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February 2011 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.

Food Security

Feb 25, 2011

The headline reads: “Hungry North Korea Seeks Food Hand Outs.” “Plagued by floods, an outbreak of livestock disease, and a brutal winter, the North Korean government ordered its embassies around the world to seek help.” To beg for food.

What do we do? Here they are trying to build a nuclear weapon to threaten the West and now they want us to give them food.

There are a lot of hungry people in the world. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had this to say just two weeks ago. “Nearly a billion people worldwide are suffering from hunger. Three and a half million children die every year because of under nutrition.”
There are a lot of reasons why some people don’t have the food they need. Look at the contrast between North Korea and South Korea. The South is rich and Communist North is on life support. The Communist system in North Korea, just like Cuba, doesn’t work. It never will. China was smart enough to institute a market economy.
Turn to Africa for another reason for hunger, and you find that they have not adapted the modern farming technology that has dramatically pushed our yields up. Sub-Saharan Africa’s corn yield is 35 bu. per acre. We are at 160 bu. per acre. China is 80 bu. per acre but rising.
Farmers around the world can produce a lot more food, but they can’t keep doing everything the same old way. Markets must be allowed to work and new technology must be welcome.
At a dinner meeting this week, Raj Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said he intends to prioritize agriculture development. He is right.
According to Rob Fraley, Chief Technology Officer at Monsanto, “We can double corn yields by 2030 while using 1/3 fewer imports.” He is talking about biotech crops that resist pests, drought, and disease.
Farmers of the world can meet the challenge, but giving out food is not a permanent fix. The surge in world food prices today is a problem for the poor, but in the long run, higher prices will encourage investment in agriculture to grow more.
With all the turmoil in the world today, food security must be priority number one.
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.

Debt:Time to Get Serious

Feb 18, 2011

With our nation’s debt piling up an additional trillion dollars every year as far as the eye can see, with all the worry about debt in Europe, maybe – just maybe—our own politicians could get serious and do something. But right now, it is just talk.

President Obama put on the table his budget for fiscal 2012. His plan almost makes you laugh if it weren’t serious business. Paul Ryan, House Budget Committee Chairman, charged the President “with an abdication of leadership in the face of this crushing burden of debt that is coming our way.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Obama budget doesn’t cut a penny from the deficit in the last seven months of this fiscal year and over the next three years through 2013 his spending reductions add up to a paltry 20 billion net.”
We all know that taking money from individuals, from states and companies, will be met with charges of starving the poor, refusing to educate our children, driving farmers out of business. How cruel! If we deny them that money, they will be like a pen of squealing pigs. But we have to do it. Listen to them squeal.
Secretary Vilsack admitted painful choices must be made. However, President Obama has not agreed to make them yet. He even admitted his 2012 budget is “just a down payment.”
I say it is just a political document. He doesn’t want to take the lead and shoulder the political risk. Let me predict that the Republican House backed by the Tea Party will take the lead with serious spending cuts in their budget proposal. As is often times the case, the President’s budget is “dead on arrival.” The Congress writes the budget anyway. At least, they are supposed to. Last year, the Democrats never even wrote one.
The American people are going to insist that something be done. The American people are already fixing their own financial excesses. Mortgage debt down 7%. Credit card debt down 14%. Auto loan debt down 12%. The American people “get it.”
There should be no sacred cows. Everything on the table – including entitlements and defense.
Now is the time for the Congress and the President to ignore the squealing pigs and move ahead with President Obama’s bipartisan Debt Reduction Commission recommendations to put our fiscal house in order.
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.

President Ronald Reagan

Feb 10, 2011

Last Sunday would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. His birthday was celebrated in California at the Ronald Reagan Museum and here in Washington, D.C. at the Ronald Reagan Building, which is the event that I attended. The crowd was filled with individuals that worked for him along with many admirers that probably wished they had worked for him.

My program today is a short tribute to a great President who, with each passing year, receives more and more appreciation.
Before he selected me to serve as his Secretary of Agriculture, I didn’t know Ronald Reagan. But with the support of Senator Bob Dole and Illinois Governor Jim Thompson, I was invited in late December to meet with President-elect Reagan. I flew to Los Angeles, checked in at my hotel, and went straight to the home of President and Mrs. Reagan. Nancy opened the door and welcomed me. That first meeting included Ed Meese (Reagan’s closest advisor), Marty Anderson (his economic advisor), and Mike Deaver.
We spent 2 hours discussing everything about government’s role – not so much on farm programs. A fortunate thing for me is that I was the only one in the room that really knew agriculture. I remember Senator Dole had told the President that he wanted a “hands on farmer from the heartland.”
The President reached out to me to get to know me, to know my philosophy of government and how I visualized the role of the Secretary of Agriculture. The meeting concluded and I returned to the hotel. Within 30 minutes, the phone rang. The voice said, “This is Ronald Reagan and I would like for you to serve as my Secretary of Agriculture.” I was stunned. I just said, “Mr. President, I would be proud to serve.” I really had no idea what I was getting into.
That first meeting with President Reagan told me two things about the President. He was guided by philosophy and instinct. He concluded that my philosophy was consistent with his. And it was. We both believed in smaller government, less taxes, and less regulation. The second thing was he made many important decisions based in instinct. He didn’t really know me, but instinct told him I would be okay.
His leadership and optimism lifted the country. Remember he told us, “The best days are still to come for this shining city on the hill.”
The United States of America was blessed to have had Ronald Reagan’s leadership at that critical time
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.

Who Will Lead?

Feb 04, 2011

It seems like the whole world is in turmoil. Look at Egypt and all of the Middle East – riots in the streets and dictators trying to hold their power. Turn to Europe where the debt burden in Greece and Ireland and maybe Spain threaten the Euro and European stability. Here in the U.S., we have cities on the verge of bankruptcy; and states such as California, Illinois, and New York that haven’t balanced their checkbook in years. The biggest spender of all is our own federal government, which has grown to twice the size it was 10 years ago.

President Obama acknowledged that we have a “mountain of debt.” He offered to freeze spending but never mentioned cutting spending, never suggested shrinking the size of government. The President missed his chance to lead.
I’m not ready to give up hope. Perhaps the President wants the Republicans to make the tough decisions and shoulder the political heat. He might be ready to reluctantly join them in supporting a grand plan fashioned after the Bipartisan Commission recommendations. To address our debt problem now and not wait would be good for the country and good for agriculture.
We don’t want to go down the road of Greece. We don’t want to burden our children with more debt. Our national debt totals $45,000 for every man, woman, and child now. Our national economy is improving with the ag industry leading. Prices of cattle, hogs, corn, soy beans, wheat, and cotton are all strong. We are on the high road with agriculture and rural America lifting us out of the recession.
Let’s not allow our elected political leaders to sit on their hands, ignoring our problems – putting our recovery at risk. We are already hearing the whining and crying from different groups afraid that Uncle Sam will no longer be their “sugar daddy.”
We need to get on top of our debt problem now. It’s time to stop “kicking the can down the road.” It’s like any business when the bank won’t loan you any more money – you are in trouble. When China decides it’s not going to loan us any more money, then it’s too late.
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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