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April 2010 Archive for John Block Reports from Washington

RSS By: John Block,

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

Spring Planting

Apr 23, 2010

What a difference a year makes. We’re all but finished planting our corn already. We didn’t finish last year until June. We didn’t finish harvest last year until Christmas. My father always said that every year is different.
At this point in time, American farmers across the land are cheering the new day. What a joy it has been this spring to watch that corn planter march back and forth, back and forth, precisely planting the golden kernels at a rate of 33,000 per acre. Look at the rows – straight as an arrow. No surprise with GPS doing the driving. Newly worked soil in the spring has a rich aroma that can only be appreciated if you’re there on the spot.
The planting season, as perfect as it has been, is only the first step in the long journey to harvest. There is an extended list of threats that this crop must face. We could worry about weeds and corn bores and root worms and on and on. When I was a kid, those were serious. They hurt our yield every year. But thanks to genetic engineering and today’s technology tool box, that’s not as big a problem.
Weather is our biggest worry now. Will we get the timely rains to optimize yield?
So far, so good. It’s difficult to put into words how beautiful this spring has been. Even our hogs seem to be happier. Herd health is good. We shipped a trailer load to market on Thursday. The hog business is finally in the black after 2 ½ years of red ink. Our pigs were starting to get an inferiority complex, but not any more. We have been raising pigs for ever. I remember as a 10-year-old boy how proud I was of the Duroc gilt that I showed at the Knox County 4-H show. I kept her and raised a litter of pigs the next year. A baby pig just born might weigh 2 pounds and within 5 months of tender care and perfect feed will go to market weighing 270 pounds. Amazing!
Now, that is efficient feed conversion.
I know that it’s easy to get discouraged when things don’t go well, but when everything is working, there is no place quite as satisfying as down on the farm.
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
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.


Apr 14, 2010

What about immigration? Is the Congress going to try to address this difficult and polarizing issue this year?
William Siegel, a Trustee of the Hudson Institute, has put forth a suggestion that I think is worth consideration.
Here is the situation that exists today. We have anywhere between 12M and 20M illegals in this country now. They sneaked in across the border or came in on a temporary visa but never went back. They broke the law. They don’t deserve healthcare, school lunch, food stamps, all of the entitlements that our legal citizens receive. Send them back!
That’s just not going to happen. 12M or 20M is too many. Some have been here for years, raising their children. Most of them are working – doing work that we can’t get our legal citizens to do. Who is going to milk the cows, slaughter the hogs, roof the houses, pick the strawberries, do the lawn work? They are doing the dirty work, the dangerous work. We need them.
So, here is the middle ground suggestion. Give all the illegals 6 months to register. This does not give them citizenship or necessarily the many benefits that our legal citizens are entitled to receive. However, the federal government and states may in the future give them some of these benefits. You ask – why would they register if they don’t necessarily get the benefits? Because we would agree to let them stay here, in the USA, no risk of deportation. Stay and work. Raise your family.
However, if they don’t register, they would be subject to deportation – no excuses.
I know that this does not deal with all the details. Will there be a path to citizenship? What kind of benefits can they expect, etc.? But they would have the peace of mind to know that the next time their workplace is checked by immigration officials, they would not be deported.
The plan herein outlined is not perfect, but it could be a compromise worth consideration. If we insist on the all or nothing approach, we will get nothing.
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
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.


Apr 09, 2010

Walk down any street in almost any city in the U.S. and you will see too many people that are clearly overweight. Some are just plain fat. That’s not healthy. The obesity rate is up to 35%. We do have a problem that needs attention.
However, I am not confident that we have found the solution. Cities and states want to tax junk food. They attack fast food restaurants for pushing unhealthy food on our children. They want to pass laws to reduce the amount of sugar and salt in our food.
We all remember when McDonald’s was sued because this guy that kept eating their Big Mac sandwiches one after another got fat. Of course, it was McDonald’s fault that he ate too much. The fact is, food companies and restaurants are only doing what they are supposed to do. They are giving us (the customer) what we want.
We have some companies such as GE and Safeway that are offering incentives to their employees if they exercise more. At GE, if you don’t smoke you get $625 more pay per year. They are using financial incentives to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
I think Health Savings Accounts are an incentive to live a healthier lifestyle. With a healthier lifestyle, you won’t have to go to the doctor and will have savings in your account.
If our government is serious about doing something about the obesity problem, here is a suggestion that will not be popular and perhaps is not practical. Makes me sound cruel. Here it is – it is a fact that people on food stamps are more likely to be obese than the population at large. The government is giving them food when they don’t need to eat so much. So when they apply for food stamps, they should weigh in. If they weigh too much, give them green food stamps – only good for fruits and vegetables. Same idea with school lunch – kids that are overweight receiving free or reduced-price lunch go to the salad bar, not to biscuits and gravy.
I know this idea is never going to sell. But I also know that taxing junk food and blaming the food industry for delivering inexpensive food that tastes good is not the right way to go either.
I don’t think we have found the silver bullet solution. The countries that don’t have a weight problem are the countries where food is very expensive and it doesn’t taste very good. And that’s a solution we don’t want.
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
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.


Apr 01, 2010

President Obama has set an ambitious goal of doubling our exports and creating 2 million jobs in the next 5 years. That’s very encouraging. We need to do something about jobs with a 9.7 percent unemployment and a sputtering economy. Let’s not kid ourselves. That goal will be very hard to achieve but now is the time to get started.
A good place to start would be to resolve a costly trade dispute that we have with Mexico. Mexico is one of our biggest markets in the world but our refusal to live up to our obligations in the North American Free Trade Agreement has cost us 2.6 billion dollars in exports and 25,000 jobs.
Here is the history. The 1994 NAFTA provides that Mexican trucks can haul freight into and out of the U.S. That provision was supposed to be fully implemented by year 2000. Congress, pushed by the Teamsters union, would not allow the policy to take effect. They complained about safety, even though the Mexican trucks were required to meet the same standards as our own. The dispute with Mexico has been going back and forth for 15 years. Now we are suffering with serious job losses.
Also, right now we are looking down the barrel at another potentially major retaliation by Brazil. We have only 30 days to resolve that dispute that could result in major tariffs in our exports of cars, cotton, and ag products.
The Senate has spent years ignoring trade agreements that are already negotiated/ready to be enacted. Agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama could mean billions of dollars in exports and thousands of jobs for us. In addition, there is no time like the present to facilitate more trade with Cuba.
While we have been sitting on our hands, other countries have been signing trade agreements with Asian and South American countries. If we are serious about meeting the President’s goal of doubling trade, we had better get started. President Obama says it’s all about “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Let’s get started.
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
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.
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