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John Block Reports from Washington

RSS By: John Block, AgWeb.com

John Block has dedicated his professional career to the fields of agriculture, food and health.

Germany

Aug 20, 2010

My family and I just got back from Germany. We bicycled along raging rivers and streams on well-kept bike paths that are very common in much of Europe. On one side would be fields of wheat and corn stretching into the distance with grape arbors on the other side. The views were just magnificent. The weather contrast was hard to imagine. With Illinois temperatures back on the farm in the 90’s, we biked in cool, comfortable 60’s and 70’s. When you look to the East towards Ukraine and Russia, they have been burning up. Their drought has cut their wheat crop by an estimated 20 percent. The German wheat crop looks terrific – that is if they can ever get it harvested – too much rain.

The Russians embargoed exports of their wheat because of the short crop. That brings to mind the Carter grain embargo of our grain to the Soviet Union. Embargoes are not a good idea. The Financial Times newspaper in Germany headlined, “The embargo has sparked a surge in prices and raised doubts about Russia as a reliable supplier.”
 
As we peddled over rolling hills, I could not help but try to compare my own corn with the German corn. I have to conclude that their corn may be a little better. You could see that they had not had the intensive rains to leach their nitrogen.
 
On one occasion, I rode up to a farmer on a tractor. He stopped and turned off his engine and we talked (the best we could) about farming. He had a beautiful herd of Limousin cattle, about 50 head, right beside the road. He acknowledged that German farmers were frustrated because periodic rains, although good for the corn, were keeping them from wheat harvest. And some of the heavy wheat was going down. The Germans could not believe that we do not slaughter horses and process the meat. How ridiculous.
 
I noted that in the part of Germany where we were – the southern half – they were using solar panels to generate energy but very few windmills.
 
Every indicator suggests that the German economy is booming – propelling the Euro zone through the global financial crisis.
 
To see another country, meet and talk to the people, and think about their history is an educational experience to always remember. My great, great grandfather came to the U.S. from Germany. Farms, medieval towns, and castles will be in my mind for a long time.
 
And yet – it’s good to be home.
 
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 in Washington.
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