Things to Do

February 18, 2016

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

And now for today’s commentary—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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