Farming Contrast

March 12, 2015

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

And now for today’s commentary—

I’ve been on my Illinois farm this week. Having been on Cuban farms last week, I can’t help but note the amazing contrast. Just flying into Havana, I observed the plowed fields were red – red soil. Our soil is black. I did see some good crops on their soil. But then, there were fields that obviously did not have adequate fertilizer. I asked the manager of their farm cooperative, and he said they might be organic crops. The fact is they have under-utilized land – some not used at all. They don’t have the money to buy the fertilizer and GE seeds.

Farmers in the U.S. have access to the best seed that rejects the insects that attack crops. We always apply the optimum amount of fertilizer to get the best yield. We practice precision farming. They import 80% of their food. We feed our people (sometimes too much) and we still export 30% of the food we produce.

I noted that the Cuban dairy cows looked very skinny. Even more surprising, they said they only milked the cows once a day. We always milk twice a day – some milk three times a Dairy farmers are required to give their milk to the state. They can’t sell it.

Crops like onions, tomatoes, etc. are treated differently. They have a quota amount that they must give to the state. However, the excess above the quota they can sell in farmer markets. That’s one way to make a little money. The average person doesn’t make much – about $40 per month. However, the government provides free food to the population – something like food stamps. Although most of the food produced (about 70%) must be given to the government, they don’t have to pay income tax. The Cuban population is 11 million and they are well-educated. They also have a very low crime rate.

If relations between the U.S. and Cuba are normalized, that could trigger a lot of positive change. Tourism would bring dollars to Cuba. Then, they could afford some new tractors, fertilizer, seeds. They don’t allow foreigners to buy their houses or farm land. If they allowed that, we could buy the country. That’s an exaggeration, but we would have more influence. Americans own homes in Canada and farms in Brazil. Why not Cuba?

Let me close by saying – I like the Cuban people. They like us. Their system and way of life is so different. Reform to deliver opportunity will be slow in coming but it needs to happen.

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

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