Turn the Page

April 4, 2013

April 4, 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—  

What to talk about today? I don’t know. Let’s start with horse slaughter. Look back to 2007. At that time, horse slaughter was effectively barred when Congress cut off funding for horse meat inspectors. Before that time, we were processing and shipping horse meat to customers in Europe and Asia. With the ban in place, unwanted horses are now being shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, and sometimes just turned loose on the road. There is hope. We now have new funding for inspectors, and a number of states are pushing to begin processing. That’s good.  

Turn the page and we see that a bill has been introduced in Congress to insure flexibility as the USDA implements its new school lunch rule. The Sensible School Lunch Act, if passed, would provide flexibility to individual school districts to decide the level of protein and grains in the lunches served. The legislation leaves in place the calorie cap and emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Makes sense to me. “One size fits all” is a bad idea.  

Turn the page. The federal Sugar Program is in trouble. Will it be changed in the new farm bill? It’s too soon to know. The program is a relic of the old command and control farm programs. We have gotten rid of almost all of them. But, our Sugar Program requires that 85 percent of the sugar used in the U.S. shall be provided by U.S. farmers. The rest can be imported with “quotas” for certain countries. That doesn’t sound like free trade to me. What if we tried to do that on oranges or tomatoes?  

Turn the page. In the U.S., we plant 69.5 million hectares to biotech crops. That’s only half of the story. The other half is that developing countries today plant more than half of the global biotech acreage. Yes, modern agriculture has its critics, but there is no turning back.  

I say that in spite of the fact that Whole Foods just announced that it intends to label all food sold in its 300 stores if they contain GM ingredients. Labeling GM foods doesn’t make any sense.  

On a positive note, the Administration is moving ahead with an effort to write free trade agreements with the EU and another with Pacific countries. It won’t be easy but it’s the right thing to do.  

Next week, I want to talk about budget and debt.  

In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to www.johnblockreports.com.  

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.