in to the U.S. China planned $50 billion of taxes on U.S. farm products. China had closed the door on our exports of sorghum also.

But, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his Trump Team sat down with the Chinese Team and came away with good news, announcing that we have decided to “put the trade war on hold.” Here is what the New York Times had to say: “China pledged to increase purchases of American goods by $200 billion by 2020.” President Trump’s critics, however, argue that a $200 billion increase is not possible.

Okay – but maybe we could increase exports to China by $100 billion. A good chunk of that could be agriculture and energy products. We’ll take that. Now, I realize that at this point we only have a verbal agreement. However, I am hopeful. China and the U.S. need to work together. We both have North Korea to be concerned about, and a war on the Korean Peninsula would be a far bigger problem for China than the U.S.

In addition, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping appear to be pretty good friends. If China will begin to reform their trade practices, the whole world will stand up and cheer. We realize success is not guaranteed, but there is a sigh of relief in farm country for now.

Another concern popped up that we had not anticipated. The House farm bill was put up for a vote and it failed. Thirty Republicans and all the Democrats voted against it. Some of the opponents were using the bill as leverage to get a vote on entirely separate legislation – legislation to reform immigration policy. With all of this craziness going on, let me just say that

I think we will get a farm bill. Farm bills are always hard to get across the finish line. The House and Senate will have to pass separate bills and reconcile the two. The current farm legislation is still in place and we will be fine if we can pass a bill or an extension by the end of the year.

Stay tuned.

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade and the Farm Bill

May 17, 2018

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 -

I was on the farm in Illinois last week. I went into the coffee shop, talked to neighbors, and all the questions were about a trade war and the farm bill legislation. Almost everyone in the county is a Trump supporter. They understand that the U.S. runs a massive trade deficit. It needs to be fixed. But that isn’t agriculture’s fault. Agriculture has a positive trade balance.

Turn to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). High-level negotiations last week were not able to come to a general agreement. Perhaps the most difficult program that the U.S. wants to fix is the Canadian dairy program. It is not free market. It is government managed, and it costs us. Unless a breakthrough happens quickly, with elections coming up in Mexico and Canada, don’t expect a fix this year.

Early this week, there was optimism about our Chinese trade dispute. But many questions remain. China has already cut back on buying our soybeans, corn, pork, and other products. Nevertheless, the U.S. has exported more pork and beef this year than ever before, most to other countries – not China. Keep in mind that there is a finite amount of food products produced in the world, and when China buys soybeans from Brazil instead of us, we will sell to Brazil’s customers.

In 1978, President Carter embargoed our grain shipments to the Soviet Union. That year, the Soviet Union imported a record volume of grain. They just didn’t buy it from us. There is always someone willing to sell and someone willing to buy.

I am still optimistic that we can settle our trade disputes on a positive note. Look at the farm bill. Passing the new bill is going to be a heavy lift. Would you have thought that the sugar program could be a deal breaker? Well, the sugar program is an old school, supply control, price support program. Over the last 30 years, we got rid of almost all of those kinds of support programs. Remember, we had land set asides and price supports on all of our grains. No more, and it may be time for sugar to compete in a free market. My guess is sugar will make it through one more farm bill. Why? I don’t know.

Crop insurance will be a target for cuts, but should survive with very little pain.

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

Until next week, I am John Block down on the farm.

John Block Reports from Washington

Down on the Farm 2018

May 10, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

I was wondering if spring would ever come. We had snow on the farm just 3 weeks ago. Suddenly, things changed. The sun came out, and it began to dry and warm the soil. I’m on the farm this week, and almost overnight we have all of our corn planted and most of our soybeans. Much of the corn is up. I can row it. It is off to a beautiful start.

A lot has changed since I was a boy and my father planted corn with a 2-row corn planter pulled by 2 old horses. Farms are bigger and more efficient. Our planter today stretches for 32 rows. Food is cheap in the U.S. because we are so good at producing it. A family will spend less than 10% of their income for food. In many African countries, they spend more than 50% of their income just to eat.

Another big change is what we plant on our farm. You don’t have to look back many years when our fields were seeded with corn – just corn, maybe some oats. Not today. Corn and soybean acres are almost equal. For the nation, soybean acres may slightly exceed corn.

Anyway, it is exciting to be on the farm as the new crop emerges. But now, let’s turn to the farm bill. We call it a “farm bill,” but more than 60% of the money is spent on nutrition programs, including food stamps, etc. House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway would like to get the House bill passed next week. The cost of the farm bill will be $867 billion over 10 years. The fight will be over how the money is spent.

Republicans want to impose work requirements or training obligations on able-bodied recipients of food stamps. Democrats are against that. Also, a number of Conservative Republicans want to cut farm “safety net” supports, including crop insurance.

Finding an acceptable balance between the farm and food supporters has never been easy. We write a new bill every 5 years, and we deal with the same conflict every time. However, there has been value in having farm and food in the same bill. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

When it’s all said and done, I don’t expect this bill to be dramatically different than the one we have now. If the Congress can’t pass a new bill this year, they will probably extend the old bill for 1 more year. In the meantime, let’s watch this crop grow.

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

Until next week, I am John Block down on the farm.

John Block Reports from Washington

Farmer’s Worry

May 3, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

Farmers, ranchers, and the whole ag industry have a lot to worry about. Start with farm income – our income has been cut in half over the last 3 or 4 years. There are some hopeful developments. The drought in Argentina and a production shortfall in Brazil may help to lift some of our prices. Brazil’s corn production dropped from 94.5 million tons to 89 million tons. Argentine corn and soybean production took an even bigger hit. I see in Agri-Pulse Daybreak that Brazilian livestock producers want their government to lift tariffs on U.S. corn imports. Amazing! Do they really need our corn?

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – negotiations with Mexico and Canada will resume on May 7. There is optimism that they will end soon on a positive note. President Trump sent his top team to China to work through our trade conflict with that country. My fingers are crossed! Weather and trade have the power to make or break our industry. The National Corn Growers Association Chairman Wesley Spurlock got it right, “We need these trade negotiations to get done and ring certainty and stability back in to the markets.”

Another serious concern is the availability of farm workers. President Trump said, “We are going to let your guest workers come in.” I understand the effort to streamline and expand the H-2A Visa Program, but that may be easier said than done.

A surprising bit of information from Riverside County, California: “Farm workers with guest visas have increased tenfold in 2 years.” Increasingly, the people picking the fruits and vegetables are young, foreign-born and in the U.S. legally, on a temporary guest visa. That’s good.

More uncertainty – our farm bill runs out this year. Will we get a new one? What will it look like? The House Ag Committee has written a farm bill and Senator Mitch McConnell says he intends to bring a bill to the Senate floor. Let’s remember the House and Senate both need to get their bills passed by the full House and Senate. Then, the differences in the bills need to be ironed out and passed by both Houses. The President’s signature will make it law. It’s not going to be easy.

In spite of our concerns, we will not give up. I am John Block and I’ll be on the farm next week.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

North Korea

April 25, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

A few months ago, did we ever think that direct talks between President Trump and Kim Jong Un to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula could ever happen? Of course, it hasn’t happened yet, but the process is moving that way.

After all the sabre rattling and confrontational back and forth, they are looking at late May or early June to meet. Keep in mind that North Korea has signed denuclearization agreements before and always broke the deal.

Up until now, our Presidents have refused to meet with the North Korean leader. An important step in the process that no one expected was a secret meeting between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the North Korean leader in Pyongyang last month. Following that meeting, North Korea is saying it will indefinitely halt nuclear and missile tests and close its major nuclear test site.

The next step is that South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. They will have a lot of issues to discuss since they have been threatening each other for 40 years. President Moon Jae-in’s priority will be complete denuclearization.

If we keep moving forward, a month or two from now President Trump and Kim Jong Un will sit down across from each other to make a deal. If North Korea is unwilling to get rid of their nuclear weapons and put an end to their long range missile threats, President Trump will walk out. And then, what next? We don’t know.

North Korea has wanted a meeting with the President of the United States for many years. It looks like they are going to get it. They crave respect. I think North Korea has every reason to strike a deal. Our military threat and trade restrictions are choking their economy. Maybe they would like to become a respected member of the family of nations. Other Communist countries have changed their ways and are accepted. And beyond that, they are prospering. Look at China and Viet Nam. Look at the success of South Korea, while North Korea is a “basket case.”

Credit Donald Trump for his courageous outreach and our allies as we keep the pressure on.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Uncertain Times

April 19, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

Farmers and ranchers across the U.S. are under a lot of stress as we enter planting season. Farm income has been cut in half and uncertainty fills the air as we move into the 2018 year.

Trade war - we are already being hurt, but here are some encouraging developments since President Trump imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel. Chinese President Xi’s response was strong and aggressive. But now he says he is committed to strengthening protection of intellectual property and he could mount a drive to increase our imports to China. That should reduce China’s trade surplus with the U.S. Trump responded to President Xi, “Very thankful to President XI for his kind words on tariffs, and automobile barriers, also his enlightenment on intellectual property. We will make great progress together.”

Anyway there is hope. Wait and see.

Ethanol – EPA has been giving refineries “hardship” exemptions from renewable-fuel requirements – which decrease the use of ethanol. Farm state leaders and Midwest members of Congress are up in arms.

The Ag industry does have powerful influence. President Trump is siding with his farmer supporters. The gasoline you put in your car is 10% ethanol today. President Trump says he will increase that percentage to 15%. That could create big demand for corn. Ethanol is already very popular because it is higher octane and less expensive than gasoline. Although EPA in 2011 approved E15 for 2001 and newer cars, it is sold in less than 1% of gas stations. Not surprising the oil industry doesn’t want to expand the market for corn fuel. However, I am confident it is going to happen.

Bob Dinneen, President of the Renewable Fuels Assn. said, “this will have a meaningful and positive impact on an important value-added market that corn growers have developed.” Does President Trump have the authority to just raise the requirement from 10% to 15%? We’re not sure. It is possible that more could require Congressional action. Hope we can get it done.

Will we be able to conclude our (NAFTA) negotiations with Mexico and Canada? We are getting positive feedback that is encouraging. Right now there are more questions than answers for our farmers and ranchers.

Stay tuned –

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Debt

April 12, 2018

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Here is what I read in the Wall Street Journal – “Deficit financing has become the mother’s milk of politics. Each party is giving the other its wish list with all the bells and whistles included and asking future generations to pick up the tab.”

The Congressional Budget Office projects the budget deficit will grow another $804 billion this year. Our debt today is already more than $20 trillion. As we look to the future, we can expect our debt to grow by an additional $1 trillion dollars each year. That is not a responsible way to govern.

Now, I think our tax cuts and growing economy can trim those projected deficits back. I hope. Remember when President Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill, he was very angry and he threatened to Veto the bill. He said he would never sign a bill like that again. The Republican leadership, along with President Trump, is looking for a way to rescind some of the spending in the omnibus budget bill. There is a way. It hasn’t been used in 25 years. Decide on the cuts that can be passed with a simple majority vote in both the House and Senate. President Trump can then forward the rescission package to the Congress. 

Then, it is up to the Congress to pass it, and it is a done deal. That sounds so simple, but is it possible to get a majority to agree on what to cut and how much? I can’t imagine they would dare touch the so-called entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, which make up 70% of the spending. So – let’s put the rest of the spending on the chopping block. I would like for them to do that, but I’m not optimistic.

We all have to admit that giving something to the voters is how to buy their vote. Taking away from voters loses votes. If you want to get reelected, pass out the candy. Don’t take it away.

Remember, we have an election this November. Will members that are up for reelection be willing to deny benefits to their electorate? Tough choice. To be even-handed – would Republicans be willing to cut back any of the near-record increase in defense spending? Not likely.

The other way to deal with the debt would be to raise taxes. That’s not going to happen in this election year.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Clean Meat

April 4, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

All the time, we hear the loud voices of consumer groups that insist the public must be informed about the food we eat. “Label it organic.” “If it has GMOs, the consumer must know.” “You should not label it natural if it is not natural,” whatever natural means.

Now, we have millions of dollars being invested in a new “clean meat” industry. But it’s not “meat” as we know it. It’s not a beef steak or a pork chop. Can the food be labeled “clean meat or beef” if the product is grown from cell cultures in a lab? Cultured meat products don’t come from conventional animals. Doesn’t the “clean meat” label mislead the grocery shopper?

The meat industry has competed against veggie burgers over recent years; but at least they were honest about their vegetable origin. “Clean meat” has no intention of giving up its name, according to Jessie Almy, Policy Director at the Good Food Institute.

In defense, the cattlemen, the pork producers, the whole meat industry, and two separate beef associations have met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to figure a way to protect the meat industry as we know it. 

Glynn Tonsor, a Kansas State University agricultural economist, has this to say: “There are already a lot of alternative proteins out there. But this is the first one that’s using the term “meat” in marketing and on its labels.” “Clean meat has a certain ring to it, after all. Lab-grown cultured meat product sounds like a cousin of pink slime.” Remember that? Nutritious lean meat was disparaged as “pink slime” and folks are trying to suggest livestock products aren’t “clean.” Come on!

Last month, the Cattlemen’s Association filed a petition asking the Department of Agriculture to prevent cultured and plant-based meat companies from using the terms “beef” and “meat.” Maybe the consumer groups that are always demanding truthful labeling of GMOs would join the ranchers on this issue in opposition to a misleading label. 

Don’t hold your breath!

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade

March 28, 2018

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Pick up a paper or turn on the TV – It’s all about trade.

So that’s the subject I’m going to talk about today. Will there be a trade war? Our agriculture industry that exports 20% of what we produce could get pounded pretty hard. A lot of President Trump’s critics don’t think he has a strategy to reduce our trade deficit with China. He is focusing on China now and giving relief, at least for now, to our allies. China is the target with their $375 billion trade surplus with us. They have been stealing intellectual property from us and other developed countries. China does not have a regular market economy. Their government manages everything. Tesla, a U.S. company, faces a 25% tariff when selling an electric car to China. We impose a tiny 2.5% tariff when China sells a car to us.

President Trump has alerted the world that there are a lot of unfair trade restrictions. The pressure to begin fixing the problems is intense. Now President Trump wants to impose a $60 billion border tax on China. I don’t ever remember a time when there was so much anxiety over trade. The stock market is in a state of shock.

Trade restrictions have been used many times over the years to pressure countries to change what they are doing. Remember President Jimmy Carter’s grain embargo against the Soviet Union? That was in the 1970’s. The Soviet Union was a big customer of U.S. agriculture importing a huge volume of grain. But when they invaded Afghanistan, President Carter closed the trade door to punish them for that invasion. After President Reagan was elected, and took office in 1981, he lifted that embargo.

In those days the Russian agriculture wasn’t anything to write home about. They had to import a very large amount of food to feed their people. But today – 50 years later, Russia is the number one exporter of wheat in the world. Their agriculture has been modernized. A lot of trade relations have changed over the years. We used to be number one in soybean exports; not anymore. Brazil has the lead. We are still well ahead of every other country in corn exports. Also, the United Sates is the world’s largest exporter of agriculture products combined.

Since U.S. agriculture depends so much on trade, we will continue to worry about where we are headed. Let’s hope President Trump can negotiate a deal with China to avoid a trade war and reduce our trade deficit.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Ag Day and RFS

March 22, 2018

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 -

This week, Tuesday March 20, we celebrated National Ag Day. The event was held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, featuring Vice President Mike Pence as speaker. My focus today will be on his speech and our great ag industry.

But to open, I want to remind everyone that we have a rule called Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and it has been under brutal assault for weeks by Big Oil. Understandably, the oil industry is not a big fan of ethanol. But ethanol has a big fan club.

Midwest Members of Congress have stood up against the oil industry because they want to weaken the Renewable Fuel Standard. Our Members are fighting to protect the ag industry. Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dineen had this to say: “There is no justification for a RIN price cap. Refiners are doing quite well. The EPA needs to be thinking about how to allow year round use of E-15 and higher ethanol blends.” And I say – he is right.

Now, turn to Ag Day. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue welcomed everyone and introduced the Vice President. Vice President Pence, who is from a small town in south Indiana, said that agriculture is the “essence of America. Farmers lead the way.” He complimented 4-H, FFA, and the American Farm Bureau. He thanked the Department of Agriculture and all of the loyal, hardworking employees who are fighting for prosperity and the future of American agriculture.

He reviewed the President’s success in cutting regulations and taxes. He wants to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, and provide high-speed internet to rural America. It was a big crowd, including many Members of Congress. The whole event was a well-deserved and resounding success. If you had any doubts about how your American agriculture is, just compare our corn yield – 200 bushels per acre with Africa’s 20 bushels per acre.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Where to From Here?

March 15, 2018

“Where To From Here?”

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 -

I don’t think we have any idea where the Trump tariffs on steel and aluminum will take us. There is still a lot of concern about how they could backfire on us, costing markets and pushing up the cost of cars, tractors, and everything metal. However, boosting the cost of a $30,000 car by $150 doesn’t sound like a big deal to me.

On the other hand, the ag industry knows that retaliation by some of our best customers could be devastating. Fortunately, President Trump has announced exemptions for Canada and Mexico while negotiations on NAFTA continue. This does serve as additional pressure on countries to make some concessions in the negotiations. Other allies like Europe and Japan might be able to avoid the tariffs if they can satisfy the President. The whole process is in an unpredictable state of flux.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, rural Members of Congress, and the whole ag industry are working day and night to avoid a trade war.

With all of this going on, we cannot ignore the Pacific Rim trade pact which was negotiated during the Obama Administration – after which President Trump said it was terrible and pulled the U.S. out of the deal. It would have been good for the ag industry. Now, we need to make a favorable trade deal with those countries individually. President Trump said that the U.S. would consider joining the pact with some appropriate improvements. The uncertainty surrounding trade is off the chart. Enough on trade.

Turn to North Korea. President Trump’s abrupt, out-of-the-blue decision to meet one on one with Kim Jong-un shocked the establishment press and politicians around the world. Many feel it is a “stupid, risky idea.” North Korea will not be willing to denuclearize; our President will come home humiliated. The U.S. will look weak and foolish.

Although that might be the outcome, I believe that the meeting is worth the risk. Kim Jong-un desperately wants a face-to-face meeting with President Trump. His father was denied that meeting with President Clinton. Also, the “Rocket Man” may be afraid of U.S. military action. I credit our President for having the courage to accept the risk.

Stay tuned.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Tariffs

March 8, 2018

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 -

Just when I was so comfortable with President Trump’s follow through with so many of his campaign promises - Conservative judges, tax reform, cuts in regulations, and securing our borders. The stock market has soared more than 30% since he was elected. Suddenly last week he said he planned to impose a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on aluminum. That has shocked a lot of people in the U.S. and countries around the world. We probably should not be shocked. In the campaign Trump promised to fix our huge trade deficit. He has always believed that we have been duped in global trade deals.

Farmers, ranchers and the whole Ag industry are worried about the risk that this could escalate into a trade war. We are already in difficult negotiations with Canada and Mexico over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The tariffs if enacted would directly impact Canada and Europe more than China. We have a 375 billion dollar trade deficit with China. China accounts for 50% of the global steel making capacity according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

That is up from 15% in 2000. It is obvious that their industry is highly subsidized. China is not so much better than the U.S. that they deserve to sell to us 375 billion dollars more that we sell to them. It is hard to see how the tariff proposed can force China to stop manipulating trade.

President Bush imposed tariffs on China and they didn’t work. He pulled them back. The Ag industry is afraid some of our biggest customers for our corn, soybean, pork and beef will retaliate. They could close the door on our exports. Our industry is already suffering with low prices.

Another concern is that the tariff will raise the cost of what we make from steel and aluminum. Consumers will pay the price. A can of beer in an aluminum might cost a penny more. I was reading some statistics, and I don’t think the added consumer cost would even be noticed.

President Trump has said that if Canada and Mexico will accept necessary reforms of NAFTA, then they won’t have to pay a tariff. It has been 40 years since we ran a trade surplus. We do need to skinny down our huge trade deficit. But is this the way to do it?

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Creativity

March 1, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

If we are anything in this country, we are creative – from the Internet to GPS driving my tractor planting corn.

Did you know that Goodyear Tire Company is now using soybean oil to make their tires? If you want better traction, hit the road with soy-based tires. Some new ideas flourish and others just never are accepted. Secretary Sonny Perdue wants to reform the Food Stamp Program. As part of President Trump’s budget, a portion of the support would be provided to recipients – not as credit at the store but an “American Harvest Box” of food. Food Stamp recipients could still pick and choose at the store a portion of their Stamp value. The rest would arrive in that Harvest Box.

That new approach to helping families in need has been met with some very loud criticism. But it is a new creative idea. Secretary Perdue said, “I am encouraged by Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway’s willingness to consider a pilot program, because new, innovative ideas often need to be introduced in such a way to see that they work as intended and can be implemented by states to best serve recipients.” I don’t know if this idea is going anywhere, but we need to have an open mind.

On another subject – gene editing – we need to have an open mind. We have been eating biotech foods for more than 20 years with no ill effects. Gene editing is simpler. Make some changes in the genes and you can grow a better product. Previous generations of plant and animal breeders took hundreds of years to make improvements. Now, we can do it overnight.

Genetic engineering and gene editing are not accepted by some, but we need to accept science and take advantage of new technology. If we don’t do it, other countries will, and we will be left behind.

Biotechnology is positioned to take on insect pest management. Use biotech sterilization of mosquitos to stop the spread of Zika and Yellow Fever. The possibilities are beyond imagination.

One last subject that has been in the news every day since the school shooting in Florida – what to do about guns? President Trump has said that he is open to some new restrictions. I believe that we do have too many guns in the hands of the wrong people.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Down on the Farm 2018

February 22, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

I have been on the farm in Illinois the last few days. As we loaded a semi with market hogs and I walked through the barns with baby pigs, it made me think once again about the challenges farmers face. As I reported last week, the outlook can change pretty fast, but will it?

We like to send to market about 6,000 hogs per year. The last load average weight was almost 300 pounds each. Years ago, our market hogs weighed about 220 pounds. Our sows ran in the field until ready to farrow when we bring them into the barns. It has been really cold. The stream where our sows drink froze up. We had to haul water to them. Where was global warming when we needed it? In spite of the challenges, our pigs are healthy and happy.

Looking out over the snow-covered frozen fields it’s hard to imagine that in 2 months we will be planting corn. More concerns come to mind. Farm country is worried about trade conflict or a possible trade war. President Trump imposed tariffs on solar panels and washing machines and, in response, China closed the door on our exports of sorghum. I know that we need to do something about our massive trade deficits with China, but we don’t want this to get out of hand.

We already have what could be a very costly fight over the Renewable Fuel Standard. A large part of the oil industry would like to reduce the role that ethanol plays in fueling our cars. With corn price projections as low as they are, we can’t afford to give up any of our market. Consumers also benefit from renewable fuels. Ethanol is less expensive than oil-based fuel; and, I might add, cleaner burning which is good for the environment. Ethanol is crucial to our corn-based economy in the Midwest.

President Trump has been a strong supporter of renewable fuels. We have to stand up to a very loud and aggressive group of small oil refiners. They say that RFS is hurting their “bottom line.” Standing up for big oil is Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. He has blocked Iowan Bill Northey from being confirmed as Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. Secretary of Agriculture Perdue needs Northey and farmers do also. If confirmed, he will be able to defend corn belt interests. I think Senator Cruz’s hold on Northey’s nomination is disgraceful. Cruz is a Republican, but the fight goes on.

I am a perpetual optimist, and as it warms up and planters start to roll, the outlook will brighten.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Opportunities & Challenges

February 16, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

I have a number of subjects to put on the table today.

To open this up, I want to remind everyone just how our farm and ranch economy is suffering today. Farm income is expected to fall 7% to $60 billion this year. That is less than half what it was just 5 years ago. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “The state of the rural economy is fragile.” When adjusted for inflation, farm income is forecast to be at the lowest level since 2002.

On top of our income problem, nearly 40 of our states are suffering from drought and getting worse every week. The south, west, and high plains are suffering the most. Our winter wheat crop has already been damaged.

At this time, I have not read very much about drought in the Midwest. However, in talking to farmers in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and other states, they are concerned. The tiles on my farm in Illinois are hardly running. Last year at this time, our subsoil was saturated.

President Trump just released his proposed budget and it could have some influence on the money available for agriculture. Of course, we should remember that Presidents’ budgets are “dead on arrival” – because the Congress decides who gets the money and how much. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) had this to say: “We are writing this farm bill under dramatically different circumstances than the last bill four years ago, when prices were high and rural America was thriving.” I believe that the challenges that agriculture faces today will help to protect farm program funding – especially crop insurance.

Another plus for rural America could be President Trump’s infrastructure plan. The President wants to invest $200 billion with states and private companies providing the rest. According to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, “The plan would invest significantly in our rural communities, improving broad band access, internet, water systems, roads, and more.” I have to ask the question – can our Congress come together and pass major infrastructure legislation?

I don’t know. There should be bipartisan support for some kind of a bill. We have already passed legislation to spend a lot of money that we don’t have. Why not just spend some more. I can’t believe I said that – I have always been a “deficit hawk.”

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

Until next week, I am John Block from

John Block Reports from Washington

Political Conflict

February 8, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

There is no shortage of issues to talk about here in Washington, D.C. President Trump and the Republican Party are adamant that the FBI and the Justice Department acted in a very unfair and perhaps illegal way in trying to make sure President Trump would not get elected in 2016. Democrats were shocked when he won. Now, we have information that may confirm the Republican argument. It’s too soon to know for sure, but I think the American people have a right to know what really happened. Stay tuned.

We have other serious questions that need to be answered. First, we haven’t funded the Federal government through this year. We have no budget for next year. Stop-gap spending bills are not the answer. Right wing Republicans want $80 billion more for defense spending. I think that is too much. Democrats want almost that much increased for domestic spending. We will just have to borrow it and add to our debt. We face a government shutdown now unless Congress raises the spending caps.

All of these money conflicts get tangled up with immigration policy. President Trump offered up a compromise proposal that I thought was very reasonable. The proposal offers a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents. In fact, the President offered to double the number qualified beyond the number President Obama protected.

Of course, in exchange for his Dreamer concession, the President wants $25 billion to secure the U.S.-Mexican border – including the wall. He also wants language to put an end to “chain migration” and the “lottery” system of authorizing immigrants into the country. I found it interesting that when President Trump offered his compromise, the Washington Post newspaper (not a supporter of Trump) wrote in their lead editorial that Trump’s offer was generous and should be accepted. Where do we go from here? We need a compromise.

All of this political conflict and budget uncertainty has made it impossible to move ahead with the new farm bill. We need the spending bill to find out how much money we have to spend.

Never a dull moment in this town.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Senator Bob Dole

January 31, 2018

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

And now for today’s commentary -

Today, my subject is Senator Bob Dole (Kansas). Two weeks ago, he received the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest award bestowed by the U.S. Congress. Very few individuals have been so honored. The Senator is a decorated World War II veteran and served in the U.S. Congress longer than any other Republican. I thank him for all of his service to our country, but I also thank him because without his effort, I would never have had the privilege to serve as President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Agriculture.

In the fall of 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the U.S. At that time, I was Director of Agriculture for the State of Illinois. I picked up the Wall Street Journal and began reading. Senator Dole was asked by the reporter: “Who should President Reagan consider for Secretary of Agriculture?” The Senator suggested 8 or 10 names. I almost fell off my chair. I was on the list.

I had never met Senator Dole. I decided that I needed to meet him. I called his office, was granted an appointment, and went off to Washington, D.C. We had a very nice discussion, and he arranged for me to meet some other Republican Senators. 

Within days, Senator Dole sent a map marked where all of the choices for the President’s Cabinet were from. They were all from the east coast and west coast. Middle America was left out. Senator Dole advised Ronald Reagan. He said, for Secretary of Agriculture, we need a “hands on farmer from the heartland.” Please consider Illinois farmer John Block for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Within 3 or 4 days, I got a call to fly to California and meet with the President-elect. I was to go to his home in Pacific Palisades, California. I rang the door bell and Nancy opened the door. After a 2-hour interview with Mr. Reagan, Ed Meese, and 2 other advisors, I went back to my hotel. The phone rang and Ronald Reagan said, “I have decided that I want you to be my Secretary of Agriculture.”

Almost speechless, I was able to say, “Mr. President, I would be proud to serve.” Senator Dole has done so much for our country and people all over the world. They would like to thank him. I extend my personal thank you and God bless America.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

The Shutdown and Immigration 2018

January 24, 2018

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 healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary -

It is Tuesday, January 23, and the U.S. government has just reopened. There is no excuse for the three-day shutdown caused by our non-functional Congress and White House. I blame all of them – the Democrats, the Republicans, and the President.

Immigration has always been a difficult issue. We are a nation of immigrants – Irish, German, Italian, Jewish, African, Mexican, Hispanic, Caribbean, Asian, and Middle Eastern. We are the true melting pot of the world. That is what makes us so exceptional.

U.S. agriculture, especially the fruit and vegetable industries, desperately need and rely upon immigrant labor. Deporting hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants would not serve U.S. agriculture. The longstanding struggle on immigration is between those who want to come to America for our laws, our freedoms, and our economic opportunities and those who fear immigrants will take their jobs or add to crime.

The current debate is much more discreet. As part of the absolute need to fund the government for fiscal year 2019, both sides of the debate appear to favor the same core solutions:

• Fund our government, including the military;

• Protect the 600,000 Dreamers – those undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. as children and who have been educated here; and

• Provide more money for border and cyber security, including the President’s wall. President Trump hosted a bipartisan meeting nearly two weeks ago where he supported all of these major points. He said, “Bring me a bill and I will sign it.” On immigration, he said, “I’ll take the heat.” A bipartisan group of Senators did just that – reached a compromise to solve the budget crisis, protect the Dreamers, and start the wall. The next day, the President reneged on his pledge. Based upon most accounts, he also disparaged various African and Caribbean countries.

None of this is helpful. There is near universal agreement we need to fund the government, protect the Dreamers, and enhance border and cyber security.

The America I am proud of is one that is welcoming with a big heart. Immigrants add richness to our society, most pay taxes, and contribute to our uniquely “American” culture. The America I love is also one where our government can function rationally and competently like it used to.

Enough is enough! Pass the budget, legitimize the Dreamers, and end this ugly rhetoric.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

The Shutdown and Immigration 2018

January 24, 2018

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

healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary -

It is Tuesday, January 23, and the U.S. government has just reopened. There is no excuse

for the three-day shutdown caused by our non-functional Congress and White House. I blame all

of them – the Democrats, the Republicans, and the President.

Immigration has always been a difficult issue. We are a nation of immigrants – Irish,

German, Italian, Jewish, African, Mexican, Hispanic, Caribbean, Asian, and Middle Eastern.

We are the true melting pot of the world. That is what makes us so exceptional.

U.S. agriculture, especially the fruit and vegetable industries, desperately need and rely

upon immigrant labor. Deporting hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants would not serve

U.S. agriculture.

The longstanding struggle on immigration is between those who want to come to

America for our laws, our freedoms, and our economic opportunities and those who fear

immigrants will take their jobs or add to crime.

The current debate is much more discreet. As part of the absolute need to fund the

government for fiscal year 2019, both sides of the debate appear to favor the same core solutions:

• Fund our government, including the military;

• Protect the 600,000 Dreamers – those undocumented individuals who came to the U.S.

as children and who have been educated here; and

• Provide more money for border and cyber security, including the President’s wall.

President Trump hosted a bipartisan meeting nearly two weeks ago where he supported

all of these major points. He said, “Bring me a bill and I will sign it.” On immigration, he said,

“I’ll take the heat.” A bipartisan group of Senators did just that – reached a compromise to solve

the budget crisis, protect the Dreamers, and start the wall. The next day, the President reneged

on his pledge. Based upon most accounts, he also disparaged various African and Caribbean

countries.

None of this is helpful. There is near universal agreement we need to fund the

government, protect the Dreamers, and enhance border and cyber security.

The America I am proud of is one that is welcoming with a big heart. Immigrants add

richness to our society, most pay taxes, and contribute to our uniquely “American” culture. The

America I love is also one where our government can function rationally and competently like it

used to.

Enough is enough! Pass the budget, legitimize the Dreamers, and end this ugly rhetoric.

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Good Things Done

January 17, 2018

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And now for today’s commentary -

From my perspective, our government has been getting some good things done.

Remember a year ago when hundreds of out-of-town thugs blocked the construction of the North Dakota pipeline? The government spent millions of dollars on law enforcement and court fights. In the end, the pipeline was completed.

North Dakota is enjoying the benefits of that $3.8 billion project. Oil production grew by 78,000 barrels a day in September and October compared with last January. They have 15 additional drilling rigs in operation. The state unemployment rate was a low 2.3% in November. State revenue jumped $43.5 million in 5 months. It is obvious, with that pipeline completed and in business, it is creating jobs and economic growth.

The other benefits are just as important. The environment is protected. Oil train traffic is cut by 90%. They used to need 12 trains and 1,200 train cars to move that oil. Oil spills occur far more often when transported by train. Pipelines are safer and more efficient. With the North Dakota pipeline done, maybe the Keystone pipeline can be next.

We have a government today that is willing to stand up to the environmental fringe and take action. Another example of common sense stepping up is that the Administration rolled back the boundaries of 2 controversial national monuments that President Obama rushed through in his final days. The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are both in Utah. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke “released 2 million acres from the monuments for traditional uses and public access will be restored.” Ranchers are cheering. So is Utah’s Governor and Congressional delegation. Environmentalists are screaming.

If you live east of the Mississippi, you don’t think about the vast amount of land that the federal government controls in many of the western states.

I’m not against the government owning and controlling some land, but too much is too much. We need to be able to graze it and mine it.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump - AFBF Speech

January 11, 2018

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 -

It has been 25 years since a President of the United States addressed the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). The last President to speak was President George H. W. Bush. President Donald Trump spoke this week in Nashville, Tennessee to a cheering, packed house of farmers and ranchers. They came from all across the nation to their National Convention.

The AFBF Convention is a big deal. President Trump knows that rural America elected him, and his attendance and presentation were to assure his base that he is on their team. As he spoke to the issues and concerns of farmers and ranchers, the excitement and applause rocked the room.

Farmers and small businessmen have been crying for relief from the estate tax. The recently passed tax reform legislation answers that. The President said, “From now on, most family farms and most business owners will be spared the punishment of the deeply unfair estate tax known as the death tax, so you can keep your farms in the family.”

Exports are so important to the ag industry, and the President’s criticism of trade agreements has raised a lot of concern. The President has threatened withdrawal from NAFTA. That trade agreement with Canada and Mexico has been very good for our industry. The President said that U.S. negotiators are still “working very hard to get a better deal.” He did not mention withdrawal.

Overreach with government regulations has been one of our concerns for years. President Trump said that the “…years of crushing taxes and crippling regulations – NO MORE.” That got a standing ovation. We will “ditch the WOTUS rule” was another barn burner. He would end the “regulatory assault” and put more money back in farmers’ pockets.

The President’s words helped to satisfy some of the concern that the farm and ranch industry worry about. He said we will get a new farm bill this year, and crop insurance is a priority. Broad band connection for rural America must be expanded. Roads, bridges, and waterways must be fixed. The President expressed his love for farmers and ranchers and rural America and their organizations – the Farm Bureau, 4-H, and FFA. I think it was a great speech. The forgotten heartland is now on center stage.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Christmas and a New Year

December 28, 2017

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

I hope you had a Merry Christmas. With this holiday season and the New Year upon usold memories from the past come flooding in to my mind. It’s time to relax and think about the life we have lived and the life we want to live.

I’m not going to talk about politics or government today. I’m going to play for you 2 songs that I recorded at Christmas time with Savannah my daughter. She was 8 years old at that time – 16 years ago (2001).

(Two Songs)

I’m sure that those of you listening might have some special memories that you might want to recall.

Let’s ring in the New Year with hope, optimism, and love.

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

to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

John Block Reports from Washington

Tax Holiday Reform Passes

December 21, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary -

The Holiday season is here. Amazing – Tax reform legislation has passed, and President Trump has signed it. That is a big Christmas present.

President Trump and Republicans in Congress got it done without any Democratic help. Before President Trump was elected Democrats including President Obama wanted to cut the Corp. tax rate, but they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the Republican bill that cuts the rate. Critics of the bill had the main stream media as their attack dog. Now we will see, as it goes into affect if the voters like it or not. I know that small businesses, farmers, and ranchers are supportive. The tax rate for partnerships and sub chapter S Corporations will be reduced. The estate tax exemption will double. That will protect family businesses.

Critics of the bill argue that the rich get big tax cuts. Well, some of them will, but not all. Some in the east and west coast cities where they have a high level of state and local taxes complain that since the bill limits the deduction of those taxes, they will pay more. But those are the rich people anyway.

Here is the best estimate when the new tax package is in place 1). The top 20% will pay 65% of the taxes. 2). The top 5% will pay 50% of the taxes. It looks like the rich will be doing their part. Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute found that those making $40,000 - $50,000 would see their income taxes reduced by 51% by 2019. Individuals making $50,000 - $75,000 would see a 24% reduction. That’s a tax cut for the middle class. Opponents of the bill have been telling us that it “will raise taxes on the middle class.” Well, we shall see.

I am quick to admit the tax legislation is not perfect. I am concerned that the tax package is predicted to add 1 trillion dollars to our national debt over the next 10 years. At the same time I believe letting individuals and businesses keep more of the money that they earn is a good thing. They can use the money to build the economy and create jobs.

The new tax bill is the law of the land. Of course it’s not perfect, but don’t let perfect be the enemy of a good tax bill. Merry Christmas – I am John Block from Washington, DC

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Egg Regulations

December 14, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary –

Maybe the “chickens are coming home to roost” in California. The state of California can’t think of enough new regulations. In 2015 California passed legislation demanding that if you wanted to sell eggs in California you had to adhere to their cage law. Midwest states such as Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska were crying foul. We are supposed to have free trade between states.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is scheduled to announce a new law suit against California egg regulations. He wants the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and rule the California regulations unconstitutional. He said, “this discrimination against Missouri farmers will not stand.”

The law’s mandate of cage size per chicken did not affect the welfare of any animals in California. Its sole purpose and effect is to discriminate against non-California egg producers by increasing the regulatory burden. Enforcement of the California law would be a burden on all consumers. The Economic Policy Analysis and Research Center estimates the added cost to consumers to be between $227 million and $912 million. The added cost of eggs will be disproportionately born by low income families. Egg prices have been distorted across the country since the California regulations were imposed.

Eleven other states have joined Missouri in challenging California. I can just imagine all the possible regulations that states could impose in order to shut out competition from other states. The next step might be that all chickens be free range. Why not outlaw crates in hog production. Maybe litters would have to be farrowed in the field like I did in the 1970’s. We had more than 500 litters born outside in the woods. We had to finally bring them in to the barn because the foxes were stealing my baby pigs.

If the federal government decides that we should adhere to some common standard, we can consider that. However, we can not allow individual states to write the rules.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Duarte vs. Big Government

December 7, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

You may have heard about the John Duarte wetlands case. John Duarte, a California farmer, bought 450 acres in 2012. He plowed and planted it to wheat. The Army Corps of Engineers, the California Water Quality Control Board, and the EPA came after him. He was looking at a $2.8 million fine and a $40 million mitigation penalty for plowing without a permit. This whole story is unbelievable, but I’m not making it up.

Facing a possible bill from the government that would bankrupt him, Mr. Duarte reached a settlement costing him $330,000 in civil penalties and $770,000 in wetlands credits. The fight is over – for now.

According to Gary Baise (also with OFW Law and Chair of the Trump Agriculture Advisory Team), who helped to get this case settled, “This case leaves many open questions.” I talked with Mr. Duarte last spring. I couldn’t believe what I heard. The farm had some wetlands and swales. The farm drained into a couple of creeks which are classified as “waters of the U.S.” The government said that he violated the Clean Water Act.

I didn’t think the government could deny a farmer the right to farm his land. We have property rights. Duarte used a chisel plow, and the government said it was moving the soil, and that was not allowed. When he bought the farm, it had been in the Conservation Reserve Program. The government said that you need to get a permit to plow land that had been in the Conservation Reserve Program.

My farm in Illinois has some low places in some fields that could be classified as wet lands. The fields are along Spoon River – a “water of the U.S.” My understanding is that there is an exemption for normal farming under the Clean Water Act. The Army Corps of Engineers’ position was that since the land had not been farmed in 20 years, Duarte needed a permit to plow.

Okay, if that is the way it works, I have land in the Conservation Reserve Program that has not been farmed in more than 10 years. If I don’t keep the land in reserve and decide to plow it and plant it to corn, do I need a permit? Would they even give me a permit?

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

The U.S. Department of Ag Team

November 30, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary –

The U.S. Department of Ag is taking a very long time to fill some of our most important management positions. The administration has 4 under secretary posts unfilled and 3 Asst. Secretary jobs unannounced. Sec. Perdue’s choice for the newly created farm services and conservation post- Bill Northey should have already been confirmed by now. But no- Republican Ted Cruz has put a hold on him. Cruz thinks he can force some concession on the renewable fuels issue. He is doing this for the oil industry.

Greg Doud, our nominee to be U.S. Trade’s Chief Ag. Negotiator has been blocked by Sen. Jeff Flake (R. Ariz.). Flake wants something out of the NAFTA negotiations on tomatoes. For Republican Senators to block Sec. Perdue’s choices for these very important jobs is terrible. It is blackmail. I know how faithful and capable the career employees are at U.S.D.A. However having led the Ag Department myself, I know how important it is for the Sec. to have his team in place.

The other issue that I will put on the table is much more positive. Trade – U.S. Ag exports in fiscal year 2017 jumped $10.9 billion to $140.5 billion – the 3rd highest level on record. The U.S. Ag industry has run a trade surplus for over 50 years. Our trade surplus of $21.3 billion this year was 30% above last year.

Sec. Perdue had this to say, “U.S. Agriculture depends on trade. We hope to open additional markets. I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy. If American Ag producers keep growing it, USDA will keep helping to sell it around the world.”

China is our largest customer buying $22 billion worth of product. Canada is number 2 at $20.4 billion, and Mexico is number 3 at $18.6 billion. Soybeans are the leader in commodity exports reaching $24 billion followed by (your guessed it) corn at $9.7 billion. Exports are responsible for 20% of U.S. farm income. I think the case is pretty clear.

Don’t screw up a good thing as we pursue trade negotiations with other countries. It’s time to get Ag trade negotiator Greg Doud confirmed along with the other Dep. of Ag leaders.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Thanksgiving

November 23, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

We just celebrated another Thanksgiving. And we do have a lot to be thankful for. Our economy is roaring with GDP in the 3% range and near full employment.

The best advantage that we have is that we don’t live in the Middle East where years of war have destroyed the homes and lives of millions. We have been watching the suffering on TV and hope stability can be reestablished soon.

We don’t live in Africa either. The U.S. has only 1% of our population farming and ranching. Yet, we produce so much food that we export 25% of our production. The cost of food here eats up only 9% of a family’s disposable income. In Africa, 65% of the population live on farms, and they have to spend 70% of their income to buy food to feed their family. Not much money left for computers and cell phones.

The U.S. Midwest corn yields were in the 200 bushels per acre range this year. Average yields in Africa are 20 bushels per acre. Our Thanksgiving dinner here this year was the lowest cost since 2013. Turkey, sweet potatoes, peas, stuffing, and gravy for a family of 4 = $49.12 – 75 cents less than last year.

I know as farmers we think meat and grain prices are too cheap. The story here is that U.S. food price inflation has been very stable for several years. That’s a credit to our ag industry. Public confidence in our economy continues to go up.

I know there are serious problems all over the world. Look at North Korea, threatening their neighbors and even our country. I think we have come to realize that we can’t fix all the problems in the world. We will do what we can, but there are other developed nations that need to do their share. President Trump told them that, and he is right. We need to focus on our own security and our own needs.

Today’s priorities for agriculture are:

1. We need a new farm bill next year;

2. We want tax reform; and

3. Trade is so important to us that we worry about that all the time.

For now, I say “thank you God.” We are grateful for our blessings.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

November 16, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

Last week, I attended the Farm Broadcasters Annual Convention in Kansas City. Over the last 35 years, I have attended almost all of the NAFB events. This year’s convention attracted a near-record crowd. It was very exciting.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke and took questions from the audience for more than an hour. He reminded us why Secretaries of Agriculture rarely miss the convention. It is the perfect opportunity to communicate his message across the country.

I also was at the Ag Roundtable luncheon this week here in Washington, D.C. where Steven Censky, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture spoke. Having had the chance to hear from the Secretary and Deputy, both of them in the past week, I can say they have strong support from the ag industry. We are convinced that they have our backs. Their priority issues are our priority issues.

Trade – “We need to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement, but do no harm,” according to Secretary Perdue. He expressed his frustration with Europe and their many barriers to our exports. He made clear that a bilateral agreement with the UK can be negotiated.

Farm Bill – Congress needs to get it done. The current bill will carry us through next year. My experience is that farm bills never get done until the last minute. We can hope to have a bill by the end of next year. Secretary Perdue said, “The 2018 bill will be evolutionary – not revolutionary.”

Immigration – agriculture needs the labor to pick the strawberries, milk the cows, and butcher the hogs. The Secretary said the Administration understands that. Congress is working on legislation to provide legal labor for our industry. They need to hurry and get it done.

Infrastructure – Deputy Secretary Censky made clear the priority the Trump Administration has for locks and dams, roads and bridges, and seaports.

Tax reform – That is the hottest piece of legislation out here right now. The House and Senate need to pass their tax bills. The bills will not be the same. Then they need to be negotiated, and if a final bill can be put together and pass both the House and Senate, President Trump will sign it. The goal is to pass tax reform before Christmas. Good luck.

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Tax Reform

November 9, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

NAFTA

November 2, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

Today, let’s talk about trade and tax reform. President Trump wants to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Congress is presenting a tax reform package. NAFTA is in the spotlight right now. The whole farm and food industry is worried that President Trump could formally withdraw the U.S. from that agreement.

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

Here is the cost:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

The Opioid Crisis - Stop Pointing Fingers

October 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Dusky Gopher Frog

October 18, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade Worries

October 12, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Renewable Fuels

October 5, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Priorities

September 28, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

The TV has been dominated by hurricanes. The Texas coast was devastated and next, Hurricane Irma hit Florida. Powerful winds destroyed half of the crops. Orange juice is going to cost $2 per gallon more. We should not underestimate the destruction and cost to families, government, or the time to recover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Duarte vs. Big Government

September 24, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Voter Fraud

September 15, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

So, here is what happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

To Do List

September 7, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Headlines This Week

August 31, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

August - Not Easy

August 24, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Farm Bill

August 17, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

GE Salmon

August 10, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

Now the fish story –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block headed to the farm in Illinois to check on the crops and pigs.

John Block Reports from Washington

Sanctions on Russia

August 3, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Gene Editing

July 27, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That

July 20, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

I will talk about a list of hot button issues today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Forest Fires

July 13, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Donald Trump

July 6, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Ag Issues 2017

June 28, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That 2017

June 22, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned…

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Government Overreach

June 15, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

This whole Duarte situation is frightening to all of agriculture. 

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade and Climate Change

June 8, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Branstad and Horses

June 1, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Budget

May 25, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Two Issues

May 18, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington and next week, I’ll be down on the farm.

John Block Reports from Washington

GE Science

May 11, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to http://www.johnblockreports.com Have .a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Perdue’s Agenda

May 4, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Sound Science

April 27, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

“I am pro science

I am pro farmer

I am pro GMOs”

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

How Do We Raise Prices?

April 20, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Confirmation Process

April 13, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Slow Process

April 6, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Unsustainable Debt

March 30, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump’s Budget

March 23, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Farm Economy

March 15, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

Agriculture is a cyclical industry and very competitive.

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Organic Foods

March 9, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trump Speaks

March 1, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Two Issues

February 22, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary— 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Controversy is Good

February 15, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary— 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Regulations

February 9, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade

February 2, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.

John Block Reports from Washington

Perdue as Ag Secretary

January 26, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, I am John Block from Florida.

John Block Reports from Washington

Barack Hussein Obama – a Retrospective

January 19, 2017

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

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

And now for today’s commentary— 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Priorities for 2017

January 12, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington

Last Minute Executive Orders

January 5, 2017

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

And now for today’s commentary—  

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

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

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

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

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

This whole process will be very interesting.  

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

John Block Reports from Washington

New Year 2017

December 28, 2016

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

And now for today’s commentary—  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Block Reports from Washington