The War and Agriculture

April 8, 2003

April 8, 2003

It's been a long time since we went into a planting season with more uncertainty than we face today. We have a war against terrorism, a war in Iraq, a soft economy and drought in many parts of this country. A budget deficit forcing Congress to cut spending -- maybe ours -- and farm prices continue to languish.

Where do we go from here? Is there any other way to go but up? First, I think the war will be a net plus for agriculture in both the Sh0l1 term and long term. Short term, President Bush is asking for a large appropriation -- some 74 billion dollars -- to help lay for the war. It's not all for guns, bombs and troops. Three hundred and 20 ($320) million in food aid is included, $540 million in humanitarian aid. More money for Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

The Middle East will be soaking up a good amount of food. A lot of that will be wheat. In the long run, Iraq should be a very good customer for the American farmer. They used to be before Saddam Hussein and with their oil money they will be again. Another positive, after conditions are stabilized in Iraq, the cost of energy should come down. Our fuel prices and fertilizer prices are out of sight right now. They can only get better.

Once the war with Iraq is over, the nation's confidence will be restored which should jump start our economy. A strong economy will make the cash registers ring and the budget deficit will melt away as it did in the 90's.

Our farm prices till have some hope. Look at the carryover numbers of corn and soybeans. Hog supplies are tightening. Beef demand looks good, etc. Oh, yes, maybe it will rain and break the drought. After all, spring is just around the corner.

Listen, the glass is half full, not half empty. Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.