Farmer Coops

February 18, 2010

February 18, 2010

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association, Wal-Mart Stores, 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—

Earlier this month, I spoke to a meeting of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives are essential to the foundation of rural America and always have been. On our farm in Illinois, our cooperative stands with us providing seed, herbicides, fertilizer, a market for our grain. Years ago, I served on the Coop Board. Private companies, stock companies, and coops are all part of the fabric of rural America.

Now, we should all be aware that there is serious concern among farmer coops. Here is the situation. Essential to the survival of farmer coops is the Capper-Volstead Act, which provides limited antitrust immunity.

Christine Varney, head of the Justice Department Antitrust Division said that “Capper-Volstead might not be the right law for the state of the industry at this time.” That statement questioning the very foundation of rural America sends a cold shiver up our spines in farm and ranch country.

The Justice Department and Department of Agriculture have scheduled a series of joint workshops with the first one to be held next month in Iowa on seed, then poultry in Alabama, dairy in Wisconsin, livestock in Colorado, and closing with consumer prices in Washington, DC in December.

I ask, what is this “witch hunt” all about? Are they going after a scalp just to brag that they did something?

American agriculture as an industry is the envy of the world. We are exporting one-third of our production to feed people around the world. In 1930, one farmer fed 10 people. Today, one farmer feeds 155 people. In 1930, it took 22% of our workforce to produce the food. Today, it takes only 2% of our workforce. In 1930, a family spent 25% of their income for food. Today, a family spends only 10% of their income for food. That’s a pretty impressive record. I submit that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Perhaps these hearings are harmless, but don’t take a chance.

Farmers, ranchers, and rural America need to stand up to the Justice Department and let them know we are doing just fine without their interference.

In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I have been saying. Go to

Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.