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September 2010 Archive for U.S. Farm Report Mailbag

RSS By: U.S. Farm Report, US Farm Report

Comments, questions, opinions...this is your chance to speak out regarding anything and everything reported on U.S. Farm Report. Viewer feedback updated regularly.

Free Trade & Sugar

Sep 22, 2010

   It was disappointing to see “John’s World” delve into a common misperception about U.S. sugar policy.
   America is the world’s second-biggest sugar importer and has, by far, the most open market of any major sugar-producing country.  We buy sugar from 41 foreign suppliers, 38 of which are considered developing countries.  Under U.S. trade deals, we buy this sugar whether we need it or not.  That’s a far cry from being a closed market, and that’s why so many foreign sugar suppliers support U.S. sugar policy.
   I’d also point out that China, Brazil, and India are the culprits for holding up America’s free trade agenda—sugar has nothing to do with it.  These countries are targeting the direct government payments that many U.S. farmers depend on for a safety net.  Sugar producers are working closely with other commodity groups to beat back these attacks even though sugar farmers don’t receive direct government payments.  Sugar is doing this because all of agriculture needs to join forces right now, not tear each other down, as your commentary last week advocated.
Phillip Hayes
American Sugar Alliance
Arlington, VA

***Editor's Note:  Below is a transcript of John's comments on this subject...

JOHN’S WORLD:

   I ACCIDENTALLY WATCHED A POLITICAL COMMERCIAL THIS WEEK FOR A U.S. HOUSE CANDIDATE. LIKE MANY CAMPAIGN ADS IT WAS MOSTLY A BARRAGE OF NEGATIVE WORDS NO DOUBT CAREFULLY TESTED TO TRIGGER ANGER ABOUT THE OPPONENT.

   TO MY SURPRISE THE ANNOUNCER DETAILED WITH CONTEMPTUOUS TONES HOW THE OPPONENT'S SUPPORT FOR FREE TRADE WAS COSTING AMERICAN JOBS. THE JOBS CREATED BY FREE TRADE WERE LEFT UNMENTIONED, OF COURSE, BECAUSE THEY WERE PROBABLY IN ANOTHER CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. AT A TIME WHEN LEADERS IN BOTH PARTIES ARE BETTING THE ECONOMY ON GROWTH TO SOLVE OUR UNEMPLOYMENT AND DEFICIT PROBLEMS, TALKING DOWN FREE TRADE IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

   INCREASING EXPORTS IS A CENTRAL PART OF THE SOLUTION. BUT IT WOULD APPEAR FREE TRADE IS ONLY A GOOD THING WHEN IT FLOWS IN OUR FAVOR. WHY WE THINK TRADING PARTNERS WOULD GO ALONG WITH THAT MYSTIFIES ME, BUT IT APPARENTLY PLAYS WELL IN POLITICAL POLLS.

   AGRICULTURE IS A PARTICIPANT IN THIS IDEA OF ONE-WAY FREE TRADE. OUR SUGAR PROGRAM IS STARK EXAMPLE OF PROTECTIONISM, AND YET MOST AG ADVOCATES ARE RELUCTANT TO TAKE IT ON IN ORDER TO FURTHER TRADE IN OTHER COMMODITIES. THERE HAS BEEN A GREAT DEAL OF TALK ABOUT AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM. WHILE MANY FEEL WE HAVE A LEADERSHIP ROLE IN GLOBAL AFFAIRS, PERHAPS THE MORE POPULAR MEANING IS WE SHOULD BE AN EXCEPTION TO TRADE RULES OTHER NATIONS MUST FOLLOW.

Viewers Speak Out

Sep 20, 2010

***Editor's Note:  The following viewer comments were received following the September 18-19, 2010 edition of the program...

#1:

John,
   I enjoy your show. I try to watch it every Saturday morning.  On 9-18-2010 you had a story about playing Taps. Good story. But I would like to correct you on one thing.Taps is not played. The correct way to say it is to 'Sound Taps'.
   I am an ex-Vietnam Vet. My brother is also an ex-Vietnam era Vet who also went to a funeral of a fallen soldier where they played Taps on a tape recorder. Being a Trumpet player in high school he offered his talent to sound Taps for all Veterans funerals in Gillette, Wy.
   We were at  our Uncles Funeral at Black Duck, Mn last month. He was also a Vet. Brother Gary Sounded Taps in honor of him.  The next day was to be a dedication & memorial of one of my cousins cousin who was killed on Nam. All of the fellows that was in the squad in Nam on the day he was killed, were at this memorial. Gary was honored to Sound Taps.
    Sorry, just couldn't let that one slide.   Keep up the good work.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
Sincerely,
Dale E. Rye

 

#2:

   I'm sorry. Could you please remind me as to when we last had a trade surplus. It's been so long that I cannot remember. Just last month we had a $50 Billion trade loss. Our trade losses in fact stretch back as far as the eye can see.
   Free trade is gutting out country.
David M. 
Azle, Texas

 

#3:

John,

   I listened to your rebuttal of my proposition, but I didn't find it convincing. I remember the Southern Corn Leaf Blight invasion of 1970, when a naturally-occurring pest exploited the fact that most hybrid corn producers used the Texas Male Sterile gene to eliminate detasseling. If your memory doesn't go back that far, here are a couple of links you might find interesting:

    This 12% loss in US corn production came without any intentional human intervention. The decision to use TMS germ plasm made good economic sense to the seed corn companies, much like the use of Roundup-Ready seed (and other transgenic traits - I'm not picking on Monsanto) makes sense to farmers today. It didn't take a sales pitch directed at farmers to get TMS into the fields. All it took was an attractive idea to the seed producers. Today we are distributing a single genetic trait much more widely than TMS ever was. And we can't guarantee that it is invulnerable.
Lyle Stephens
 

***Here is a transcript of John's comments on this issue:

   TIME NOW FOR OUR WEEKLY LOOK INSIDE THE FARM REPORT MAILBAG....I HAVE REMARKED ABOUT HOW I THINK BIOTERRORISM FEARS ARE GROSSLY OVER OVER-INFLATED, AND LYLE STEPHENS TOOK EXCEPTION.

"IF AN ENTERPRISING GRADUATE STUDENT WERE TO FIND A WEAKNESS IN ROUNDUP READY GENETICS AND ADD A GENE TO EXPLOIT THAT WEAKNESS TO A COMMON INSECT, HE COULD CREATE A WIDESPREAD CROP FAILURE IN BOTH CORN AND SOYBEANS."
   ON THE SURFACE, LYLE, I WILL GRANT YOUR THEORY SOUNDS PLAUSIBLE, BUT LET'S BREAK IT DOWN JUST A LITTLE. FIRST, YOU NEED A PRETTY SAVVY GRADUATE STUDENT WITH NOT SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE, BUT POWERFUL TERRORIST TENDENCIES. THAT'S MY FIRST OBJECTION: MOST TERRORISTS ARE POORLY EDUCATED, AND INDEED ANTI-SCIENTIFIC FUNDAMENTALISTS.
   NEXT THE SOYBEAN TERRORIST WOULD HAVE TO FIND A WEAKNESS IN THE CURRENT GENETICS AND SIMULTANEOUSLY A CONCURRENT AND COMPATIBLE GENE EXPRESSION FOR SOME KIND OF INSECT ADVANTAGE. THE POSSIBILITY OF EITHER IS MINUTE, THE POSSIBILITY OF FINDING BOTH IS INFINITESIMAL.
   THEN THIS SOYBOMB VARIETY WOULD HAVE TO GO UNDETECTED DURING YEARS OF FIELD TRIALS. REMEMBER IS YOU WANT TO GET THESE THINGS PLANTED ON MILLIONS OF ACRES, IT CAN'T BE DONE IN A BACKYARD LAB AND SOLD BY MAIL.
   FINALLY, YOU HAVE TO GET THAT PARTICULAR VARIETY SOLD TO A BUNCH OF FARMERS. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT. AT MOST, ONLY ONE VARIETY FROM ONE COMPANY WOULD BE AFFECTED.
  THE THREAT YOU DESCRIBE MAY BE POSSIBLE, BUT I RANK IT WITH THE EARTH GETTING HIT BY AN ASTEROID.

Kudos for John's World

Sep 17, 2010

John,

I really liked your commentary this week.  Is there any way that I could get a written version, with your byline of course?  I have it recorded, but would rather not transcribe it.  You had some great comments.  

 
I had a great related quote for you on page 191 of A Patriot’s History, but Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen.  The context is 1840, but it could be now…
 
“The democratization of the news produced a population of people who thought they knew a great deal about current events, but who lacked (now lack) the theoretical grounding in history, (I’d argue economics,) philosophy, or politics to properly ground their opinions (in reality).” 
  
Dave E. Anderson

 

***Editor's Note:  Below is a transcript of John's commentary...

   TWO UNRELATED DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NEWS THIS WEEK SIGNAL FOR ME A HOPEFUL CHANGE IN PUBLIC DEBATE. FIRST, AS AL TOLD US, WAS THE IOWA FARM BUREAU'S EFFORT TO RETHINK FARM POLICY AND AG ENTITLEMENTS. THE SECOND WAS THE QUIET ANNOUNCEMENT BY BJORN LOMBORG, AUTHOR OF THE "SKEPTICAL ENVIRONMENTALIST" AND ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL AND RESPECTED VOICES AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION, THAT HE NOW SUPPORTS EFFORTS TO DECREASE CARBON EMISSIONS. THE COMMON THREAD IS THE RARE DISPLAY OF COURAGE NEEDED TODAY TO SAY "I'VE CHANGED MY MIND" IN PUBLIC. FOR ALL THE WORDS HURTLING AROUND US 24/7/365, RESEARCHERS HAVE SHOWN THAT ARE LESS LIKELY TO BE PERSUADED TO A NEW OPINION THAN EVER. IN FACT, THE INTERNET AND IDEOLOGICALLY-ALIGNED TV CHANNELS NOW ALLOW US TO MAKE SURE WE RECEIVE ONLY REINFORCING MESSAGES. INSTEAD OF THREE NEWS CHANNELS WE HAVE THOUSANDS OF WAYS TO EXPERIENCE CURRENT EVENTS. THE RESULT IS INCREASINGLY HARDENED POSITIONS AND SCORN FOR THOSE WHO BREAK RANKS TO FOLLOW THEIR OWN MIND OR HEART. IT MEANS COMPROMISES WILL BE HARD TO COME BY, AND CONSEQUENTLY ACTIONS TO ADDRESS OUR PROBLEMS. THIS TREND DENIES THE OPPORTUNITY TO UTILIZE THE WISDOM OF THE CROWD, AND INCREASES UNNEEDED SOCIAL FRICTION. TO MR. LOMBORG AND THE IOWA FARM BUREAU, I SAY THANK YOU FOR REMINDING US WHAT RESPONSIBLE PUBLIC DEBATE SHOULD LOOK LIKE.

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