Ag Issues

January 20, 2004

January 20, 2004

I have so many things that I want to talk about today that I don't know where to start.

First, the 3 biggest food or ag stories of 2003. I rate obesity first -- above Mad Cow coming in second. We watched fat people run to big money grabbing trial lawyers trying to blame the food industry. As if the food industry made the guy eat all those Big Macs. Peter Jennings in a one hour documentary in December jumped on the American farmers for growing too much food and then he went on to tell us it was unnatural to feed cows corn. Ifwe hadn't produced the food we would be blamed for starving people.

I'm afraid we haven't heard the last ofthe obesity issue. I only hope we settle on a more reasoned and practical approach to dealing with it than to blame the food industry and farmers.

The second story -- BSE -- Mad Cow. Let's credit USDA and Secretary Veneman with quick decisive action. We have quarantined suspect cattle, recalled meat, traced the diseased cow back to where she came from -Canada, and announced new regulations to offer greater protection in the future. Now if we can only get the beef trade sanctions lifted soon.

The third big story for US Agriculture was China. China has become the word market maker for global agriculture. With 1.3 billion mouths to feed and a growing affluent population. No longer happy with rice and wheat -they want meat. And those critters eat com and soybean meal. China is diminishing as a food exporter to become a big importer -almost overnight. Just as the Soviet Union was the market maker in the 70's and early 80's. The market jumped up and down with the big grain purchases that Su Butz brokered, the grain embargo imposed by President Carter, the lifting of the embargo by President Reagan (that was my effort), followed by the long term grain agreement that I signed with Soviet Trade Minister Potolochev. In those years the markets danced in rhythm with the Soviet Union's hunger for grain and they paid "cash on the barrel head."

That's it -- the 3 biggest stories -- obesity, Mad Cow & China. As for 2004, I'll give you my predictions in the next week or two.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.