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May 2010 Archive for 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.

Bribe Brazil

May 28, 2010

Let me submit to you a situation, and you can think about whether it is real or something that I just dreamed up.
As I’m sure you are aware, the U.S. is a member of the World Trade Organization and as such is required to live by certain trading rules. The WTO has found that our Cotton Program subsidies are in violation of those rules. We lost our last appeal to the WTO and now our punishment is to see tariffs imposed on $1 billion worth of products that we sell to Brazil. Products including autos, wheat, fruits, electronics, and on and on. This is not a pretty picture.
So, the Obama Administration sits down with Brazil to negotiate a solution. And we offer to give the Brazilian cotton farmers $147 million. Yes, the U.S. taxpayers have agreed to pay the Brazilian cotton farmers $147 million.
That means you and I are bribing the Brazilian government to not impose their tariffs.
Now, I said in the beginning that I might be just making this up, but I’m not. It is true. And to add one more point, the Brazilian government is only willing to postpone their sanctions for 60 days while they decide if our bribe is adequate.
Here is what I say – if our Cotton Program is out of compliance with the WTO, fix it.
Senator Lugar of Indiana has it right. He is prepared to introduce legislation to fix the problem. I don’t think we will fix it. We just throw money at everything as if we had a lot of extra cash. Of course, silly me, I should have realized this is an election year. Cutting cotton subsidies would be politically painful. All the Congress and the administration want to do is spend money.
Ducking our trade responsibilities is not new. We don’t allow Mexican trucks to haul cargo into the U.S., even though the North American Free Trade Agreement gives them that right. Now, we suffer trade retaliation from Mexico because we can’t follow the rules. Maybe we can figure a way to bribe Mexico also.
In closing, I would encourage you to access my Web site, 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.

Turmoil & Uncertainty

May 20, 2010

Wherever you look locally, nationally, or globally, there is a lot going on that we didn’t anticipate. We have tornadoes and storms ripping through the heartland of our country. Oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico threatening the beaches and marine life of the area. While they try to put a lid on the oil spill, Europe is trying to put a lid on their exploding debt – Greece in particular.
We are hoping to recover from our recession but worry that the European problems could pull us back under. Our unemployment rate is close to 10 percent. The food stamp rolls are at a record level. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hunger rates in the U.S. are at the highest since 1995 with nearly 15 percent of households lacking access to an adequate supply of nutritious food. It’s ironic with obesity becoming an alarming problem that we have such a serious hunger problem at the same time.
A big thank you should be extended to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart last week announced a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment to help end hunger in America. That includes 1.1 billion pounds of food. Food made available to a long list of hunger relief groups – food banks, national parks and recreational associations, Boy and Girl Scout clubs, and on and on. Even $6 million to purchase 60 refrigerated trucks for the food banks. No other company has ever shown that kind of generosity.
The U.S. is a very caring country. We still have all kinds of private organizations that reach out to help the less fortunate.
We will successfully survive all of the challenges that seem to be everywhere around us. In fact, we will prosper if we follow a few fundamental principles:
1. Although there is need out there, the government cannot fix everything. There is a limit to what government can afford to do. We must rely on private institutions and churches. What about personal responsibility?
2. When natural disasters strike, we must come together and rebuild. We will. We have before.
3. As a result of Michelle Obama’s effort, a group of our major food manufacturers have committed to cut 1 trillion calories from their food to fight obesity. That is what we need – everyone working together to meet our challenges.
This week, I am on the farm in Illinois, checking the corn and pigs. I’ll let you know next week what I find. Let’s rise above all the turmoil and have a great year.
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.

Greece Now, Who’s Next?

May 14, 2010

Just when we begin to believe that our economy is on the upward trail to recovery and the world economy is looking more promising, there we see Greece – in the headlights. World stock markets gyrate up and down. Riots in streets in Athens – smashing windows, looting stores, throwing firebombs. Three people are killed.
The Greek government has been spending too much. Greece is broke. All of those lavish promises of retirement at 50 years with full pension are just a dream.
Cradle-to-the-grave government dependency is not sustainable. Eventually, you run out of other people’s money. This is especially true in Greece, where government corruption is rampant and tax avoidance commonplace.
By itself, Greece represents only 2% of the collective economies of the European Union. Greece is nothing. Greece should be irrelevant, but the fear is that Greece could be just the first domino to fall. Standing close in line shouldering massive debt are Portugal, Spain, Italy and the British.
The expectations of the citizens of many of the European countries are not affordable. Politicians promise too much. Does that sound familiar?
We may not want to admit it, but our own debt is every bit as burdensome as some of the European nations. It may not be an “apples to apples” comparison, but some of the European countries are all but bankrupt. And here in the U.S., we have states that have debts they can’t pay. Reference: California, Illinois, Michigan, etc.
I don’t think the federal government should bail out the states. However, the EU is prepared to bail out the EU countries.
There is a lesson here. And I hope we are paying attention. We spend too much. Cut spending. The government cannot afford to pay for everything the citizens might like to have. Dependency must be replaced by more personal responsibility. Socialism is a failed system. Admit it!
It’s Greece now. Who’s next?
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.


May 07, 2010

It was a pleasure to see and talk to the delegation of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters that came to town this week. It is a good thing to come to the nation’s capital and get a first-hand look at what’s going on. Should we be surprised but the single word used repeatedly to describe this government was “dysfunctional.”
Maybe that is an exaggeration, but it seems that we’re not getting much done.
Last week, I testified before the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee on Cuba. We need to open up trade and travel with Cuba. For 50 years, we have had a policy of isolation that has been a total failure. We need to turn to a policy of engagement.
Do President Obama and Congress have the courage to change policy? I don’t know.
I worked for a President that had courage. I remember vividly the first meeting of President Reagan’s Cabinet. I urged the President to take immediate action on his campaign promise to end the grain embargo against the Soviet Union.
Secretary of State Alexander Haig adamantly disagreed. He told President Reagan the grain embargo should only be lifted in exchange for concessions from the Soviets.
But President Reagan, who had no love for what he called Godless Communism” would not go back on his word to the American people or the American farmer. Within the first 100 days of his Presidency, he unilaterally lifted the grain embargo because he believed that selling grain to the Soviet Union was the right thing to do. Now, that took courage. Where is the courage now?
The Peterson-Moran bill, House Resolution 4645, would open Cuba up for trade and travel. Most, but not all, of the Committee Members indicated support for the bill. However, they made it clear that they are unhappy that nothing has been done to pass the Colombia, Panama, or South Korean trade agreements. They are gathering dust on the shelf as we speak.
All of these trade opportunities are just sitting there. Cuba, Colombia, panama, South Korea – where is the action? We are forfeiting jobs to other countries as they take our markets from us.
Maybe “dysfunctional” isn’t an exaggeration.
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.

Montana Horses

May 04, 2010

Last weekend, with our corn all planted in record time, I went out to Montana. My 16-year-old daughter and I went to a horse ranch – Montana Horses’ annual horse drive. Those responsible for herding the horses included about 15 “green horns” (that would include me, although I did grow up riding a horse), and 25 cowboys and wranglers who knew their job.
We rounded up 350 horses that had been wintering in high country pasture and drove them 30 miles to new pastures. The drive took 3 days and, on one occasion, we herded our horses right down the middle of a little town called “Three Forks” with a thousand people cheering and lining the streets.
The ranch owns the horses and now will lease them out to customers for the summer. Their customers include individual families, dude ranches, etc. That is their business. I met and talked to many ranchers that were involved in the drive. This is just another dimension of this diverse country. Sit on your horse on top of a big hill and you can see for miles. Cattle ranches, wheat fields, pastures, and yes, horses. Different from my Illinois farm – a far cry from corn, soybeans, and pigs.
However, there is a common bond, a consistent way of thinking across rural America. Our priorities are personal responsibility, self-reliance, trust, and integrity. That’s why we don’t like the “nanny state” managing our lives and business – always encouraging dependence on big government. Rural Americans are more independent than big city urban dwellers.
The philosophy of the ranchers and horsemen was adamantly opposed to government micro-management. They are furious about our government closing down all of our horse slaughter plants. Horses are personal property. The owner should be able to sell his horse for slaughter, have the meat processed and sell it to the French. Why not? The alternative is to have thousands of unwanted horses on our hands.
Rural Americans are convinced that our government spends too much, wastes too much, and costs too much. In our lives, we have to live with what we have. We can’t spend what we don’t have. However, our government can and does.
Keep your eyes on Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy – wallowing in debt. We need to turn around and not take that path. That’s the good judgment of rural America.
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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