Farming - A Challenge

August 5, 2021

August 5, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

 Drought and wildfires are still taking a toll in the west. Some vegetable farms in California have not been able to get the moisture to raise their crops. They can’t get rain or irrigation water. The last year has been costly and difficult for many of our families and small businesses.

 Our farms and ranches are blessed with better prices. That will be a big lift for those that are able to raise a good crop. On the other hand, we will be harvesting our crop soon. We will be applying fertilizer this fall for next year’s corn and soybean crops. Our import costs are going through the roof. Anhydrous ammonia is priced from 40-60% higher than last year. Natural gas is a major ingredient in fertilizer production, and gas prices are almost double what we spent last year. We will need to buy phosphates and potash to feed next year’s crop of corn. The price is up 70%. The higher input costs will raise production costs more than $60 per acre.

 Why the explosion in cost? One reason is with a world still trying to recover from COVID-19, our global supply chains are not operating as they should. Pandemic related production problems persist. Farming and ranching are never easy and always challenging – but I love it.

 New subject – Most of us have spent at least some time watching and reading about the Olympic Games in Japan. It is sad and quite a contrast comparing the almost empty stands in Japan and our baseball stadiums filled full here in the U.S. The athletes that we are watching are so fantastic. Makes me think back to former years. I will never forget in 1980 during the Cold War when our U.S. Hockey Team defeated the Soviet Union. One for the history books. In 1992 our basketball “Dream Team” had Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Over the years we have had so many outstanding athletes representing the U.S. The USA is the envy of the world. People from other countries all over the world want to come here to live. Some are welcomed legally. Other just walk across the border illegally. The USA is a great nation. Are we perfect? Of course not. None of the countries in the world are. I fly the stars and stripes on my front porch, and I am proud of it.

 If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues

July 29, 2021

July 29, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

We have had a lot of hot days this summer. Heat can be even worse when it is accompanied by drought. Look at California – 95% of that state is in severe drought. Even here in the Midwest, North Dakota has 93% of the state under severe drought. We all know this is the growing season. Not only will the drought hurt our grain crops, don’t forget that cattle need pasture and hay. And right now, we have the worst national ratings of pastureland since 1995. Not surprising ranchers are starting to cull their herds. We are seeing an 11% increase in beef cow slaughter. Cow slaughter is out-pacing heifer retention. That suggests that a year from now we won’t have much beef steak. The farming industry cannot escape weather uncertainty.

Here is something else we need – oil and gas. Rising energy costs are pushing up the cost for
farmers and consumers. Even President Biden has encouraged the global oil-producing nations to
crank up production. He signed an agreement supporting the controversial pipeline between
Russia and Germany. President Biden gives the green light to other nations forcing fuel
production but wants to shut the U.S. down. He closed down the construction of the Keystone
Pipeline. He is moving to stop the leases on federal land, suspended leases in Alaska’s Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge. I know our President wants to fight climate change, but we shouldn’t
be expected to do this alone. We will have to pay more for energy. Let’s not let Congress off the
hook. We don’t have an infrastructure bill agreement. The House has not passed an
appropriations bill for the fiscal year 2022. They are scheduled to go on vacation next week.
Don’t hold your breath, hoping for any deal.

Here is my last point on how U.S. citizens should vote. Recent polls show that “79% of U.S. adults think voters should be required to show a government-issued ID whenever they vote.” Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all support this. Therefore, with few exceptions – every state should require that you go to the polling place, show your ID, and vote. That’s the way to ensure election integrity.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues

July 22, 2021

July 22, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Gary Baise, an attorney with OFW, brought this to my attention. I am shocked. The U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that gives California the right to deny the sale of pork, veal, and other farm products in California unless producers comply with that state’s confinement standards. California should not be able to adopt trade barriers designed to dictate to farms in other states. Now farmers in the Midwest and other states will have to spend millions on new livestock facilities or go out of business. I thought we had free trade between states.

Next subject: We haven’t escaped the COVID-19 virus yet. In the U.S., every state reports an
increase in new cases. Trader anxiety is one reason the stock market took a dive on Monday.
Crude oil prices slid 7.5%. We are starting to worry about the U.S. economic recovery and the
rest of the world as well. There isn’t much confidence since our relationship with China just hit
another rough patch. This Monday, the U.S., Europe, and other world powers have “accused the
Chinese government of a broad array of cyber-attacks.” Microsoft was just one of a large number
of other companies that were targeted. A White House statement read “China’s pattern of
irresponsible behavior in cyberspace is inconsistent with its stated objective of being seen as a
responsible leader in the world.” I’m starting to think that with all the technology that the world
has today there is no security for any one or any company. Spyware hacks are everywhere.
 
On the farm front – prices of most commodities are holding up in spite of the uncertainty. Some
of our toughest competitors have suffered severe weather problems. The soybean crop in Brazil
was pretty good, but the drought has seriously cut their corn yield. Dry weather in Canada, here
in the U.S. on the West Coast, and in some northern states is taking a toll. Also, on the farm front
– Did you know that China has been buying up U.S. farmland? They have 192,000 acres. That’s
not very much since we have 900 million acres. But some government officials want to keep an
eye on their ownership. It could become a national security issue. Also, China owns our biggest
pork processing company, Smithfield.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Executive Orders

July 15, 2021

July 15, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Last week President Biden signed a broad Executive Order designed to ensure that we have more competitive markets. We have too many huge corporations. They keep buying up their competitors and just get bigger. Smaller companies compete at a disadvantage. Biden says, “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation.” Antitrust enforcement has been a priority of the President’s agenda. The use of Executive Orders to get something done is not new. For 20 years our presidents – both parties – have used Executive Orders. President Trump was criticized for making too many Executive Orders.

Let’s take a look at what President Biden’s Orders could mean to the food and ag industry.
Farmers and ranchers have been very vocal about the market’s failure to give them the prices
they feel are justified – especially for beef, pork, and dairy. The number of companies that sell
chemicals and seeds has been on a constant decline for more than 20 years. The Covid-19
pandemic reminded us that we need more processing capacity. Meat producers lost a lot of
money. The Secretary of Agriculture said it was time to “level the playing field for farmers and
ranchers.” I know farmer friends that had to depopulate their pigs. There wasn’t anyone to
process them. Just four meatpacking companies in the U.S. control 80% of the beef market. Four
companies control most of the world’s seed.

Farmers share of each dollar spent on food continues to decline. Farm and ranch organizations are cheering for the Biden Executive Orders. Even Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau stepped up to support the President’s effort. The National Farmers Union is very excited. I say don’t get too excited. Executive Orders can be changed by the next President or by the Courts. Laws passed by Congress are much more durable. Controlling huge corporations with all their power will not be easy.

Another subject that we need to keep an eye on – Cuba. Wild street protests are shaking up that communist dictatorship. So far, President Biden has not indicated how he will react. It would be good if we had more trade with Cuba, but their government cannot be trusted.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That

July 8, 2021

July 8, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –
The cost of living keeps going up. Food costs 5% more, but what about fuel? I was on the farm
in Illinois this past weekend. We rented a car in Chicago and had to pay well over $4 per gallon.
It’s not quite that expensive in Washington, DC. In the farm country, it cost $3.25 per gallon. It
is likely to keep going up. OPEC, made up of big oil-producing nations, in a surprise move just
decided not to increase production. Energy costs on our farms have already exploded. There is
more to come.

We had beautiful weather to celebrate the 4th of July on the farm. At this point, corn and soybeans look very good. We have all heard that corn should be knee-high by the 4th of July. Our corn stands taller than the top of my head. We saw a lot of family and friends. I feel so comfortable and safe back home in small-town rural America. Watch TV and read about the big cities with an explosive surge in crime. Violence spiked last weekend – the 4th of July. Look at Oakland, California. Homicides up by 90%. Carjackings by 88%. This happened after they cut their police budget by $18 million.

George Floyd was killed by police a little over 1 year ago – the rallying cry of left-wing
Democrats was “Defund the Police.” Thirteen big cities have cut their police budgets. Some
police officers fear for their lives if they attempt to apprehend suspects. We have cops deciding
to retire or quit. It is hard to attract new recruits. Fortunately, President Biden and some other
Democrats have concluded that cutting our police force is a bad idea. It’s a little late, but now we
have a chance to restore law and order.

Just a few notes about “climate change.” I read this in the Farm Journal. “Climate change isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s good for corn and soybean growers in the Midwest and Canada. More water and a longer growing season translate into more bushels of grain.” Over the last 50 years, rainfall has increased by 51/2 inches per year, and temperatures up only 1-degree Fahrenheit. Maybe we can live with this.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues

July 1, 2021

July 1, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the
National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Last week on Thursday President Biden announced – “We have a deal.” I thought we would be
able to pass a $973 billion infrastructure bill to fix our roads, bridges, dams, and waterways. I
was shocked to learn on the weekend that the President said he would not sign without
Congressional approval of the $4 trillion family spending bill. This is crazy.

Let’s talk about something else. How about food? Retail prices are up but so is meat production. Pork production up 6.7%; Beef production up 7.5%; Chicken product up 4.8%. Total meat production up 5.5%. There is some good news for farmers and ranchers. In spite of all the excitement about plant-based meat substitutes – consumers still want real meat. They like the taste, protein, and it is natural. A recent survey shows less than 4% of shoppers buy plant-based meat while 2.4% buy chicken, 22% buy ground beef, 13% buy pork chops. The explosion in demand for fake meat may be losing some momentum.

Go west to California – That state wants to dictate to all the other states how we should raise our
hogs, our cattle, our chickens. If they want to dictate to their own citizens, okay. But to refuse to
accept imports from other states that may not fit the California production requirements is
outrageous. I thought we had free trade between states. There is an appeals court ruling coming
soon on this question. The American Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers are pushing
to shut the door on excessive California reach.

Biofuels are under constant attack from the oil industry. We are encouraging the EPA’s Michael Regan to limit the number of biofuel waivers. Iowa Senator Grassley says, “I’m counting on Regan for not liking fossil fuels like some previous administrations. That puts ethanol in a strong position.” Let’s hope Senator Grassley is right. I’m not so sure. I was on our Illinois farm last week. Crops look good. Fortunately, we were spared the wind and hail damage that some farms faced. A lot can happen between now and harvest.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Infrastructure v Taxes

June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

This is Randy Russell sitting in for my good friend Jack Block. And now today’s commentary.

Over the past several months, Washington has been consumed with negotiations over a new
infrastructure package. The White House proposed a $2.3 trillion package. Senate Republicans
countered with a package totaling about $1 trillion.

The difficulty of negotiating an infrastructure package reflects not just politics, but also major
policy differences. In a Congress which is the most evenly divided in our Nation’s history,
passing any legislation is a steep uphill climb. But more problematic are the deep policy
differences between how Democrats and Republicans define infrastructure and how they propose
to pay for it. Democrats are pushing for infrastructure to include not just roads, bridges, ports and
rural broadband—but also expansion of social programs under the guise of “human
infrastructure.” Republicans are focused on more traditional infrastructure.

But bigger differences exist when it comes to how you pay for infrastructure. The White House wants to raise corporate and capital gains taxes. Meanwhile, Republicans want to protect the Trump tax cuts of 2017 and are looking to use unspent COVID assistance funds as a principal pay for. There is also growing discussion of raising the federal gas tax by indexing it to inflation. The current 18.4 cent/gallon Federal excise tax hasn’t been raised since the fall of 1993. While raising the gas tax can be considered a user fee, it disproportionally impacts rural Americans who must travel greater distances for work, school and basic services.

However, of greater concern to agriculture and rural America is the proposal to tax the transfer
of farm assets to the next generation of family farmers. These proposals include eliminating the
stepped up basis, increasing capital gains taxes for family farms and eliminating 1031 land
exchanges.

Key Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committee have led the charge against the proposals, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott and Representative Jim Costa, as well as House and Senate Agriculture Committee Lead Republicans GT Thompson and John Boozman. Texas A&M’s Agriculture and Food Policy Center recently completed an analysis of the estate tax proposals. The result: 92 of their 94 representative farms would be incurring an average increase in their tax liability of $1.43 million per farm.

Those of us in agriculture know the importance of re-investing in our basic
infrastructure—roads, bridges, ports and rural broadband. This is the backbone of our future
competitiveness. We also know Washington policy makers often talk about protecting family
farms and rural businesses. I can think of no greater assault on the preservation of family farms
and ranches than to significantly raise taxes on the transfer of farm assets to the next generation.
You can’t talk about protecting and promoting family farms and then support these ill-conceived
estate tax changes.

Again, this is Randy Russell sitting in for Jack Block in Washington.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issue of the Day

June 16, 2021

June 16, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

It could change tomorrow, but at this moment nothing is getting done in this town. There are talks going on and ideas being evaluated. President Biden met with the Group of Seven in Europe and the NATO nations agreed to join together and challenge China’s behavior on trade, intellectual property, forced labor, and aggressive expansion. I’m not sure China will listen. Will they negotiate to lift all of the tariffs? China is the biggest customer for our ag products. If we alienate China enough, we might lose that market.

Another trade question that needs to be dealt with is TPA (Trade Promotion Authority). The U.S.
was part of that agreement until President Trump withdrew. I always considered that a mistake.
That agreement joined us with the Trans-Pacific Partnership to better compete with China. The
agreement eliminated tariffs on 18,000 American made products. Now China wants to join TPA.
We need to get back aboard.

U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai met with German trade leaders to get rid of tariffs imposed by both countries in our dispute over Boeing versus Airbus, which has been going on for years. Reports are that they have reached an agreement. Also, we have the heavy metal steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump put on Germany. Katherine Tai is highly respected, but she has a load on her shoulders. I almost forgot we are supposed to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK also.

On the home front, the ag industry wants our government to deal with the concentration of our
meatpacking industry. Cattle producers are not satisfied. The steak in the store costs a lot more,
but what about the price of the market animal? USDA will be working to put in place stricter
antitrust regulations. The Farm Bureau is worried that the EPA will give small refineries an
exemption relieving them of their obligation to blend in ethanol. That will hurt the corn market.
As you can see, there are a lot of problems to be dealt with, but will we get anything done? Don’t
bet the farm on it. Randy Russell will fill in for me next week.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Ransomware

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Two weeks ago, Colonial Pipeline was shut down. On the East Coast we lost 45% of our gas and oil. Cars and trucks without fuel. Ransomware thieves were given $4.4 million to turn the oil faucet back on. I said in my program 2 weeks ago – “Ransom thieves are likely to be a big problem in the years ahead.”

Well, it didn’t take long. Last week there was an attack on JBS, the world’s biggest meat
company. They shut down briefly until paid. This problem has been around for a while, but we
didn’t see much press on it, and I don’t think the federal government paid much attention. Well,
that’s starting to change. We need to prioritize cyber security. We can’t have thousands of
crooked people stealing from all the hard working and important companies. One positive bit of
news – we were able to steal back more than $2 million from the Colonial Pipeline thieves.
There are some things that will get our attention. It becomes personal when you can’t fuel up
your car or you may not be able to get a hamburger.

Related to the ransomware attack is the realization that corruption is running rampant in so many countries around the world. President Biden said last week “combating corruption is a core U.S. National Security interest.” Corrupt oligarchs around the world use shell companies to hide their dollars. Fighting this will not be easy. Nations must work together.

Last week 7 industrialized nations including the U.S. agreed to work to reform the global tax
system. This is a world problem. Fifty of our largest corporations pay no taxes. The group of 7
agreed to levy a minimum tax of 15% on multinational corporations. British Finance Minister
Rishi Sunak said, “we have reached a historic agreement to reform the global tax system to make
it fit for the global digital age.” I say, let’s close the door on those tax-havens. They just keep
getting richer, and they pay no taxes.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Budget

June 3, 2021

June 3, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the
National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

President Biden last Friday released a $6 trillion budget plan for our next fiscal year beginning
October 1, 2021. The Administration has called it a “bold and responsible budget.” I conclude
that it is “bold”, but the debt level that is projected will continue to grow every year. We can
expect annual deficit spending to be running above $1.3 trillion throughout the next decade.
Republicans and Democrats have been looking for a compromise. Even Biden has met with
Republican leaders and may meet again this week.

Both parties would like to strike a deal on infrastructure spending which is a big part of the President’s budget. The plan includes $115 billion for roads and bridges, $174 billion for electric vehicles, $100 billion for rural broadband, and more. In addition to infrastructure there is the Presidents “family plan” including universal free pre-k, $109 billion for free community college, $225 billion for childcare and $225 billion for family medical leave. All of these new entitlement programs will just expand over the years. How are we going to pay for all these new expenses?

The President wants to fund all of this surge in spending with $3 trillion in tax increases.
Increase corporate tax, capital gains tax, a tax increase on high-income earners, increase estate
tax – that could destroy family businesses. It is my hope that our Congress will not accept this
explosion in government spending and over-regulation. It is too risky, and we already have a
booming economy now. Cut back on the entitlement program spending. When we want to fund
our infrastructure, let the users pay. Raise the gas tax. How about a mileage tax? Charge those
that use our waterway more money. User fees are a fair way to pay the piper.

Keep in mind the President’s budget is just his proposal. The question now is – what Congress will do. Republicans will not accept the Biden budget as proposed. Even some Democrats are insisting on certain changes. We shall see. This Monday was Memorial Day. I want to pay respect to all of our young men and women that have served our country. A special tribute to those that gave their lives for “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” God Bless America.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Pipelines

May 27, 2021

May 27, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

It is impossible to predict what new issue will hit the headlines. I didn’t expect gas and oil
pipelines to be in the headlines. It all began on President Biden’s first day in the White House.
He revoked the permit to complete the Keystone XL pipeline. After spending millions of dollars
and 90 percent completed, he closed the door. If completed, it would be able to deliver more than
800,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to refineries on our East Coast and would have
created 13,000 jobs. 
 
Transporting oil or anything across the country is never risk-free, but even Biden’s staff
acknowledges that compared to trucks or rail “the pipeline is the best way to go.” To help open
our eyes to this fact we had the Colonial Pipeline shut down. Just last week we had cars and
trucks unable to get needed fuel. Gas lines at the stations extended for blocks. What happened –
cyber attackers from Eastern Europe or maybe Russia – we don’t know. They shut down our
pipeline and demanded a ransom payment.  
 
We quickly gave them $4.4 million. That pipeline provides 45% of the fuel for the East Coast. I
guess we had to pay them. We would have been shut down for weeks, maybe longer if we didn’t
hand over the money. Trucks and trains could not have delivered the huge amount of fuel
needed. When paid the ransom hackers unlocked the system. Now we have fuel, and they have
our money. There are two messages here.  
1. Ransom thieves are likely to be a big problem in the years ahead, and 
2. When it comes to transporting oil and gas, we need pipelines.  
 
They are much safer, less expensive, and do far less damage to the planet than trucks and trains.
 
However, I am not sure we have learned. Governor Whitmer of Michigan is trying to close down
the Enbridge Energy Line 5. That pipeline delivers more than half a million barrels of oil and
natural gas through Canada and the Great Lakes. “A shutdown would cause a major propane
shortage in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. We would lose 37,000 jobs.” In closing,
I hope we learn something from all of this.
 
If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade

May 21, 2021

May 21, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Politicians here in DC are always looking for someone to blame for all the problems that we
face. China is at the top of that list. Congress is writing a powerful anti-China package of bills.
There is no question about it. China has been aggressive, and not a good neighbor with countries
close at hand. Also, they have had a campaign of genocide and forced labor on their own people
in Northwestern China. We know they have a system to steal technology from the US and other
countries. So why not hammer China? Politically that could be very popular. I’m not against
calling them out for some of their actions, but we don’t need another Cold War. President
Trump imposed heavy tariffs on China, and President Biden has not lifted them. However, it is
time to sit down with the number two country in the world. They are just behind us.

Beating up on China may be good politics but not good business. The Phase One trade deal with China is still in place. For the ag industry, they are our biggest market. We can continue to push the Chinese to reform, but increase cooperation and negotiate in good faith. We have serious trade conflicts with other countries – in some cases trusted allies like Europe. President Biden and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai have agreed with the European Commission Executive Vice President to resolve trade differences by end of the year. That won’t be easy. President Trump imposed steel and aluminum Tariffs. And U.S. steel and aluminum companies love it. But it has not worked.

The tariffs have hurt our own companies that buy steel. Besides that – Europe continues to use non-tariff barriers to close the door on our GE crops. Our U.S. Trade Representative Tai reminds us that when it comes to China, the U.S. and EU are on the same page. “We can partner to promote high standards, address shared concerns, and hold countries like China that support trade – distorting policies to account.”

The U.S., Canada, and Mexico met this week to try to settle a list of differences over the USMCA agreement. Mexico and Canada are our closest neighbors, and we can’t even get along. Our dairy farmers are not happy with Canada’s trade restrictions. Trade disputes never end.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Waters of the U.S.

May 13, 2021

May 13, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

This Friday we need to celebrate Armed Forces Day. Our military is always there to protect us foreign enemies. To the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines – Thank you for your service. We also need to thank our brave and dedicated police for their service. They are being criticized and under constant attack in the press and media. Of course, they aren’t all perfect. There are some bad actors, but most are doing a thankless job of protecting us. Nine of our largest cities that have made large cuts in their police force have experienced a 68% explosion in homicides. This is serious. Police officers are turning in their badges. It is a very dangerous profession, and they get no respect. In New York City 53,000 officers have quit or retired. I am afraid this problem will only get worse.

I want to spend some time on something else – Waters of the U.S. Our U.S. farmers were doing
an outstanding job of feeding the U.S. and the world. And in the process, we have practiced soil
conservation and land management to protect our soils. But then came President Obama’s
Waters of the U.S. rule. The Greens weren’t happy unless they could regulate – not just rivers
and lakes – but every dry ditch and low land and private farm property. That excessive overreach
by the federal government was turned back by President Trump's Administration. Farmers and
ranchers own the land. It is theirs, and the water law passed in 1972 does not give the
government the kind of excessive authority found in the Obama regulations.

But now we have President Biden and the Green New Deal. Where will we go from here? EPA Administrator Michael Regan has said, “he will not stick with the Trump plan” He will reach out and listen to all parties and find a compromise. At this moment we don’t know where we go from here. But there is a lot of concern out in farm country.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Where are We Going?

May 6, 2021

May 6, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

It is exciting to see our planting season go smoothly so far. Our corn and soybeans are three-fourths planted and starting to come up. That is something that we can control, but the federal government is a different story. President Biden has announced that he wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the year 2030. And Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says, “biofuels are a key piece of the plan.” Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Environmental organizations are no fans of ethanol and biofuels. I think that farmers and ranchers
will be happy to do our part to help. That is true even though we have always been skeptics of
climate change. A fact that you should know – agriculture is a small contributor to greenhouse gas
emissions. We contribute 10% or less, and “if you factor in land management and forestry
practices, agriculture produces net emissions of minus 2%.” “Animal agriculture’s share of US
GHG emissions is less than 3%” Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau tells us “a lot of
people don’t realize the gains that we have made in agriculture.” With the dramatic increase in
beef, pork, and milk production the per-unit emissions have continued to decrease.

Given the fact that we are already doing a very good job, we can do more. Increase conservation reserve acres and capture emissions from livestock waste. Another Administration statement raises concern. They want to “develop a plan to conserve 30% of US land and water by 2030.” What does this mean? Sounds like more regulations. Some call it a “land grab”. There is so much up in the air right now. The President is implementing his $1.9 trillion relief package. The economy is booming but now we are debating a $4.5 trillion infrastructure bill and more social family programs. How are we going to pay for all of this? It may sound good to just tax the rich. Why aren’t we talking about user fees to pay for roads, bridges, and waterways? With the job market growing and family income going up, we need to limit how much more we spend on social welfare. Too much debt can strangle our good economy.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Estate Taxes

May 1, 2021

May 1, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

This is Randy Russell sitting in for my good friend Jack Block. And now today’s commentary. This week the Biden Administration is rolling out their plans for infrastructure reinvestment. During the campaign, then Candidate Joe Biden proposed a series of tax increases totaling $3 trillion, including raising tax rates for higher income individuals, increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and treating capital gains as ordinary income. Some now are suggesting using these and other revenue raisers to pay for infrastructure, climate, and education initiatives.

Importantly for agriculture, proposals exist to significantly change existing estate tax laws. Currently, an
exemption is provided for estates up to $11 million per individual and $22 million for couples. Under
these proposals, this exemption could be reduced to as low as $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million
for couples. Estates valued above that level would see their tax rate raised from 40 to 45%. There is also
discussion of eliminating the so-called “stepped up basis.” When an heir inherits an asset—for example, a
farm or other small business—they are allowed to value that asset at the time of the passing of the owner.
This saves the heir from paying tax on the accumulated value of that business, property, or other asset
since it was started.

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, over 98% of our 2 million farms and ranches are family owned. In addition, USDA estimates that 82% of farm assets are in illiquid farm real estate. So, what does this all mean for agriculture? The combination of potentially lowering the exemption, increasing the tax rate above the exemption, and eliminating the stepped-up basis would create significant tax liability for farms, ranches, and small businesses being passed onto the next generation. Over my career in Washington, I have been a part of eight Farm Bills dating back to 1981. A basic premise of every one of these Farm Bills is to implement policies that protect the family farm. Increasing the tax liability for farmers and ranchers being transferred to the next generation directly conflicts with this objective.

More importantly, why do we have a death tax at all? Farms and other small businesses have been
generating revenue for federal, state, and local governments every year they are in operation. Death taxes
simply create yet another opportunity to generate revenue for federal and state governments from these
same farmers and small business owners. Isn’t this double taxation?

Once again, this is Randy Russell sitting in for Jack Block.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Farming Today

April 28, 2021

April 28, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

I have not been here at the farm in Illinois since last September when we started harvest. The
global pandemic has shut a lot of us in, but I have my vaccine shots now and I feel a lot safer.
My family members and farm team here in Knox County, Illinois are almost all vaccinated.
The weather has warmed up some, and our corn planter is rolling. We have more than 800 acres
in the ground – almost one half of our corn acres. We still have 2000 acres of soybeans to plant.

As I watch our 24-row corn planter march across the field, I can’t help but think about when I was in grade school. My father planted about 100 acres of corn with our 2-row corn planter. It was pulled through the field by our 2 horses – Burt and Bill. Back and forth – so slow. Our 24-row planter today is moving at 10 miles per hour. With modern machinery, precision planting, genetically engineered seed, our yields are at least 3 times what they were. We had to hire high school kids to help hoe the weeds out of our fields. We could not have ever managed to farm 4000 acres in the old days. Nothing is the same.

In the old days we were more diversified. We had laying hens. They were my job. Feed the chickens and gather the eggs. Milk the cows morning and night – by hand. We didn’t have any milking machine. We would raise about 200 or 300 pigs. Not only did we feed them ground feed, we also slopped the ones getting close to market. I was in our hog barns this morning looking at the new litters.

We have baby pigs born every day. We market about 6000 market hogs per year compared to the 200 when I was a boy. Today the processors want heavier market hogs. They want 280 pounders. When we had cattle years ago, we had to harvest hay to feed them. Before we got a hay bailer, we harvested loose hay. That was a lot more work. We don’t have hay fields to harvest today since we don’t have any cows.

Grain and livestock prices are excitingly high now. Let’s finish planting. The weather will dictate. Our crop will be in God’s hands till harvest.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Earth Day

April 22, 2021

April 22, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Big Change – we can all remember that President Trump had no interest or concern about “climate change.” When elected he quickly withdrew the U.S. from the World Climate Accord. Thursday this week is “Earth Day” and President Biden will host a virtual climate conference with more than 20 countries. The U.S. is back as a highly active member of the Global Climate Team. What will be decided at the meeting is a big question. Will they agree on targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions? Will China step up and do their part? What about Europe?

A poll in the U.S. indicates that our country is ready. If we are going to do something, our ag
industry doesn’t want to be left out. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is pushing the climate
agenda. The Farm Bureau and other farm groups are ready. Two or three years ago I never
would have imagined this farm buy-in. I guess we can do it. Vilsack says we need an ag carbon
bank. Farmers will have to be incentivized to take necessary steps. Another important way to
curb emissions would be to expand our conservation reserve acres. In 2007 farmers had 36.8
million acres of land set aside in the reserve. The number of acres today has dropped to 20.8
million acres. The rental rates were cut with the 2018 farm bill. Not surprising, farmers decided
that they should just farm the land.

President Biden has said that “farmers should be paid to put their fragile land in conservation reserve” as part of climate mitigation. Just a side note – the Conservative Reserve Program was started when I was Secretary of Agriculture in 1985. Taking fragile erosive land out of production was a good idea even before we had even heard about climate change. I have farmed through so many climate challenges. I thought climate change was God’s threat to farmers. But if science tells us it is manmade then we can help get it under control.

In closing – when you celebrate “Earth Day” – think about the farmers that farm this earth and
feed the world.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Spending and Budgets

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

We have been hearing a lot about President Biden’s infrastructure plan. Well, it is a lot more
than money for roads, bridges, waterways and broadband. Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell called for Republican resistance to the “motley assortment of the left’s priciest
priorities.” At this point we don’t know if this $2.3 trillion plan will become law or will we see
bipartisan negotiations.

Don’t let this spending bill get confused with the President’s budget suggestions for the next fiscal year beginning October 1. The White House budget serves as a recommendation to Congress and reflects the Administration’s priorities in spending negotiations for the next fiscal year. President Biden wants a 16% increase in overall spending next year. His priorities are:

 Education with a 40% increase
 EPA – 21% increase
 Ag department – 16% increase
 Defense will get almost no increase

The debates over next year’s budget and spending are just beginning.

Now that we are talking about budgets and money, here is what Successful Farming has to say –
“With the dramatic increase in crop prices, bankers reported an increase in farm income for the
first time in 8 years. Farmland values are projected to go up this year by 5%. Our nation’s
economy should grow by a robust 4.6%.” It has been 6 or 7 years since I saw this much
confidence in farm country. Enjoy it while we can. Pay down some debt. Our own federal
government should also pay down some debt, but we know they aren’t going to do that. There
are so many unanswered questions about what this President and Congress will do. I guess that
we just wait and see.

What about a tax increase? Did you know that 55 of Americans largest companies didn’t pay any income taxes last year? And they made more than $40 billion in profits. Big corporations have so many loopholes that they can use to avoid taxes. Small businesses including farms always pay taxes. If we make any money, we can’t escape.

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John Block Reports from Washington

What’s Next?

April 8, 2021

April 8, 2021

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National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

The weather is starting to warm up, and I am excited and looking forward to seeing that corn
planter knifing seed in the ground. I love planting season, but harvest is even better. The ag
industry sees a very good year on the horizon. Grain and soybean prices are pushing up into
territory we haven’t seen in 5 or 6 years.

With millions of vaccine shots being administered the pandemic should fade and normal life will return. U.S. employers added 916,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 6%. That is twice as many jobs as were added in February. Consumer confidence is up and our economy is on the rebound. Our Federal government should be working together to capitalize on the growing economy. During the presidential campaign Biden promised bipartisan government. “The American people voted for unity and compromise.”

After spending $5.4 trillion last year to stimulate this economy, how much more do we have to
spend? President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill is a socialist wish list. Only about 10%
of the money in the bill is marked for infrastructure. I’m not suggesting the other money in the
bill other than that 10% is not worth debating and considering, but it should not be in this bill. I
don’t know how we will pay for all the debt we are adding to the huge debt load that we already
have. Let’s remember what British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “Socialism
works okay until you run out of other people’s money.” The well-respected former Democratic
Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers had this to say, “This bill could funnel too much
money into the economy, spark inflation, and crowd out other priorities.”

One other concern that I have is the tax plan that could raise money to help pay part of the bill. We could raise the corporate tax some – maybe from 21% to 25%. Taxing the rich sounds good but we shall see how that would be done. My biggest tax concern is the possibility that Congress will want to raise the estate tax. My farm is a family business and has been in the family for 200 years. 98% of farms and ranches in U.S. are family owned. Can small businesses such as farms survive a huge tax at death?

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Ag Day

March 25, 2021

March 25, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the
National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

President Biden declared March 23rd as National Agriculture Day. He said, “I call upon all
Americans to join me in recognizing and affirming our commitment to and appreciation for our
farmers, ranchers, farm workers, and those who work in the agriculture sector across the nation.”
The President’s proclamation makes clear his respect and appreciation for our industry, but also
the fact that everyone should salute the team that feeds us. They have been on the job throughout
the pandemic. It makes me think about the farming industry and how it has changed over the
years. If it had not changed, millions of people would be starving. We could not produce and
deliver food with old technology. Crop acres in the U.S. have actually declined since 1960 but in
the world, crop acres have increased from 1.7 billion acres to 2.4 billion acres.

We cannot afford to give up on new technology. The position of the UK Department of Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs is in strong support of genetically engineered crops. That’s not the case in the rest of Europe. Their countries have strict barriers against genetically modified crops. They want to push organic. Organic yields are less - maybe 20 or 30% less -and require more labor. The world cannot afford to go down that road.

Turn the page. In recent days some of President Biden’s top officials met with Chinese officials.
The U.S. made it clear to China that we don’t support their heavy-handed actions in Hong Kong,
their efforts to bully other Asian nations, or their dominance in the China Sea. Their reaction –
“but out of our internal affairs.” I hope this elevated dispute does not threaten the phase 1 trade
deal we have with China. They have been buying a record amount of our ag products.

Turn the page. We just passed a $1.9 trillion spending bill. But that’s not enough. Democrats are putting together another $3 trillion bill. It will focus on infrastructure. I know we need infrastructure spending, but are we talking about even more debt or more taxes? Stay tuned.

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www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues

March 18, 2021

March 18, 2021

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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 want to have an open mind and be fair as I evaluate the policies advocated by President Biden
and our new Congress. It is too soon to know where we are going on trade. There are a lot of
disputes and not many easy solutions. We have a long list of differences with China. But also
with the European Union, UK, Japan and even Canada. We’ll just wait and see.

On two other issues, I think that the new leadership is wrong. President Biden’s executive order
to stop oil and gas drilling on federal land is not going to put an end to global warming. There is
a bipartisan coalition coming together to oppose any permant leasing ban. Two Democratic
Senators from New Mexico say “it would cripple their states’ economy.” They say it would cost
thousands of jobs. I have always argued that if the government has resources that the public
needs and is willing to pay for it, then don’t shut it down.

President Biden shut down another very important business project – the Keystone Pipeline. It is
90% completed, almost ready to deliver from Canada to U.S fuel that we need. But without the
pipeline we have to transport by truck and rail. If you want to do something that will be good for
our climate, finish the pipeline. On the issue of climate change, Secretary of Agriculture, Tom
Vilsack had this to say. “USDA is committed to addressing climate change through actions that
are farmer, rancher, and forest landowner focused, and that create new market opportunities for
our sector in a fair and equitable way.” The word is that agriculture is responsible for 10% of the
greenhouse gas emissions. We can sequester and store carbon in our soils. There is a lot of talk
about the role that agriculture could play. How do we do it? In truth there was a lot of
unanswered questions. Will we have a carbon bank? Will farmers be compensated? It will be
interesting to see where we go from here.

Last subject – It may be the most urgent. Since President Biden took office the number of
immigrants surging across our southern border has exploded. With the “open border” talk,
thousands see this as their chance to escape poverty in their country. This crisis is only going to
get worse before it gets better.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade

March 11, 2021

March 11, 2021

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National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

We all know or should know that we’re going to have a $1.9 trillion relief package. It does
target the needy, the hungry, and unemployed. But there are billions and billions for others to
buy political support.

Enough on that subject. There are other developments that can make a difference. Let’s talk trade. There has been a long-standing dispute with the European Union over subsidies of Airbus and Boeing. The US and EU have agreed to have a 4-month tariff suspension. Hopefully, we can find a resolution. President Trump was convinced that the EU subsidies on Boeing put our country at a serious disadvantage. It turned into a tariff war - $7.5 billion tariff on European wine. Europe put a $4.5 billion tariff on US whiskey. The battle escalated when President Trump increased and expanded his tariffs to 25% on all wine imports from France and Germany. It is time to negotiate this dispute and put it behind us. I have some friends that want a resolution. They want French wine.

The Distilled Spirits Council is reminding us that “Lifting the tariff burden will support the
recovery of restaurants, bars, and small craft distilleries across the country that were forced to
shut down during the pandemic.” That could just settle one dispute. President Trump imposed
levies on imported steel and aluminum from the EU. Europe retaliation shut the door on our
whiskey exports and more. I am still hopeful that we can iron out some of these trade conflicts
to our advantage.

Another hopeful development is that the US and the UK are beginning to lift some tariffs. Our bars will be happy to see the tariff on scotch whiskey eliminated. Since we are talking trade, it is time to negotiate with Cuba. They can be a good market for our ag products. They are only 90 miles from our shore. Over the years I have been to Cuba 3 times working to expand trade. Just when I think we can make some progress, something happens to poison the deal. Well, it’s time to try again. As we try to review and resolve our trade disputes, I don’t think it is wise to just walk away from all tariffs and give up. President Trump was strong in demanding fair trade.

Let’s negotiate good deals that are fair. President Biden realized that the phase one deal with China resulted in a $27 billion market for ag products last year which happen to be a record level of exports to that country. There is a lot more to do.

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John Block Reports from Washington

Equality

March 4, 2021

March 4, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

“Equality” sounds good. It is only fair. Last week the House passed the Equality Act designed to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. President Biden is cheering for transgender rights.

But what about some rights that we have always taken for granted – religious freedom, women’s
sports and female privacy? The equality law will now go to the Senate for consideration. If
passed President Biden has promised to sign it. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her floor speech
“Now with a Democratic Senate we will never stop fighting until it becomes law.” The law is
being sold on promising good things for women and ending unfair treatment of lesbian, gay, and
bisexual people. Well, it’s not all good. It runs counter to religious beliefs. I think about young
girls playing on their school basketball team and running track. Do they want a boy on their
team using the girl’s bathroom and taking a shower with the girls? Physically boys and men are
bigger and stronger. I like watching women’s college basketball on tv and I don’t want men to
play on their team. It is just insane to allow biological men to dominate women’s sports. I can
not understand why any women would vote for the “Equality Act.”

Let’s turn the page and talk about agriculture. The US Department of Agriculture predicts an 8.1% decrease in farm income this year. That decrease will primarily be as a result of less federal government support. I’m not sure I agree that we will experience a decline. Crop prices are up. Corn from $3 per bushel to $5. Soybeans from $8.50 to $13.00. Livestock prices are up. Our economy is recovering from the pandemic. World demand for our farm products is expected to be robust. An important challenge that we face is an uptick in production costs forecast to be 2.5%. Fuel, seed, fertilizer, chemicals – everything costs more. As the weather warms up it is exciting to think about planting the crops.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
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John Block Reports from Washington

Relief Bill

February 25, 2021

February 25, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Joe Biden has been President for a month and now Tom Vilsack has just been approved as our new
Secretary of Agriculture. I am happy to see Tom Vilsack stepping back into the job that he held
for 8 years under President Obama. At least, he already understands the responsibilities that an
Ag Secretary must face.

At the top of his list will be the Coronavirus fallout and the $1.9 trillion relief bill. Agriculture will have interest in the bill. It provides $23 billion in new money for agriculture and nutrition. More family food boxes will be on the way. More foreign workers for the ag industry will receive legal status. Consolidation in the ag industry is a big concern. Look for more antitrust enforcement.

Many of President Biden’s priorities that impact agriculture could be helpful. I am very pleased
to see EPA moving to support ethanol by limiting the small refinery waivers. However, I am afraid
the huge virus relief spending bill will deliver costly inflation. The bill also appears to be just
handing money out to everyone. $1.9 trillion is not small change, and from what I read only 10%
of the money goes for pandemic relief. The rest is just a handout to buy support and votes. 

Here are some examples where the money goes.
1. $300 million to the Endowment for the Arts
2. $300 million to Endowment for the Humanities
3. $300 million to migrant and refugee assistance
4. $10,000 per student for loan bailout
5. $300 million to public broadcasting
6. $500 million to museums and libraries.
7. $35 million to the JFK Center for Performing Arts
8. $300 million for international disaster assistance

The list goes on and on. Our debt level has exploded since the pandemic and we need to have some spending discipline. I admit that there are those that can use the money, but do our taxpayers have to satisfy everyone’s wish list? There are countries that are deep in debt that are starting to impose a wealth tax. Argentina and other South American countries are taking the lead. Is this what the U.S. will need to do?

President Biden has pledged to bring about bipartisanship to bring the country back together. The
way the bill is written now it will not get any Republican votes. Even President Obama’s former
Secretary of the Treasury Larry Sommers thinks the bill is too expensive.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Trade

February 18, 2021

February 18, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the
National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

I know that the battle over how much we spend and what we spend the money on in the $1.9
trillion Relief Bill will dominate our Congress. But I want to talk about trade now. In
agriculture we are expecting a good year after 4 or 5 years of weak prices. Since we export to
other nations at least 25% of our production, we need to protect and expand those markets. Our
ag trade is usually a net plus, but U.S. over all trade ran a $678 billion deficit last year – the
worst in 12 years. The reality is that trade relations are fractured. Our conflicts and disputes
with China over the last 4 years have been in the headlines and although President Trump did
negotiate a phase one deal with China, that is not the complete answer. We are in a major
conflict on trade with the EU and other nations also.

President Trump used tariffs to get other countries to make reforms that were needed, but tariffs are not the best solution. Countries all over the world are unhappy and frustrated that trade disputes are not resolved. 164 countries belong to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO has shouldered broad criticism because it has been slow and unable to solve trade disputes between member countries. Myron Brilliant, Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “Above all we need to restore the WTO as a forum for meaningful trade negotiations and the settlement of commercial disputes.” Now is our chance.

A new WTO Director-General has been selected. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former Finance
Minister of Nigeria, starts March 1 st to reform, strengthen, and manage the WTO. She will have
a load on her shoulders. The WTO members must stand behind her or she will get nothing done.
It is especially essential that the US, China, Europe, the UK, Brazil, and other big export
countries take the lead in fixing the broken WTO. President Biden wants to take a more
multilateral approach to trade – more trade agreements. He wants to join with Europe to push
Chinese trade reform. However, at this point President Biden is not ready to lift the Trump
tariffs. We shall see.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
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John Block Reports from Washington

A New Day

February 12, 2021

February 12, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

President Biden has a long list of priorities. Control of the Coronavirus heads the list. He has told
us that he wants to work across the aisle, but if the Democrats run through Congress the $1.9
trillion relief package without some meaningful compromise, where is the shared responsibility?
On top of that Democrats are pressing ahead with impeachment of former President Trump. It’s
all politics. It’s time for our politicians to find some bipartisanship.

There are some good things happening. The Department of Agriculture is aware that we have hungry people and the Department is moving quickly to help. On the foreign affairs front President Biden reached out to Russian leader Putin and they agreed to extend our arms control agreement that was due to expire. Whatever we can do to limit the risk of nuclear war is vital. We have had a travel ban on South African H-2A workers. We need them to help harvest our crops. That ban has been lifted along with H-2B laborers that work in our food plants. Food price inflation last year jumped up 3.4%. That was much higher than recent years. The food inflation rate has been 2% or below for years. USDA predicts a 1 or 2% grocery store increase this year. I expect more than that with the big jump in farm prices.

Just out of the blue with all the talk and push to limit climate change, we are reading articles about carbon as a new cash crop for farmers. Top Producer Magazine writes about “The Chase to Capture Carbon.” Mike Frank, CEO of Nutrien Ag Solutions had this to say – “We think this is going to be a $100 billion industry, and Agriculture can get rewarded for what it’s doing today and what it can do in the future.” Land O’ Lakes’ farmer cooperative has already offered to work with these farmers to cash in on carbon dioxide trapped in the soil. Who would have ever predicted that we would be talking about this?

My last note - I want to recognize fellow Cabinet Member George Schultz. He was 100 years old and passed this week. As Secretary of State, he did a super job for President Reagan. Everyone respected him. I loved working with him. After President Reagan lifted the Soviet grain embargo, I wanted a trade agreement with the Soviet Union. Secretary of State George Schultz gave me the green light and with the help of US Trade Representative Bill Brock, we got it done.

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John Block Reports from Washington

New Day

February 4, 2021

February 4, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

We have a new President and a very closely divided House and Senate. Where are we going
from here? Today I will hit on some of the government decisions that will impact us.

To open I want to focus on 2 outstanding Members of Congress who retired last week. Pat Roberts served 40 years. When I came to Washington in 1981, I immediately learned to respect and rely on him for advice and assistance. All these years Kansas Senator Pat Roberts has stood up supporting agriculture and rural America. Now I don’t want to fail to recognize Congressman Collin Peterson from Minnesota. He has been in a leadership role on writing farm bills and chairing the House Ag Committee. For fun he has a country band. He can sing and pick his guitar with the best. A great guy – working across the aisle to get things done for agriculture. The ag industry has been blessed with some dedicated leaders. Now we have Tom Vilsack back for a second tour as US Secretary of Agriculture. Thank you to President Biden for choosing Tom Vilsack. He already has the respect of farmers and ranchers that he earned in his first 8 years as Secretary.

Now a few thoughts about what is going on in Congress and the White House. Democrats have
a $1.9 trillion Coronavirus relief bill while Republicans have offered a $618 billion bill. That’s
about one third as big as the Democrats’ bill. It is too soon to know where this is going but there
is need out there for some help. How much debt can we shoulder?
We have already doubled the money spent on food stamps. More people are needing the help
and the benefit level has been raised by 15%. The Biden Administration prioritizing climate
change may offer some opportunity for agriculture. Pork and dairy farmers can capture methane
from manure management systems and then sell that energy. We could cut greenhouse gas
emissions by 50% - just use ethanol instead of gasoline.

One action by this Administration that they seem to think would support their climate change efforts is a big mistake. They want to kill the Keystone XL pipeline. That will not protect the environment. That pipeline is supposed to transport oil from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska. It is not safer or less risky to truck it or send it by train. Oil spills by transport are a serious concern. Also shipping oil by pipeline instead of by truck or train reduces the carbon dioxide emissions by 60% according to the University of Alberta. In case you missed it, Tuesday this week was Groundhog Day. He didn’t see his shadow. That means we will have an early Spring. I can’t wait!

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Agriculture and Climate

January 29, 2021

January 29, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

This is Randy Russell sitting in for my good friend Jack Block. And now for today’s commentary.

The Biden Administration and the Democratically controlled Congress have made climate one of
its top priorities for 2021. President Biden has named former Secretary of State John Kerry as
International Climate Envoy and former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy as Domestic
Climate Advisor. At USDA, long-time climate expert Robert Bonnie has been named Deputy
Chief of Staff to Secretary Tom Vilsack and Climate Coordinator.

No one has to tell those in agriculture about the impact of climate variability. A recent Iowa State University survey found that 81% of Iowa farmers believe climate change is occurring and over half are concerned about its impact on their own farming operations. According to EPA, a total of 77% of total greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation, electricity, and manufacturing industries. Agriculture is estimated to contribute about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Back in 2009, the Democrat-led House of Representatives attempted to impose a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. This initiative failed because it represented a top-down, government-mandated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the last 12 years, much has changed in agriculture and our view towards climate. Enormous
strides have been made in developing effective measurement and verification tools for carbon
captured in soil and in our nation’s forests. In addition, the dairy and livestock sectors have made
significant strides in methane reduction through changes in feed, technology and the use of
digesters. And biofuels have been shown to play a positive role in reducing agriculture’s climate
footprint.

So, for agriculture what does a workable and effective climate policy look like? First, agriculture must have a front-row seat at the table in these discussions with Congress and the Biden Administration. Second, sound science must drive outcomes. Third, the government should encourage and help foster the growth of private markets. Private, not government markets, are critical to addressing climate and generating revenue for farmers. Great companies such as Cargill, Land O’ Lakes, Bayer, Nutrien, Indigo Agr, and Corteva are already working to build and participate in such private markets. Finally, the Government must incent farmers and ranchers through tax credits and/or payments to adopt practices to capture carbon and reduce methane emissions.

With these in place, the efforts to address climate for U.S. agriculture can be a win-win—good for the environment and a revenue generator for our Nation’s farmers and ranchers. This is Randy Russell in Washington sitting in for Jack Block.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Stimulus Package

January 21, 2021

January 21, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

When you hear this radio commentary, we will have a new President. Joe Biden will face a long and difficult list of challenges. Topping the list will be the Coronavirus and a $1.9 trillion stimulus to lift our economy. That huge spending bill has not passed the Congress yet. Probably will be changed some. The primary objective is to help low-income people. It includes an extension of a 15% increase in food stamps we approved in December and a $600 check per adult. Biden’s plan would hand out another $1400 payment. According to the Wall Street Journal this spending would cut the poverty rate from 12.6% to 9%. The number of children in poverty would drop by half. If we get control of the virus with the vaccine as expected, our economy would be ready to take off.

Goldman Sachs forecasts our economy to grow 6.6% this year. Unemployment could drop to
4.8%. That is a very exciting forecast. But don’t assume that it will be free. We will have to
borrow that $1.9 trillion. U.S. government debt has already exploded by $7 trillion in the last 4
years to $21.6 trillion. One good thing that may not always be the case is that interest rates are
really low. It doesn’t cost so much to borrow money if interest is less than 2% but it might not
stay that low. I remember in the early 1980s we paid 16% or 18%. That was terrible.
Thousands of farms and businesses went broke. As much as we need to be concerned about our
level of debt, we need to fight our way through this global pandemic recession. Here is where
the U.S. stands relative to other nations. Last year our gross domestic product fell by 4.3%. Our
economy should be growing by that much. But compared to other countries we didn’t do so bad.
Japan, Brazil, Germany, Canada, France and U.K. – they all did worse than the U.S. – S. Korea
was down only 2%. China wasn’t down at all. Their economy grew by 2.3%. There is a pretty
broad agreement that we need another stimulus package, but how big should it be? How much
can we afford? That’s the question.

John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

President Biden’s Opportunity

January 13, 2021

January 13, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

I am so tired of these “peaceful” rallies that end up destroying property, looting, and burning flags and signs. We had a dozen of our large cities face this last summer and fall, but by far the worst is the assault on our own Capitol last week. Both parties need to stand up and say “enough is enough”. This is not the USA that I know. Just blaming President Trump will not solve the problem.

I think President-Elect Biden has a great opportunity to step up and work to bring the country
together. Republicans and Democrats should want to put an end to third world riots and
destruction. The two parties need to work on a number of issues and find middle ground. Get
the vaccines out to stop the Coronavirus. Work on trade war problems – China and the EU.
If climate change is going to be on the agenda, go to work. Farm companies are ready to see
what makes sense. We have food shortages for many of our families and it’s projected to get
worse. President-Elect Biden is going to be facing a wave of illegal immigrants headed to crash
our southern border. They think “open borders” will be the new rule. I don’t think so. Will
Biden bring our troops home from the Middle East? I hope so. Biden has a reputation for
working across party lines. It won’t be easy. But we have so many serious challenges before us.
This is an exceptional opportunity for our President. 2021 could be a great year of recovery from
the virus and record economic growth.

Some estimates project farm income to reach a five-year high. Keep in mind however, farm
income from the federal government will not be even close to what it was last year. This year we
can get the money from the market. Corn last year was $3.30 per bushel. Last week I sold some
for $5.00 per bushel. Soybean prices are at $14.00 per bushel and headed higher – unbelievable.
Hogs and cattle are not bad. We just don’t want African Swine Fever. Almost all of our crops
and live animals are worth a lot more than last year.

Let’s encourage our politicians. With President-Elect Biden’s leadership they should avoid the
extreme but march down the middle and get something done. Our President should try to be
President for all the people.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

A New Year and a New Day

January 7, 2021

January 7, 2021

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Last year at this time we were expecting a pretty good year. But out of nowhere the Coronavirus appeared and hammered the whole world with infections and death. It is still with us. With new vaccines we have hope. This year will not be like last year. We will have a new President, and in some cases, he will take us in a different direction. On trade, I think he will make an effort to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade deal.

After all the time and effort in making that Trade Agreement, I did not support pulling out.
When we look at our trade war with China that Biden inherits, managing that will be a challenge.
He has said he would try to preserve the phase one deal that Trump negotiated. That is good, but
there are so many other complications like all kinds of tariffs. The U.S. Government’s
relationship with China has never been worse. That is mostly their fault. Can we get some
meaningful Chinese reform? We shall see.

We can’t ignore our third largest importer of our ag products. China bought $17.1 billion of our
products this past year. That jumped up from $10.1 billion in 2019. Canada and Mexico are our
number 1 and 2 markets – not much ahead of China. We have other serious trade problems – the
EU is one of the worst, and Brazil just put a 2.5% tariff on our ethanol. When it comes to trade,
the new administration will have their hands full.

President Biden has pledged to use his power to get other countries to “buy American.” Wasn’t
that a Trump pledge? I like it. Biden has indicated that he will put an end to the many small
refinery exemptions that EPA has been issuing. If he does what he says, that will be a big help to
the ethanol – corn industry. Kevin Ross, Chairman of the National Corn Growers Association
said this – “Ethanol has a bright future and not just here in USA but around the globe.”
In some cases, I have serious concern about where President Biden’s party will try to take us.
Here is the list – taxes (especially estate tax), debt, environmental regulations (waters of the
U.S.) respect for small businesses and personal property, illegal immigration. It’s a new year
and new day.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Global Warming

December 31, 2020

December 31, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

We have our federal government funding bill passed and signed by President Trump and a generous relief package also. Now is the time to give up on the election challenges. However, I would stress that we need to make sure that future elections are fair and honest. The public deserves a voting system that they have confidence in. The USA needs to set an example for the rest of the world. Looking ahead we can expect “global warming” and “climate change” to be in the headlights.

The ag industry needs to look for ways to benefit from this Biden Administration priority. The
place to start is to withdraw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and put it in the soil. Some very
big ag companies including Bayer, Nutrien and Cargill want us to adopt climate friendly practices.
Plants draw carbon dioxide from the air, combine it with water and sunlight and put it in the soil.
The carbon stays in the soil and oxygen goes back into the air. I don’t pretend to understand the
details of this process. However, perhaps farmers could be paid for this work to fight global
warming. We would be using our fields to capture more carbon.

Another political recommendation is to increase the acres in conservation reserve. That would be good for the soil and the climate. If the land in conservation reserve is along rivers and lakes, that would help to clean up the water running into our streams. Also, a cutback in crop acres would help to boost our prices. If our crop land can be used to block global warning, perhaps our livestock industry can make a contribution. There is a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that really got my attention. Smithfield, the nation’s largest pork producer, is working on a production change. Big hog farms have used big lagoons to capture manure from their barns. Then the methane gas from the lagoons goes up into the air. But methane is a green house gas that we don’t want in our air. So, the answer is to cover the lagoons, capture the methane, and funnel it into a pipeline and on to a power plant. It can be burned for heat.

This process of diverting methane into the energy grid is growing fast. Dairy farms as well as hog
farms can see the opportunity. Capture the methane and sell it. I’m not even convinced that
mankind is responsible for global warming, but perhaps some of these creative ideas could make
a difference. Happy New Year!

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Christmas

December 25, 2020

December 25, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

It’s Christmas. And the New Year is almost upon us. This year has been one for the books. The Coronavirus has upset everything. Millions of jobs have been lost. Some families can’t pay their rent. Small businesses are going bankrupt. New virus cases are surging. One piece of positive news is that our government has passed a $900 billion pandemic relief bill. President Trump has threatened to not sign the bill. Ok – so what’s in the bill? The answer is food. It includes a 15% increase in food stamps. We have millions of families short on food. If the children don’t go to school, they may not get any school lunch. The legislation will help to deal with our hunger problem.

There will be more money for small businesses. And keep in mind small businesses employ one
half of the private sector work force. We are aware that the ag industry has received a lot of help
this year. But the virus is still surging to record cases and deaths. USDA will get $13 billion to
help farmers and ranchers in 2021. There will be some support for biofuel producers. They need
it. Until now they had not received anything. At one time half of our ethanol plants were shut
down. Our meat and poultry processors will get some relief. It has been really hard for them
since many of their workers came down with the virus. Some of our farmers couldn’t find a
processor to buy their pigs. Okay, enough on all the tough times.

It is Christmas and we need to be grateful that we live here in the USA. There is a lot of misery
out there in the world. Most of us will be able to see some of our family. No big parties.
Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is good to think about his teachings. He taught
tolerance, compassion and understanding. He wants us to treat others as we would like to be
treated. We need to be grateful for our blessings. Someone might say – “Well, I’m not a
Christian.” Okay. There are other religions, but the basic rules to live by are not all that different
from one religion to another. This is a good time to reflect on our lives. Call our friends on the
phone. I’m calling today. Yesterday at the supermarket I put some money in the pot for the
Salvation Army. I’m grateful the harvest is all in and no one got hurt. Our hogs are happy, and
the farm team is looking ahead to a New Year.

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

USDA

December 16, 2020

December 16, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

After the election we all read about President Trump challenging the results. However, we also are reading about President-Elect Biden’s possible nominees for his cabinet. We know they are all important, but for agriculture and rural America, the choice for Secretary of Agriculture has been at the top of the list. In one of my commentaries, I suggested Collin Peterson would be an outstanding pick. I said we needed someone who knows rural America and the farmers and ranchers. Thank you to Joe Biden for turning to Tom Vilsack and asking him to come back to USDA and take charge. He served as Ag Secretary for President Obama for 8 years. He knows where the office is and where to hang his coat. Marshall Matz, a partner in the OFW Law Firm chaired the Obama rural campaign in 2008.

Here is what he said, “Tom Vilsack’s commitment to rural America is as strong as the President
Elect’s commitment to fight for the soul of America. A long list of farm, food, and rural leaders
across the nation have stood up in support of Tom Vilsack’s second tour.”
I want to be sure to thank Sonny Perdue for the outstanding job he has done as Secretary of
Agriculture. The minute he was confirmed he hit the road speaking and meeting with farm leaders
all across the nation. In these tough times with trade wars and the coronavirus pandemic, he has
helped to find financial support for our farmers and feed the poor. We say, Thank you Mr.
Secretary, for your service.

Thinking about feeding people. Here is what the World Food Programme Chief had to report. “For millions and millions of people on earth, famine is at humanity’s doorstep.” 100 million received food from the World Food Program this last year. We averted famine after doing so much over recent years to eliminate extreme poverty in nations around the world. Today 270 million are on the brink of starvation.

Finally, in closing I ask the question – will the politicians at long last pass an annual budget and a
coronavirus relief package? Or will they shut down the government? We should know this week.
If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Elections Impact

December 9, 2020

December 9, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn
Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

This is Randy Russell sitting in this week for my dear friend and former boss, Jack Block. I served as Jack’s Chief of Staff at USDA when he was Secretary. There is no better friend and advocate for production agriculture and rural America than Jack Block. And I am truly honored to fill in for him today.

And now today’s commentary. The last two election cycles, millions of Americas have questioned the
outcome and legitimacy of the voting process. These concerns have only heightened following the
November elections. A recent survey by You Gov and the Economist found that 74% of Republicans, 45%
of the Independents, and 6% of the Democrats felt there was widespread voter fraud during the 2020
elections.

At the very heart of our American democracy is the right to vote. But it is more than that. Every eligible voter needs to have confidence that their vote was accurately counted, and the election system is secure. When millions of Americans feel this hasn’t happened—that voter fraud has occurred—our very democracy is threatened. Our nation’s leadership must address these concerns to ensure the sanctity and security of the American voting system. Our country and its citizens deserve nothing less.

And speaking of voting, do you know Joe Biden won only 17% of the roughly 3,000 counties in the U.S. This is the lowest percentage of counties won by a President-elect in the history of our country. I cannot think of any better argument against abolishing the electoral college than this fact. How do you think rural
America will fare if our President is elected by popular vote? Finally, the U.S. Census Bureau is completing the census, which takes place every ten years. One of the important effects of the census will be that our 435 Congressional Districts will be re-drawn. These re-drawn Congressional Districts will go into effect for the 2022 mid-term elections. States gaining population, such as Texas, Florida, and North Carolina, are expected to gain seats. States losing population, such as Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio, will likely lose House seats.

Importantly, only 35 of the 435 House districts are rural--meaning that 50% or more of their population is rural. Meanwhile, 195 House districts are considered urban. With the upcoming redistricting process, the 35 House districts that are considered rural will decline even further. What does this mean? In order for rural America to be successful going forward on key issues, such as farm bills and trade policy, it is imperative we build bridges to urban and suburban Members. This process must begin in earnest starting in January with the beginning of the 117th Session of Congress.

This is Randy Russell standing in for Jack Block, reporting from Washington. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Transition

December 3, 2020

December 3, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

The transition to a new President and new team to lead our country is in process. However, Joe Biden will not step into the White House until January 20th. In the meantime, there is still work to be done. The federal government will shut down on December 11th unless Congress passes legislation to fund and keep our government operating. Also, there is still some hope that along with that bill, the Congress will include some money to support those unemployed and those suffering from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Other unfinished business, what about China? President Trump has challenged China’s trade
policies and policies of international dominance. Now other countries in Europe, Asia, and
around the world may be ready to join with us and demand reform. Did you know that China is
designated as a “developing country” by the World Trade Organization? Therefore, China is
authorized to use mass subsidies and distort world trade. That is outrageous. I’m not sure tariffs
and a trade war are the best way to hammer China into line, but we did get their attention. Now,
maybe with the support of other developed nations, we can get China to play by some new rules.
Speaking of new rules, we need some new rules for the EPA. They need to stop giving special
favors to the small refineries. The Renewable Fuel Standard requires that 15 billion gallons of
ethanol must be blended. Maybe President Biden could get this done. We can only hope that
President Biden will keep the pressure on the member nations of NATO to pay their agreed share
of the cost. That share is 2% of their nation’s GDP. Only 10 member nations out of 30 are
paying that. The European nations need to realize that their security is at risk. They need to
understand it is not just a U.S. responsibility. I’m afraid that President Trump’s insistence on
cutting regulations will be turned back by the new political team. That could be very costly to
our country and to the food and ag industry. I can just imagine government regulations telling us
how to run our farms.

Finally, who will be our next Secretary of Agriculture? Let’s hope it is someone with close ties to rural America and agriculture. Next week Randy Russell, a close friend and respected ag advisor here in DC will deliver the commentary.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review
my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Thanksgiving

November 25, 2020

November 25, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the
National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

We just celebrated another Thanksgiving. At least, I hope we celebrated it. I know these are
chaotic times. The worst problem is that the corona virus has us isolated and shut down. Also, it
may not be on your mind right now but if our Congress doesn’t agree on a spending plan and
budget for the fiscal year, we will shut down. We have until December 11 th to get something
done. If that is not enough, it appears that a new President will be taking charge on January 20th.
We are yet to see what that might mean. Certainly, getting and distributing the new virus
vaccine will be a challenge. Yes – just think about the level of uncertainty in the US and the
other countries in the world. We have a lot on our platter.

Ok – back to Thanksgiving. We had turkey on our platter. And as delicious as it was, it was not expensive. According to the American Farm Bureau a dinner for 10 cost $48.91. For 10 people that is the lowest cost since 2010. That includes Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, rolls and butter, peas, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. That makes me hungry just to think about it. We won’t be having big parties and big crowds this year because of the virus. But we still have a lot to be thankful for. 

It is a great gift to live here in “the land of the free and home of the brave.” Think about the world for a moment. We have to be thankful that we don’t live in the misery that unfortunate others cannot escape. Look at the hunger in so many African countries. Think about the thousands that have been displaced and have no home in the Middle East. Fortunately, we are not in a big war like I remember as a little boy. Our young men were fighting and dying in Europe and Japan. My mother’s cousin was killed in that war.

As difficult as life may be for some here in the US, people from all over the world want to come here. This is the land of opportunity. Even with the challenges that we face – remember what Ronald Reagan said, “It’s morning in America.”

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Climate Change

November 18, 2020

November 18, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

With the Biden Presidency approaching, climate change has been elevated to talk and perhaps
even action which will affect agriculture and rural America. Powerful voices in our ag industry
are forming the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. The groups involved include the
American Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Council of
Farmer Cooperatives. I see these groups that can differ in a whole host of issues coming together
because they are afraid of the policies that climate change and the Green New Deal could mean
for our industry. Other groups will join the Food and Ag Climate Alliance. You can be sure the
food industry will be there, also forestry. I think this alliance has a big challenge. We need to
find how agriculture can deal with climate change and at the same time defend our food
production industry. A growing world population will need food.

The European Union has a plan – “Farm to Fork” - which is part of the EU Green Deal. They want to make the Union climate neutral by 2050. To accomplish their goal here is what they would do – reduce the use of pesticides by 50%, cut fertilizer by 50%, and increase organic farming by 25%.

A USDA Economic Research Service review concludes that the European plan would result in a 7% to 12% decline in ag production in Europe. EU food prices would rise 17% to 60%. Global food prices would increase by 89% if other countries adapted the EU plan. By 2030 – that’s only 10 years – the world would have as many as 185 million people living with food insecurity. The EU says they can do this Green Deal without seeing reduced production. That’s hard for me to believe. Perhaps the food supply would not fall as much as USDA projects. Countries around the world will take some steps to sequester carbon in the soil and protect water., But if they go to the European extreme, reducing the supply of food, I would expect a big jump in the prices for corn and soybeans – I can’t wait.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Where Do We Go Now

November 12, 2020

November 12, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

The election is behind us. There was no “blue wave.” After the Courts review the
election process to see if it was fraud free – no corruption -- then the winner will be formally
declared. As of now, it looks like Joe Biden will get the job. I said – this was not a blue wave.
Republicans have picked up at least 5 and maybe more House seats. Also, although there will be
a runoff election of 2 Senate seats in Georgia, the Republican candidates are expected to win. If
everything falls in place as I expect, we will have a divided government. That’s not all bad.

Once inaugurated in January, President Biden will have to work with the Republican Senate in order to get anything done. Democrats will not be able to pass legislation to pack the Supreme Court – not that they would but some did want to. Although the Dems and Republicans might be able to raise some tax money, the Trump Tax Legislation which is law until 2026 should stay in place. That means the Death Tax will not come down on small family businesses, farms, and ranches. I know that some of the Biden team were considering that. Maybe a Republican Senate can limit the legislative damage but look for President Biden to use his pen with more aggressive regulations. Many of President Trump’s regulatory changes could be rolled back. I would not expect President Biden to slap tariffs on everything like President Trump. That could be a good thing. I am hopeful the phase one deal with China could be saved.

On the question of who Biden would choose for his staff and cabinet, I have one name on my wish list. For Secretary of Agriculture I want Collin Peterson. He has served as Chairman of the House Ag Committee. He is a Democrat, and he knows the Ag industry. He is a great guy, and he plays country music.

On the subject of trade – the Trump Administration and the Biden team are in the middle of a violent trade dispute with Europe. Back and forth with tariffs and accusations and responding to World Trade Organization rulings. It is a mess.

Last word – today is Veteran’s Day. Thank you to the brave men and women that have served our Country. I have this small blanket beside me on my chair. The message on it reads “Freedom is not free.” Thank you for your service.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Election and More

November 5, 2020

November 5, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 I write this week’s commentary, we still don’t have all the details of the election results.
Here is what we do know. Republicans will maintain control of the Senate. That is a big deal.
Even if Biden does push President Trump out, it will be by a very small margin. And Biden will
have to deal with a Republican controlled Senate. The election numbers are a shock to the
Democratic party. The polls predicted a landslide victory for them. Didn’t happen. Now we will
wait and see where we go from here.

There are some other things going on even though they don’t measure up to the election. President Trump took grey wolves off the list of endangered species. The states will now be handed responsibility of managing some 6,000 wolves. Most of the wolves live in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. There are 1,800 grey wolves in other western states. Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt reminds us – “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the grey wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is delighted. Our ranchers can kill these wolves that have been killing our baby calves. These wolves have been killing our sheep and lambs also. After all of these years, at last our farmers and ranchers have government support. I can see no value in protecting these wolves. But you can be sure some conservation groups will take this to Court.

Another issue – with a politically divided Congress we will be in a better position to block
extreme legislation that the left wants to pass. Senator Grassley warns that farm groups need to
push back against a Senate bill that would ban gas powered cars after 2035. “It is an extreme
government overreach.” University of Tennessee says that would result in a $27 billion drop in
farm income. We have been hearing some criticism about U.S. farm subsidies. Here are some
facts – world ag subsidies exceed $700 billion. Because of the trade war and coronavirus our
numbers have jumped up. Still South Korea, Japan, China and EU pay out more as a percent of
their farm revenue. Unfortunately, poor countries don’t have the money to support their farms.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Amy Coney Barrett Confirmed

October 28, 2020

October 28, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by
the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Another President Trump promise has been kept. Amy Coney Barrett is now a member
of the U.S. Supreme Court. Lead Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer said “Confirmation of
a lifetime appointment this late into presidential election season is outrageous.” The Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded, “the Senate is doing the right thing.” I understand
Senator Schumer’s opposition to the confirmation. He had hoped that Biden would beat Trump
in the election and perhaps also if the Democrats could take control of the Senate – maybe they
could fill the seat held by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Timing is everything. Now
Republicans have a strong conservative majority on the court – six to three.

The vote to confirm Justice Barrett was 52-48. Every Republican Senator except 1 voted
for her but no Democrats. President Trump said, “she will make an outstanding Justice on the
highest court.” She is the first Republican woman to be seated on the Court since Sandra Day
O’Connor in 1981 by President Reagan. That was my first year as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Justice Barrett is the first Justice to have school age children. She has 7, and 2 of them
were adopted. Democrats hope to see Biden win the election and win a majority in the Senate.
Then with that majority power, they could pass legislation to increase the number of members of
the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has had 9 justices for the last 150 years. President
Roosevelt tried to “Pack the Court” back in the 1930s. He didn’t’ get it done. We don’t want
that to happen now either. 

Justice Barrett and the other eight Justices will go to work next week.
There is a list of important issues on the table. That includes regulatory cases, a Fish and
Wildlife Service issue, and President Trump wants illegal immigrants to be excluded from the
Census. I agree with the President that they should not be counted. The Court will decide. Be
sure to vote next week!

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

A Biden Presidency

October 21, 2020

October 21, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

The election is less than 2 weeks away. Current polls have Democratic candidate Biden
in the lead. Rural America delivered the difference in the last election. I think most of us have
been pleased with President Trump’s positions on issues that we care about. But let’s think
about what changes a Biden Presidency would bring.

Trade – Biden is expected to get rid of a lot of the tariffs. Trump has used tariffs to pressure other countries to give the U.S. better access to their markets and in the case of China to stop the theft of our intellectual property. It is debatable how effective the tariff weapon has been. However, I would argue that the phase one deal on ag trade with China seems to be selling a lot of corn, soybeans, beef, pork and chicken. The Chinese agreement is in writing, signed and fully enforceable.

Ag Subsidies - With Coronavirus and the trade war, billions of dollars have been
provided to help the farm and ranch industry through these hard times. But you can expect that
money faucet to be turned off by whoever is elected.
Regulations – President Trump has fought against over regulation. American agriculture
strongly opposes government interference in our private business. Don’t tell us we can’t dig a
ditch or tile a wet spot. If there is oil in the ground “drill baby drill.” We used to be dependent
on the Middle East for oil and gas. Not today. We are a net exporter. There is no debate.
President Biden will want more regulations.

Tax Policy - For farmers and small family businesses the tax position of the Democratic Party is a serious concern. I expect that with our soaring debt, we can justify higher taxes on the rich. But what about the family farms and small businesses? How can family business keep going if the “Death Tax” comes and takes away half of your farm? In 2017 the estate tax law exemption was raised to $11.58 million, but in 2025 it will drop back to $5.8 million. Will a Biden Administration support legislation to keep the exemption where it is today? If the exemption fell back down, according to the American Farm Bureau, 156,000 farms would see the Death Tax steal their business. When a small business owner dies and suddenly the estate has a huge tax bill, often times they have to sell their business to pay the tax. We lose another family business. I would hope our elected politicians appreciate that. The late Yale social scientist, William Sumner called them the “Forgotten Man” “He works, he votes, generally he prays – but he always pays.”

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

World Food Program

October 15, 2020

October 15, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

The Presidential election battle rages on. Biden leads in the polls. But don’t forget that
four years ago Hillary Clinton was leading, and the Trump victory shocked the world. Think
about this – in one respect, whoever wins, rural America and Agriculture will come out on top.
President Trump’s victory in the last election would never have happened if rural America had
not carried him across the finish line. Candidate Clinton referred to the rural workers, and
people of the heartland as deplorable. That gave Trump the election. Today’s election – just
around the corner is different. Vice President Biden has been meeting with rural and farm
voters. He has been in the farm states. Also, other Democratic candidates continue to reach out
to the voters that had been forgotten before. Rural America is at last getting the respect and
attention deserved.

New subject – one week ago it was announced that the United Nations World Food
Program would receive the Nobel Peace Prize. When we are out in the field picking corn or
sorting pigs, we don’t even think about the World Food Program. But I think the World Food
Program is a big deal. The WFP provides food to 100 million people in 88 countries. Those
people are desperate as they face food insecurity and hunger. “With the coronavirus pandemic,
we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation” reported
by the Nobel Committee.

David Beasley, former Governor of South Carolina is the WFP Executive Director and
had this to say, “WFP is out there in the most difficult, complex places in the world. Whether
it’s war, conflict, climate extremes, it doesn’t matter.” I have a special place in my heart for the
World Food Program. The U.S. is the program's largest donor providing 43% of the total of $6.3
billion. Also, the United States has an organization supporting the World Food Program that is
Friends of WFP. I served on that board for several years and came to appreciate the unselfish,
huge volume of food made available to desperate people all over the world. I remember the first
American woman to head that organization, Catherine Bertini. She did a great job. To the Nobel
selection committee- the World Food Program was the right choice.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Bad Year

October 8, 2020

October 8, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by
the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

This year has been one for the record book, and it’s not over yet. We were riding a wave
of success when it started with the lowest unemployment in years – rising wages and the ag
industry had an exciting trade deal with China. Then along came the Coronavirus – killing
millions of people all around the world. No one can be certain of safety. In the spring when the
virus hit and devastated New York and California, rural America hoped it might miss us. No
way – it went to Texas and Florida and now the Midwest is the latest hot spot. The Dakotas,
Iowa, Wisconsin and spreading fast. There is no escape.

Now – President Trump has the virus. We are happy he seems to be recovering quickly. We pray for all individuals and families that have had to deal with this. It has been a major disruption of global trade. Jobs have been lost. Many of the world’s countries that used to be big customers of ours just don’t have the money to buy our export goods. Our U.S. trade deficit hit a record high in August - $67 billion including services. The deficit in goods – almost $84 billion. China seems to be recovering faster than a lot of other countries. The Washington Post writes: “Economies in Europe, Japan, Brazil and India all are projected to suffer deeper recessions this year than the U.S. U.S. output is expected to drop 4% while Europe will experience a 7% decline.” If we are going to recover from the virus recession, we will have to do it without much help from overseas.

Here is another challenge that we face here in the U.S. Wildfires in California, Oregon,
and Washington. Fires have burned more than 4 million acres. We may have a shortage of
California wine now. Everyone is looking for who to blame. Fires in the West are not new. But
they are worse this year. It is warm. Can we blame climate change? But we are not going to fix
climate change overnight. We could, however, do a much better job of managing our forests. All
the dead trees, wood, and leaves are just waiting for the first spark. Stop worrying about the
spotted owl. Clean up our forests. If we don’t, the owl will burn with everything else.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

The Debate

October 1, 2020

October 1, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

How exciting – With the Presidential race headed for the finish line, we got to hear President Trump and Vice President Biden debate the issues. What a waste of my time. All they did was talk over each other with interruptions and insults. Biden said Trump has been the “worst President that America has ever had.” After a number of interruptions Biden told President Trump to “shut up.” President Trump pounded Biden for his plan to make U.S. a socialist Country. I don’t think the public learned much from that debate.

Let’s turn to farming and agriculture. We have not been blessed with good prices. You
can blame the Coronavirus and all the supply disruptions or over production. Ohio State University
projects that prices for next year won’t be any better - $3.40 per bushel for corn and $8.50 for
soybeans. I hope they are better. In the last month we have seen some better prices. The
government support programs for agriculture have been very helpful. Without that money there
would be a lot more bankruptcies. However, farmers and ranchers cannot take this money flow
for granted. We will have to survive without it.

Not counting this year – U.S. farm subsidies fell below what is spent by other developed
countries. According to statistics from OECD and Successful Farming magazine the world spends
$2 billion a day on farm subsidies. The 54 leading countries in the world spend $700 billion a year
supporting farmers.

My position is that developed nations should work together in cutting market-distorting
subsidies and get rid of non-tariff trade barriers. It won’t be easy. As challenging as the farm
economy has been, we have others hurting even more. We have families without the money to
pay the rent or buy food and medicine. One in four Americans have less than $400 in savings.
Millions have no savings at all.

Last of all – Hats off to Orion Samuelson who has just announced that he will retire from
farm broadcasting at the end of the year. No one has done a better job of telling agriculture’s story
to the public. Thank you, Orion, for your leadership and friendship.
Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

On the Farm Sept 2020

September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

I have escaped the wild and crazy political wars of Washington, DC. I am on my farm in
Illinois. My first time back since the virus hit. My voice will sound a little different since I am
on the phone. I am so excited to look at our fields of corn and soybeans – I walk in the corn
fields, check the ears. Our combines are out and starting to roll. Corn moisture is not bad –
about 24%. I’m a little surprised, but our soybeans are ready for harvest. The weather is just
beautiful here this week.

As I look at our crops, I feel so grateful. Thank you, God. I can’t help but feel sorry for
the farms in Iowa and other states that had their crops destroyed. Don’t forget about the
hurricanes in the South East. Farming is a risky business. On our farm we have dealt with down
corn in years past. We have seen the Spoon River flood our river bottom corn and soybeans.
Even if you do everything right - timely planting, good seed, weed control - you can’t control the
weather. I am reading in Successful Farming magazine that because of La Niña, next year’s
weather “could bring widespread severe drought and catastrophic hurricanes to the United
States.” They project well below trend yields in 2021. Hope they are wrong.

I was in our hog barns. Three new litters born yesterday. Our hogs are healthy and
happy. We have a trailer load (180 head) headed for market tomorrow. Processing plants are
managing the virus now. A positive lift for agriculture – President Trump announced that USDA
will roll out another $13 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers whose markets have been
disrupted by coronavirus. That should help. Farmers and ranchers say thank you.
I also want to thank my farm team. They do the hard work – growing, harvesting, caring
for baby pigs. I do the easy work – selling the grain at the right time or wrong time. Nothing is
easy. And yet, I love it – just being with my feet on this rich black soil and holding a beautiful
golden ear of corn in my hand.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Constitution Day and More

September 16, 2020

September 16, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by
the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Did you know that September 17 this week was Constitution Day? Our country has the
longest continuous running Constitution in the world – 230 years. We have endured a Civil War,
a Great Depression and two World Wars and now a deadly pandemic. In 1963 Dr. Martin Luther
King put it this way: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the
Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which
every American was to fall heir. All men would be guaranteed the undeniable rights to life, liberty
and pursuit of happiness.” We need to support and defend our Constitution. We need justice in
our Courts that will defend our Constitution. It has served as our foundation all these years.

Good news for corn farmers and biofuels. President Trump ordered the EPA to reject the petitions from 54 refineries asking for exemptions. They do not qualify for economic hardship exemptions. Blend in the ethanol as the law states. Another Trump Executive Order that could make a huge difference in the cost of prescription drugs was just issued. If the order is successfully implemented, it should bring the cost of drugs in the US more closely aligned with what other countries charge. Of course, you know our medical industry will challenge this one.

Back to the farm – we are all aware that crop herbicides have their critics. I remember
walking the corn fields with other high school boys hoeing the weeds. I also recall in 1992 going
to Monsanto and being briefed on biotech crops that were tolerant of new deadly weed killers. The
Farm Journal has the story. Here is the title: “Rob Farley’s Biotech Shot was Heard Round the
World.” It is a powerful story. In 1996 4.3 million acres of biotech crops were planted. This year
we have 500 million acres of biotech crops across the globe. We do not need kids to hoe the corn
fields anymore. The weeds are gone.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Government Gridlock and More

September 9, 2020

September 9, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

We have not heard much about the threat of African Swine Fever. Even China seems to be recovering from that devastating disease. But now the swine industry in Germany is worried. Poland has been suffering swine fever losses and they are right up against Germany. Germany is one of the world’s largest pork producing nations with 22,000 swine operations. A big risk is that it can be spread by wild boars. There has been a lot of concern here in Washington about whether the Congress, which cannot agree on anything, will fail to pass legislation to fund our government after this month. Our new fiscal year begins October 1, and without legislation we will have no money. The word now is that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have agreed to work on a short-term spending bill that would fund our government until mid-December. The election would be behind us then and putting together a budget for next year should be much easier. The other legislative issue hanging in the air is whether lawmakers can come together and pass a new coronavirus relief bill. There is no agreement at this point. Democrats want to spend $2 trillion and Republicans say that is too much. Who gets the money, and how much, is the other big dispute.

Last subject – We celebrated Labor Day Monday this week. I have so much respect and appreciation for the hard-working laborers of this country. They are the ones that feed the chickens, milk the cows, bale the hay. They repair the power lines and rebuild the houses and barns after the storms. We cannot forget the health care workers risking their lives in the face of the Coronavirus. We still have too many workers unemployed. The August report tells us that our economy added 1.4 million jobs and the unemployment rate fell from 10.2% to 8.4%. That is progress. But, before the pandemic the unemployment rate was 3.5% with income rising. Hats off to the workers. Let us rebuild the economy and pay them more money.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Taiwan and More

September 2, 2020

September 2, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by
the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Taiwan – Let us keep in mind that China claims the island of Taiwan as part of China.
But the citizens of Taiwan do not see it that way. Eleven men and women between the ages of
16 and 33 bought a speed boat and departed Hong Kong headed toward Taiwan. They were
risking their lives to escape the Chinese dominance of citizens of Hong Kong. Well, they did not
make it to Taiwan. The Chinese Coast Guard intercepted them and now they face charges of
illegally entering Chinese waters. I am afraid that China’s strangle hold on Hong Kong will only
get worse.

With all of this in mind, U.S. relations with Taiwan will only get stronger. We can expect more trade talks with Taiwan. They just agreed to buy more pork and beef from the U.S. With all the disputes that we have with China “Senior U.S. and Chinese officials just announced that they are committed to carry out phase-one trade accord between the two nations.” Keep your fingers crossed.

Turn to food – It was just announced that 75 million family food boxes have been
delivered to needy families. In addition, President Trump announced an additional $1billion to
provide more food boxes through September and October. Food to needy families is so
important. Biofuels – corn farmers and the ag industry cannot get EPA to stop giving small
refineries an exemption so they can avoid blending biofuels. That cuts demand for ethanol and
weighs on corn prices. President Trump has promised to review this problem. I do not expect
any decision until after the election. A new study led by a team of plant scientists and engineers
“predicts significant climate benefits stemming from the use of advanced biofuel technology.”
The National Academy of Science tells us “we can expect net greenhouse gas irrigation
and negative emissions.” That is encouraging.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Corn

August 28, 2020

August 28, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

I want to open today by talking about corn. There are a lot of crops planted in the Midwest, but none as important to the economy as corn. When I grew up we fed the corn that we produced to our pigs, cows, and chickens. Our yield per acre was about 70 bushels. Today we expect 250 bushels per acre or more. We are thankful that the industry has found new uses for corn besides feed. Forty percent of our corn crop is processed into ethanol. That has meant everything to the corn industry. Without that new market, corn would be worth far less than it is today. However, the coronavirus has hammered the fuel market and as a result we are looking at record corn carryover this fall. Fortunately, China is making some big corn buys and is committed to carrying out phase 1 of our trade deal.

Another opportunity is to increase the percentage of ethanol in our gasoline. We pull up
at the gas station and fill up with 10% ethanol fuel. But E15 - 15% ethanol, is legal. Some gas
stations sell it, especially in Midwestern states. If the public understood why E15 is better, they
would want to buy it. But the “Big Oil” industry has fought ethanol with all of their power. I
think we have a chance of increasing the ethanol fuel percentage to 20% or 30%. Did you know
that Brazil uses 20% ethanol in their fuel? Now, I know some will argue that corn should be
eaten. “Don’t Burn It.” I say that it’s time we recognized that with all of our new technology
and precision farming we just produce more food than we can use. More food than the world
could consume. We have a strong case. Biofuels (ethanol) produce lower emissions resulting in
cleaner air and higher octane giving the engine more power. There are cities all over the world
that could use cleaner air. I saw that when I was in China 3 years ago. Environmentalists should
be cheering for ethanol.

Last point – We can’t control the weather. I am sorry for all the farms in Iowa devastated by the storms. And now hurricanes are pounding Louisiana and Texas. This is not an easy year down on the farm.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues of the Day

August 21, 2020

August 21, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Pick up your newspaper. Turn on your tv. I am shocked at the level of mayhem,
destruction, and looting in some of our great cities. Look at Chicago, Portland, New York,
Minneapolis and many more. They are burning government buildings, torching cars, looting
stores, smashing windows. Not to mention an explosion in gun violence. This is not going to
help black families. They are suffering the most. Defunding the police is not going to help
either.

It is time for the Governors, Mayors and the public to stand up and demand law and order. This
is not the United States of America that I love.
On a positive note President Trump opened the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil
drilling after 40 years of review and consideration. We are not talking about a little field. We
are talking about 19 million acres. The environmental lobby is against the drilling, but Alaskans
support the decision. It is not going to threaten the polar bears and other wildlife. Think of the
thousands of new jobs that will be created. Our valuable assets need to be put to use.
Now, just a word about the U.S. Postal Service. They have been losing billions of dollars for
many years. They need to make some changes. Well, they have started to do some things, but
with an election coming up and millions of mail-in ballots expected, can they handle the load?
The Post Office battle has just begun.

Last subject – Illinois Governor James R. Thompson passed away at age 84. What a great guy –
a very outstanding governor serving a record 16 years. He was elected Governor in 1976. Took
the lead in creating jobs and International Trade. Of course, he needed to appoint his cabinet.
He needed a Director of Agriculture. Jim Thompson a Chicago lawyer – I did not know him.
He did not know me. Some how my name got passed to him. I was asked to go to Springfield,
Illinois for an interview. Surprise – He asked me to serve as Director of the Illinois Department
of Agriculture. Four years later Ronald Reagan was elected President of the U.S. Governor Jim
Thompson encouraged President-elect Reagan to consider John Block as his Secretary of
Agriculture. You know the rest of the story. I thank Governor Thompson for his support, but
more than that – we are all grateful for his service to our state and the nation.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review
my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

This and That

August 13, 2020

August 13, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

There are a lot of balls in the air. I will try to deal with a few select ones today. I’ll start with aluminum tariffs – President Trump re-imposed a 10% “national security” tariff on imports of aluminum from Canada. Was that justified? I have my doubts. We just got the USMCA trade agreement approved and in place. Now Canada will retaliate with tariffs on some of our products – including washing machines, golf clubs etc. We have enough problems without creating another one.

Next – the COVID-19 aid fight. We don’t know where this is going. Negotiations have
stalled. President Trump said he would take care of the aid with an Executive Order if Congress
won’t step up and do it. The President ordered extended unemployment benefits, deferral of
payroll taxes, and more. Democrat leadership and some Republicans question the President’s
legal authority to do this. He is doing it any way. Perhaps Democrats will launch a lawsuit to
stop the aid, but politically that might be a bad idea for them.

A better outcome would be for both parties to come back and hammer out a compromise
pandemic relief package. Continuing Resolution – that’s what we will get. With less than a
dozen Congressional workdays left before the end of this fiscal year, Congress is not going to
pass a budget. We don’t want to shut down the government. A Continuing Resolution will carry
us beyond the election. Late again, but they can get it done.

Trade – U.S. agriculture is in position to end this year with a net trade deficit. I cannot
ever remember that happening before. Our deficit this year is $3 billion and not expected to get
any better in a month and a half. Corn sales are down 11%, cotton down 19% - fruits and
vegetables also down. China is coming on strong now. A 799,000 metric ton purchase of
soybeans was just announced following last week’s 1 million ton purchase. I still worry every
day as our U.S. – China relations continue to deteriorate. Trade disputes have hurt our sales, and
the virus has disrupted trade. Many normal trade channels are not working, and at the same time
it is reported that there are 844 million people in the world that are “food insecure.” They need
food.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

More Spending More Aid

August 6, 2020

August 6, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by
the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

It was so easy and so fast in the Spring -- when Republicans and Democrats came
together and authorized big spending to support our people and the economy. We didn’t have
the money. They spent $3 trillion anyway. The pandemic still rages, and Congress is in the
process of trying to decide how to provide more support. Food Aid is top of the list.

In 2019 food assistance money spending went down 8% from the year before. But with the virus food spending has exploded. Food stamp benefits in the month of April rocketed up 40%. There is pending legislation to make school meals universal this year. That won’t be so easy if many of our children won’t be in school. We don’t have a deal yet, but you can expect more food assistance. The $600 addition that has been part of unemployment benefits expired last Friday. Congress will probably continue that added money but at a lower level.

Government has a lot of challenges, but so does our farm economy. We keep getting reports about how good our crops are and how many acres are planted. After harvest we will have a huge surplus. Prices are down. Projections are that grain and livestock farmers can only hope to break even this year, and next year could be worse. Here is some encouraging news. Our corn prices may be in the tank, but in China prices are soaring. Look back to 2016 and China had huge inventories of grain. No more. It is gone, and they will have to import tons of corn. Their hog numbers are starting to recover from the swine flu, and they will need a lot of grain. We have it. We need to limit our disputes with China. And then, perhaps they will make their big buy of our products.

Another market for us is ethanol sales to Brazil. Brazil is our largest foreign market for
ethanol. Critics of President Trump are angry that our U.S. Ambassador to Brazil asked that
country to lower their tariffs and buy more of our ethanol. Democrats argue that President
Trump did that to help his campaign. So what? It was a good idea to lift my corn price. As we
approach the presidential election in less than 100 days, the battle rages on.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Weather and Trade

July 30, 2020

July 30, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by
the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

All reports from the heartland tell us that this year’s crops look good. Corn and soybeans
on my farm are as good as I can remember. However, they are not ready to harvest. A hot dry
August could do some serious damage. Besides watching the weather, we keep an eye on the
markets. China has been an aggressive buyer of our corn, soybeans, pork, and beef. The pork
production in China is still suffering from swine fever. They are 20% below one year ago. The
big question that we have is – will China meet, or even come close, to buying the volume of our
farm products they promised?

Jamieson Greer, former Chief of Staff to the U.S. Trade Representative had this to say, “I
don’t think it’s going away. The Chinese really need this deal and the Trump Administration has
every incentive to keep it.” A column in the Wall Street Journal informs us that China wants to
keep trade matters separate from other frictions in the relationship. President Trump has not
been soft on China. Blaming China for the “Chinese” virus, intellectual property thefts, human
rights violations and more. China’s crackdown on Hong Kong has the U.S. and other countries
pushing back. We called China’s aggressive action in the South China Sea “completely
unlawful.”

With an election coming up both Republicans and Democrats are fighting to see who can
be toughest on China. So far, the trade deal seems to stand alone. If China does follow through
and buy the huge volume of our ag products agreed to, that would be terrific. In addition, they
have promised to buy an additional $200 billion of U.S. products by the end of next year.
I was not happy to read what President Trump had to say, “The trade deal with China
means less to me now than it did when I made it.” Well, the trade deal means a lot to American
agriculture. We don’t want it to go up in smoke. Hopefully, we can keep our trade relationship
away from the other long list of disputes. After the November election the winner needs to sit
down with China and find a way to live together. We don’t need a Cold War.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Virus Relief Package

July 22, 2020

July 22, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

We have two parties – Republicans and Democrats in our Congress. And then we have
President Trump. They all want to pass a new relief package to help us through our coronavirus
recession. Democrats want to spend $3 trillion while Republicans are talking about $1 trillion.
That is a big difference and they have serious differences on who gets the money.

The Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. John Hoeven, wants more than $14 billion to assist farmers. Priority will be the livestock sector. (The National Pork Producers Council claims they will lose too many pork farms if they do not get more relief.) The supply chain has suffered more disruptions than anyone ever imagined. Food for people is another priority.

Our Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp program) has seen a surge
in new customers, 6 million, since the virus hit. Democrats are pushing for an increase in
benefits and more money to help our food banks. In the end I think both parties will make more
food available for the needy. Also, USDA wants more money for the Farmers to Families Food
Box Program. Democrats support the $600 per week payment to unemployed workers. That
was passed in March and ends this month. They want it extended to the end of the year. The
consequence of that extra money has not been all good. Workers receiving unemployment
checks plus $600 have no incentive to go back to work. The $600 will be extended. Perhaps
something less.

Democrats want more federal aid to states and cities. They will get some, but not close to
what they want. A very high priority for Republicans is to expand liability protection for
businesses, schools, and non-profit organizations. If we do not do that, every virus infected
person could sue the company. We have too many lawsuits now. Finally, President Trump and
some members of Congress want a payroll tax cut. Not likely. Look at all the different priorities
and options with very little time to negotiate a compromise. It will not be easy, but I think they
will get it done.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Pandemic Costs Money

July 16, 2020

July 16, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

We are trying to survive a global pandemic, trade disruptions, and trade conflicts. Farm
bankruptcies have been increasing for 5 years in a row. And they are expected to continue to climb
in the next 12 months. Thank you to the federal government - farm support payments have jumped
from $11.5 billion in 2017 to $32 billion this year. However, the government cannot and will not
keep this up. It is not sustainable. The Congress is supposed to pass the appropriations bill for
next year’s spending. But, I do not expect them to get it done on time. At this point the House is
going to vote on their bill next week. I do not know when the Senate will get their work done.
Then the bills will have to be negotiated. They will not get that done. Federal government funding
expires in 11 weeks. Then we can expect a stop gap spending bill which will fund our government
at current levels until after the election in November. Everything in this town is tied up in politics
now.

Even with all the federal money already spent there is political support for another relief
package. I realize that agriculture spending is high, but we have been throwing money at
everything. Our government deficit spending surpassed $3 trillion over the past 12 months. That
is the largest annual deficit as a share of the economy since World War II. The Congressional
Budget Office projects the annual deficit could total $3.7 trillion by the end of this fiscal year Sept
30.

It will be more than that if Congress passes another emergency spending bill. I think that
we all realize and accept the fact that it’s going to cost money to get through this recession. We
have very low interest rates, but how much can we borrow? Is it no big deal to just print money
or do we have to pay it back? Of course, our children and grandchildren can do that. I think our
government has done a pretty good job of limiting the recession pain, but there has to be a limit.
Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Pandemic Costs

July 8, 2020

July 8, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

In recent weeks, the news has focused on the number of cases of Coronavirus and related
deaths. We are aware of the large amount of money and support that our federal government has
made available, but I’m not sure we have focused enough on the resulting family disruption and
hunger. Families are struggling to feed their children. Here in the U.S. Black and Hispanic
families are suffering the most. Billions and billions of dollars have been spent. Now on Capitol
Hill there is pressure to provide a 15% increase in food stamp benefits in a new Coronavirus Aid
Package.

Policy research at Northwestern University reports that food insecurity in 2018 for Black households was 25%. Today it is at 39%. For Hispanics, in 2018 the number was 17% and today it is 37%. The number for White children is not very good either – 22% is double what it was in 2018. Here is how they measure food insecurity. “a household that’s either uncertain about or unable to get enough food to feed everyone.”

We can expect another Coronavirus Aid Package and I think more food for those most
needy should be part of it. We have our own food challenges, but so does the rest of the world.
There are millions of families all over the world that don’t have the money to put food on the
table. The World Food Program said last week that it plans to “dramatically escalate food
assistance to feed 138 million people this year. The pandemic is making the poorest poorer and
the hungriest hungrier.” David Beasley, the World Food Program Executive Director, said “the
world could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.

There is another consequence of the pandemic that I had not thought about. Migrant workers from developing countries all over the world every year come to developed countries for work. They come to the US. They go to Germany, the UK, France, and other EU countries. Millions of Filipino, Mexicans, South Americans and Indians find work overseas and send $554 billion back to their home countries. They have come to rely on that cash. But, with the Coronavirus global disruption, the money flow to those in need is expected to decline by 20%.

Hunger will multiply. I have talked about how costly the pandemic has been to our ag industry, but we are not alone.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues of the Day

July 1, 2020

July 1, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

For more than 2 years the U.S., Canada and Mexico have been negotiating a new North
American Free Trade Agreement. Finally, USMCA became effective this week. Even with the
new trade deal, President Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on Canadian aluminum. I don’t
think we need to do that. Let us give USMCA some time to work.

Midwest agriculture has a serious problem that seems to never get fixed. EPA waivers to
dozens of refineries have made it possible for them to avoid the law and not blend ethanol with
gasoline. That has cost corn farmers billions of dollars. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst said ethanol
and biodiesel producers in Iowa “are sick of being yanked around by the EPA.” I would add,
Big Oil does not deserve special wavers from EPA.

Every week another new issue erupts between China and the U.S. China has targeted
imported products, including pork as a potential carrier of Coronavirus. USDA and FDA
responded, “efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19
transmission are not consistent with known science.” We do not need another trade disruption.
This past weekend some explosive news erupted. It was reported in the New York Times
that Russia paid Afghan militants to attack our soldiers and that President Trump did nothing.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “there is no consensus within the
intelligence community on these allegations.” Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliff said
that “he has confirmed that neither the President nor Vice President were briefed.” Looks like
the news outlets did not take time to confirm what they were reporting. However, if Russia did
pay to have our soldiers killed, that is serious.

Saturday is Independence Day. Thanks to President George Washington and the brave
settlers that gave birth to the greatest nation is the world. I do not like it that statues of many of
our historic leaders are being torn down. They were not perfect but none of us are.
Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

China and More

June 25, 2020

June 25, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

I have, on more than one occasion, talked about President Trump and EPA in their effort
to restrain President Obama's Waters of the U.S. rule. That rule was written to restrict farmers
and ranchers from tiling wetlands and managing our private property. Last Friday, we got a
court ruling giving EPA's new rule the green light. Maybe the federal government will leave us
alone and let us manage our business now.

Another important court ruling blocked a liberal effort to stop farmers from using
dicamba weed killers during this planting season. This is not the time to change the rules when
farmers are in the field.

China. China - that is all we hear. Here is some interesting news. China has risen to be
our biggest trading partner. U.S./China trade rose almost $40 billion in April, moving China
ahead of Mexico and Canada. Do not be overly impressed. The numbers are below a year ago.
Last week U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer testified before the House Ways and Means
Committee. He reported that "China will fully comply with their promise to buy U.S. ag
products." If they "fully comply," that will be a big deal.

I do not think we have heard enough about how the Coronavirus has disrupted trade. 90%
of world trade is carried by 50,000 ships. We saw how the virus closed down a number of our
livestock processing plants. Let's keep those merchant ships on the waves. We need the markets.
The U.S. relationship with China is not a positive one today. It is very complicated. We have
the tariff war, Coronavirus, and of course, the competition for global power and influence. We
don't need a cold war. We need to negotiate and arrive at a reasonable solution.

My last subject is another federal government land grab. We have a new piece of legislation called the Great American Outdoor Act. If it becomes law, the government would be required to spend $900 million each year to fund federal land purchases. The federal government already has too much land. The government owns 30% of the land in the U.S. That is my opinion.

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like
to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues

June 18, 2020

June 18, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

I will cover some issues of the day that may not have gotten much attention.

1. The U.S. and Russia have a long-range nuclear arms agreement that will expire next
February. The agreement was negotiated and went into effect 30 years ago. It is time to
renegotiate, and China will also be invited to come aboard. We will all be safer if there is
an absolute limit on nuclear war heads. Whatever we can do to increase cooperation and
reduce conflict will be good for mankind.

2. Still about National Security – President Trump shocked government officials in both
Germany and the U.S. when he announced that he would pull 9,500 of our Troops out of
Germany. We have more than 30,000 in Germany now. The European Union, and
especially Germany, need to do more to fund their defense. The NATO nations have
agreed to each spend 2% of their GDP for military defense. The U.S. is providing more
than 3%, but Germany, the richest of the European nations has not stepped up to the
plate. Some U.S. officials as well as German Chancellor Merkel do not agree with
President Trump. I give President Trump credit. European nations need to take
appropriate action to defend themselves. We will not bring all our 9,500 troops home.
Some will probably end up in Poland, which could provide better positioned strategic
defense against Russia. Once again, it is time to make some adjustments.

3. Last subject, Agriculture – The shock waves sent by the coronavirus epidemic have had a
devastating impact on our industry. On a personal note, we sold a trailer load of market
hogs (180 head) this week. We got about half as much money for them as we did for a
trailer load 1 year ago. The Food and Ag Policy Research Institute at the University of
Missouri expects farm income this year to drop $20 billion – roughly 9%. The National
Pork Producers Council say we will lose $37 per head and cow calf producers will lose
$112 per head. Goeff Cooper, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association reports that
“about 2/3 of our ethanol plants are either shut down or have greatly reduced
production.” That is not good for corn since 40% of corn is used to supply ethanol. The
dairy industry and fresh produce also are having a rough ride. We have been on these
rides before, but it is no fun.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review
my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

We Never Know

June 12, 2020

June 12, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

When you are farming, you are faced with a lot of unknowns - What will the weather be
like? Will these low prices ever recover? Our corn and soybeans are planted on my Illinois
farm. They are up and it is time to spray to kill weeds. We are ready. But just last week the
Ninth U.S. Circuit Court ruled that herbicides whose active ingredient is dicamba cannot be
used. We already paid for that weed killer. We have been using chemical Roundup for years.
Suddenly out of nowhere, we were unsure about what to do. Suddenly, Monday evening this
week, EPA announced farmers can still spray dicamba on our crops. The weed killer can only be
used until July 31.

For the Court to throw a wrench into the works just when we needed to spray was the ultimate of
inconsideration. Thank God and the EPA – we will be spraying this weed killer unless another
roadblock is thrown up. If you are in the business of farming, you never know what your next
challenge will be.

That is true with a lot of small family businesses you see them on television where their stores
have been destroyed and looted by rioters. Who would have ever expected this? Peaceful
protests are fine. I read an article about an Idaho city. Many heavily armed citizens came out to
support peaceful protesters and protect local businesses and citizens against shipped in ANTIFA
members, but when they saw the local defense, they did not cause any trouble. They knew that
looting and destruction would not be tolerated. A local citizen, Brett Surplus drove into the city
and here is what he saw- 

“Wall to wall with armed citizens walking the streets and sidewalks making their powerful
presence known. Good guys with guns keep bad guys with evil intent away.” I know this kind of
defense could work in rural America but in our big cities – not a chance. I know that the
message is out that there are some bad cops, but the vast majority are great. More than 70% of
our citizens think our police do a good job. The far left is demanding that we “defund the
police”. That would result in more crime.

The debate goes on. Stores are opening and the crops are in God’s hands now.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Riots and More

June 4, 2020

June 4, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

I thought 2020 would be just a normal year. But – no. We were hit by the corona
pandemic, and that wasn’t enough. Suddenly a white police officer killed a black man named
George Floyd. As I watched the cell phone details on tv, I think it could be judged to be murder.
So did millions from coast to coast. Maybe I should not be surprised, but people across the
country rose up in anger. We have been watching riots, destruction, vandalism and looting.
Vehicles and buildings burned. The protestors are calling for social justice. In Minneapolis, the
city where George Floyd was killed, more than 300 small and large businesses have been looted
and destroyed. It’s terrible what happened to George Floyd. Yes – I know there is a level of
racism and discrimination in our country. However, that does not justify destroying small
businesses. Family businesses that have worked so hard and financially lived through the
coronavirus – ready to open up for business. They have been shut down for 3 months, hoping to
survive economically.

The unacceptable death of George Floyd should have resulted in peaceful demonstrations
not the violence and destruction that we see. Why do the cities allow all this to happen?
Obviously, they weren’t prepared. No one was. If we are a nation that accepts the rule of law, I
hope we will deal with any racism in our police force. Don’t forget a strong police force are
there to keep us safe. All these big riots are in liberal democratic cities. Maybe they need to
implement some reform in their police force. Here are some issues that the ag industry cares
about.

1. Growing Hemp. If you want to get in that business, be sure you have a plan and a market because many companies are going bankrupt. 

2. Meat packing companies have gone back to work, but they still can’t keep up with the supply of market animal. 

3. I talked about it a few weeks ago. Thanks to USDA, most food stamp recipients can now get their groceries online. 

4. I was afraid our Phase 1 trade deal with China would be trashed as a result of U.S. conflict with China over China’s new National Security Trade Law for Hong Kong. But for now, our trade agreement is still in place.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Challenges We Face

May 27, 2020

May 27, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

The Coronavirus came out of nowhere and has crippled the world economy, killing
thousands and thousands of people. The virus is not through yet either. Look at Brazil.
President Trump just shut off travel from Brazil to the US. As our new cases have declined,
things are getting better here. Our economy is starting to open up. We can’t stay locked down.
China is where the virus originated. Loud voices screaming from both parties to see who can be
tougher on China. China allowed the virus to spread all over the world and now they plan to put
a heavy hand on Hong Kong. Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden says President
Trump is too soft on China. What should the US response be? Will President Trump abandon
the “Phase One” China trade deal? Let’s hope not. China has committed to buy $80 billion of
ag products. President Trump negotiated a good deal for the US and especially agriculture. He
made progress on protecting our intellectual property.

Turn to the UK – Prime Minister Johnson wants a comprehensive trade deal with the US
and he wants it done soon. We are ready but the fact that the UK has not finalized a trade deal in
their separation from the European Union may be a problem. Speaking of the EU, they have
adopted some sweeping goals for their agriculture industry that to me are shocking. They want
to transform how Europeans farm and what they eat. They want 25% of their food production to
be organic. They want to dramatically reduce the chemicals used in farming by 50%. Fertilizer
is to be cut by 20%. If they don’t use some chemicals to kill the weeds, they will need a lot more
labor to hoe the crops. They don’t use biotechnology now to keep the corn borer and root worms
at bay. That’s one reason why they use more pesticides than we do. Their goal is to reduce
carbon emissions and improve water quality. That’s good. But here is what will happen. They
will produce less food.

We all know that organic farming delivers less food. If the farmers of the world don’t
accept and utilize new technology, yields could be 30% less. Who is going to starve? Of course,
the world could cut down more forest land in order to produce enough food. I don’t think the EU
plan makes much sense.

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Issues of the Day

May 20, 2020

May 20, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by
the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

President Trump held a meeting with farm leaders on Tuesday at the White House.
Secretary Sonny Perdue explained how the $16 billion aid package passed by Congress and
signed by the President two months ago would be divided up. This bill is the centerpiece of
President Trump’s effort to save farmers and ranchers. Farmers can sign up for relief checks
next week and after another week money, should be on the way. For some farmers the need is
urgent. Farmers could lose $16 per pig and $128 per head of cattle sold. I know that farmers
and ranchers are grateful for the support and help the President and Congress have extended. The
direct focus on rural America and farmers is something that I have never seen before. Why?

Well, with an election this Fall those votes could be the deciding difference. The other reason is related to the Coronavirus. The importance of food production and food distribution has been in the spotlight. Food industry workers from farm to plate were always overlooked. Not anymore. We all hope that our whole economy can get back to work.

Food and farm employees are working. Some restaurants are opening for customers with
necessary social distancing. Marvin Irby, President of the National Restaurant Association,
reports the industry has lost 8 million jobs and $240 billion in revenue this year.
There is one very important segment of our farm industry that has been overlooked. We
have not provided any money or credit for our biofuels industry. There is optimism now that
there will be another aid package coming in June. Ethanol is a very important market for our
corn. With planes not flying and many of our cars not being driven, the demand for fuel has
been soft.

One last issue focusing on the EU. The European Commission has a new goal –
“sustainable production.” They want to stop promoting meat – they say 10.3% of greenhouse
gases originate on the farm and 70% of that gas comes from livestock. I’m not ready to give up
my steak or pork chops and I don’t think they will either.
Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Mother on My Mind

May 13, 2020

May 13, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

Being in lock down like most of our citizens and trying to celebrate Mother’s Day made
me think. My mother was so dedicated to my 2 sisters, me and of course my dad. Mom & Dad
were married in 1934 and in 1935 I was born. We were living in a small house with no running
water, no bathroom and no electricity but we had an outhouse. After 2 or 3 years we moved to
another farm house – and we got running water, electricity and a bathroom when I was 4 or 5.
When I turned 6, I went to a one room country school. No running water but we had 2
outhouses. My mother made my lunch each day that I took to school. She helped me with my
school homework. As I look back, it was not easy. She cooked lunch for my dad and the hired
man that worked for us every day. Think about this. The American family is the foundation of
our great nation and our mothers’ dedication, persistence, and love have served as our inspiration
to work hard and succeed.

I went to West Point – graduated and served in the 101 st Airborne Division. Then, back
to the farm in 1960. Fifteen years later I was appointed Illinois State Director of Agriculture.
Four years after that, off to Washington, DC to serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for
President Ronald Reagan. My mother was always there encouraging me, coming to D.C. for
special ag events. Mom and dad are both gone now, but Mother’s Day makes me look back at
how important a family can be. That’s where we can learn personal responsibility, values and
dedication. Thank you to all the mothers out there.

Now to take a quick look at issues of the day. 1) Looks like our nation is starting to go
back to work. It will be a slow process. Let’s hope it can be done without another surge of
coronavirus. 2) I think President Trump should be careful about how hard he hammers China.
We don’t want China to back out of the trade deal we signed with them. The farm industry has
enough trouble now. 3) House Democrats are pushing a massive $3 trillion relief bill. I will talk
more about that next week.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Virus is Expensive

May 6, 2020

May 6, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

The cost of unemployment and economic hardship from the global coronavirus pandemic
is no small change. We have not had to face anything like this since World War II. The
projected debt at the end of this year was supposed to hit 79% of our gross domestic product
(GDP). But now with all of the new spending bills it will likely explode to 101% of GDP. Look
back at the end of World War II, our debt level had grown to 106% of GDP. With economic
growth and sound money management we brought that debt level down to 23% by 1974. In
almost every year since then (almost 50 years) our debt has kept climbing. Many economists
consider the level that we are looking at now as dangerously high. That makes me question how
much more do we need to spend. I think the money approved for farmers, ranchers and food
assistance programs will be a big help in saving a lot of farms and ranchers from bankruptcy.

However, it will not begin to cover the losses from trade disputes and low prices. We will get $16 billion in direct payments. Row crops (corn, soybeans, cotton) will get almost $4 billion. Cattle farms – $5 billion. Dairy – $3 billion. Hog farms – $1.6 billion. Specialty crops – $2 billion. There will be $3 billion to purchase food for food assistance programs. I guess it should not be any surprise there is growing pressure to spend even more money. We will spend at least $3.5 trillion because of the virus. If we spend more, it should be directed to keep workers on the payroll and keep small businesses alive.

Nancy Pelosi and other big spenders want the federal government to bail out states and
local governments. That’s the last thing that we should do. A lot of states have been making bad
spending decisions for 10 or 20 years and that includes my farm state, Illinois. New York would
also qualify and probably California. We should not do anything to bail them out. It is not free
money. Our children and grandchildren will be expected to pay it back. We can expect to
borrow more than $4 trillion dollars this fiscal year. Let’s step back and see if our economy
begins to recover.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to
review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to
www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington

Tough Times

April 29, 2020

April 29, 2020

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels 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 –

The food industry is trying to cope with serious supply chain problems. Coronavirus has
forced dramatic change in our food production and distribution system. Restaurants and schools
are closed. They did provide 40% of our food. That food now needs to go to the grocery stores,
but restaurant food is not packaged correctly for grocery stores. Another problem is that with
people staying home all the time to eat, they don’t want as many fruits, berries and greens. They
want to buy nonperishable food for their pantry. Therefore, produce suppliers don’t have the
market they expected. Farms in Florida say that they have the labor to pick ripe squash, but the
market will not pay the cost. Dairy farms are dumping milk. Some fruit and vegetable farms are
plowing their crops under

Take a look at our meat industry. It seems like every day another major meat processing
plant is closed. We have farms with hundreds or thousands of pigs ready for market but they
can’t find any plants that will take their pigs. There is even some consideration of euthanizing
some market hogs. I am having aa tough time finding a market for my pigs. The pigs keep eating
expensive feed and get bigger. Beef and chicken processing plants are having some problems
also.

We would not have seen these plants shut down if it were not for coronavirus. Too many
of their workers turned up sick from the virus. Fortunately, President Trump signed an executive
order to go back to work. If that isn’t enough to worry about, corn, soybean, and cotton farmers
are watching their prices hit the bottom.

In case you were not aware, 40% of our corn is processed into ethanol and distillers' grain
but the market for ethanol has collapsed with the petroleum market, and one-third of our ethanol
plants are shut down. It’s hard to remember a more difficult time for the Ag industry. In the
early 1980’s we had a farm recession and farmland values were cut in half. We had to pay 18%
for borrowed money. We don’t have that problem today. Hold on.

Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

John Block Reports from Washington