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April 2011 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.

Montana Horses

Apr 29, 2011

Last weekend, with the fields of the Midwest flooded with rain – no hope of planting corn any time soon – my daughter and I went to Montana to participate in a horse round-up. Along with 35 other riders, we moved 350 horses some 35 miles from high country pasture to the ranch headquarters. The horses ran down railroad tracks, highways, and through small towns with snow and rain the first day and sun and blue skies the next 2 days. It was great fun, but tough, hard work.

Sitting around the camp fire at night, I listened to the cowboys and ranchers that helped herd the horses.
 
“What’s on your mind? What’s good? What’s bad?”
 
Ranchers and rural people of Montana are delighted with a tiny rider attached to the spending legislation that, after 2 weeks of fighting, the Congress passed and President Obama signed. The inclusion of that language, which dictates that wolves in Montana and Idaho be taken off the endangered species list, has outraged environmental groups. The ranchers are tired of watching wolves killing their calves, killing elk and moose and deer. Now no longer protected by law, the ranchers can kill the wolves. Livestock, elk, moose, and deer will be safe.
 
Another little rider in the bill eliminates a program to expand wilderness areas in the West. My cowboy friends like this rider also because “expanding wilderness areas” would limit development of natural resources and hunting. They are very independent and they don’t like the federal government dictating to them all the time.
Now, the bad news that they complained about.
 
Most of them own horses. And since the animal rights advocates pushed the government to close down all of our horse slaughter plants in the U.S., what do they do now with unwanted horses? They aren’t worth as much as they used to be. They have to be shipped to Canada to find a market – ridiculous.
 
Without exception, ranchers of the West think the federal government has overreached, and they are solid behind smaller government and less spending.
 
Sounds familiar -- same thing I hear from my farmer friends in Illinois.
 
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.

Our Debt Problem

Apr 25, 2011

The Standard and Poor’s ratings agency has sent shock waves through our whole economy. Overnight, our rating was dropped from “stable” to “negative,” effectively telling our government to get control of our debt problem or no one is going to loan us money at a reasonable rate. Not China, not anyone. 

It is no different than a small business or farm. If you keep borrowing, you can reach a point where the bank just says, “No, we can’t loan you any more money.” You can look for other sources of funding. Maybe you can find it at a much higher interest rate. Greece, because of that country’s debt load, is paying twice the going interest rate for money.
 
A lot of people are saying the action that S&P has taken is terrible and unjustified. I say, go for it. I like it. This puts more pressure on our government officials to get serious about our debt.
 
The situation that we face leaves only two choices. Raise taxes to get the money, or just stop spending so much, or both.
 
Since we’ve just filed our taxes, I don’t think we are excited about paying more. However, our tax code is so complicated and full of loop holes that it needs to be simplified and in that process we can surely find some money that has been slipping through the cracks -- maybe quite a bit of money.
 
The most obvious place to deal with our debt is spending. Money just gushes out of this government. We can’t help ourselves. Let’s fight another war. Let’s build another nation. Let’s rule the world. Look around at all the needy people. Let’s give them some money. We’re a rich country. At least, we used to be. Let’s guarantee food for everyone. Let’s build affordable housing. Let’s provide health care. Cradle to the grave care – that’s our goal.
 
Well, we can’t afford to throw money at every real or perceived need. It just breeds dependency anyway. We made a mistake. Our entitlement programs are more generous than we can afford.
 
Across the country, the American people are demanding reform. In this town, the House Republicans have taken the lead with their 2012 budget proposal. President Obama is trying to play catch-up. He doesn’t want to skinny down the government, but he’s going to be forced to do just that.
 
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.

Down On the Farm

Apr 14, 2011

I was down on the farm in Illinois last week. What a relief to escape the political wars in Washington, D.C.! Just to look at those fields of rich black soil just waiting to be planted. I can’t remember when it was more exciting to anticipate a big corn and soybean crop. The markets are volatile but the market is calling for us to grow a big crop. That’s what we want to do.

While enjoying the clean air, freedom from congestion and traffic – freedom from government – suddenly I came to realize that I was not free from the government.
 
I met with my tax advisor since I only had 7 days to get my taxes prepared and sent in to Uncle Sam. You know the drill. They ask “How much did you make?” I respond. They say, “O.K., send it in.”
 
Then I am talking to my neighbor and he tells me that I will probably have to buy a new double walled fuel tank for the farm. I ask, “What’s that all about?” It seems the EPA is going to require that I get a new tank or build a wall around our fuel site since I have more than 1,320 gallons of storage.
 
What’s the EPA doing on my farm? My diesel fuel does not pose any risk. I came to the farm in Illinois to get away from the government.
 
Over a cup of coffee in our farm machinery building and office, I talk to another neighbor. He is complaining to me that he has 22 unwanted horses that he wants to get rid of. There is no market for them. There used to be. We used to have a processing plant in Illinois where unwanted horses could be sold. Their meat was then sold to France or Italy or some other country. The meat is good. Why should it be wasted? Once again, thanks to the government with the help of the Humane Society and PETA, they have shut down all of the horse processing plants in the U.S. What are we to do -- take the poor animals out on the South 40, shoot them, and bury them with an end loader?
 
I thought that by going to the farm I could get away from the government – silly me. I should have known better.
 
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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