Trade & More

June 20, 2013

June 20, 2013

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

And now for today’s commentary—

It’s official. It just turned summer this week. That’s what the calendar says. My corn and soybeans are all planted – just in time.

I picked up the Washington Post newspaper today and on the front page is this long article on the U.S. Army destroying our own military equipment in Afghanistan. There are pictures of trucks, machines of all kinds junked. The value is estimated at 7 billion dollars.

They say it is too costly to bring it home and they don’t expect to need it as we pull our troops out of Afghanistan. We have 65,000 of our young men and women in that backward, ungrateful, God forsaken land. The waste of military equipment is small compared to the waste of lives and limbs of our young people. And, President Obama called Afghanistan our “war of necessity.”

While the farm bill is fighting its way to the finish line, we have what could turn out to be good news on trade.

The European Union, with British Prime Minister Cameron in the front, have joined with the U.S. to negotiate a free trade agreement. Minister Cameron said the agreement could contribute 415 billion dollars to the global economy.

I look back some 20 years ago and the European Union Ambassador to the U.S. and I jointly wrote a commentary for the paper laying out the advantages of our free trade between the U.S. and Europe. I guess we were ahead of our time. It didn’t happen then, and may not happen now. There are so many countries involved. The EU has 27 member states. Another major hurdle is that Europe can’t bring their people to accept genetically modified products. For this agreement to benefit U.S. agriculture, they need to open that door. One encouraging development is that British Prime Minister Cameron just this week said that Europe needed to change it’s objection to genetic engineering. Over the years, Europe has used non-tariff trade barriers to shut out our ag exports on more than one occasion. In the late 1980s, they would not accept any of our meat exports until they inspected all of our plants. They finally agreed to allow 7 plants to export. The 7 U.S. processing plants were all horse meat plants. The French needed more horse meat.

I’m hoping we can get a free trade deal done, but it won’t be easy.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.