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April 2013 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.

The Issue of Herd Health

Apr 25, 2013

The first day of May isn’t far off, and we don’t have one grain of corn planted. Last year, we had finished planting corn by May 1. After last year’s drought, the whole Midwest is living with wet fields and cold soil.

I remind myself that our time will come. It always does. "Patience, patience."

So today, let’s concentrate on another issue. The Congress is working to reauthorize the Animal Drug User Fee Act. This has revived a longstanding dispute over the use of drugs in raising and treating animals.

Critics argue that the use of drugs on animals results in resistance to the drugs. The livestock industry counters with a number of studies, including the Food and Drug Administration stating that results indicate that the risk to human health is "negligible."

In the New York Times, Professor Charles Hofacre, University of Georgia professor of veterinary medicine and the National Center for Food Safety pointed out that there is no connection between antibiotic resistance and livestock use of antibiotics. Science is on the side of the livestock industry on this one.

There is another way to look at this whole question. People take medicine and antibiotics for all kinds of health problems. When suffering, take something for pain relief. Do you have an infection? Use some antibiotics.

Isn’t the humane thing to do when your pigs get the flu is to doctor them? If your dog was suffering, you wouldn’t hesitate to get medicine for him. Where are the animal rights people? Where is the Humane Society? They should be standing up to support the animals.

We don’t give our pigs antibiotics all the time. However, when baby pigs get sick, we consult with our veterinarian and give them the prescribed medicine. Healthy animals provide healthy food. Antibiotics are a vital tool in managing herd health. The consumer should want a healthy food supply.

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


A Hard Look at Budgets

Apr 16, 2013

At long last, the U.S. debt is front and center in the spotlight. We had gone 4 years without the Democratic Senate even passing a budget. In that timeframe, the Republican House did their legal obligation by passing budgets each year. Of course, that made them an easy target because they proposed to reduce spending on a lot of popular projects.

Three cheers for the Senate this year. They passed a budget. President Obama just announced his budget last week. By law, he was supposed to present his two months ago, but better later than never.

I credit the President in his budget for targeting entitlement programs for cuts. He has never publicly done that before and has a lot of his liberal base very unhappy. The President wants a "grand bargain" with very modest reductions in the entitlement program. He is asking for 700 billion dollars in new taxes. His policies are budgeted to replace the across-the-board sequester that is pinching a number of our spending programs.

I have before me a graph of the debt projections of the three different budget proposals. This is presented by the Washington Post – hardly a conservative paper. President Obama’s plan projects a spending deficit of 744 billion dollars for the coming fiscal year.

With his plan, our 17 trillion dollar debt today would grow over the next 10 years to 25 trillion dollars. The Senate Democrat plan is almost as bad. The chart I am looking at has our debt escalating up over the years at about a 30-degree angle. Contrast that with the House GOP plan which has our debt line almost flat. It projects a balanced budget after 10 years.

I’m not suggesting that the House plan is perfect. It can be argued that some parts of it are unrealistic. However, the President’s plan that has us looking at a 25 trillion dollar debt ten years out is unacceptable. Keep in mind that defense, Medicare and Social Security make up 60% of the budget. Wouldn’t you think we could raise the retirement age? When Social Security was created, the life expectancy was 65. Social Security began paying after most people were dead. We live a lot longer today.

Raise the retirement age. Our young children are being burdened with debt every day. It’s selfish.
Politicians don’t want to take anything away from their voters. They could be voted out of office.
Let’s hope that the attention that our deficit and debt are getting today will give our elected officials the courage to act in the national interest.

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


Turn the Page on these Issues

Apr 04, 2013

What to talk about today? I don’t know. Let’s start with horse slaughter. Look back to 2007. At that time, horse slaughter was effectively barred when Congress cut off funding for horse meat inspectors. Before that time, we were processing and shipping horse meat to customers in Europe and Asia. With the ban in place, unwanted horses are now being shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, and sometimes just turned loose on the road. There is hope. We now have new funding for inspectors, and a number of states are pushing to begin processing. That’s good.

Turn the page and we see that a bill has been introduced in Congress to insure flexibility as the USDA implements its new school lunch rule. The Sensible School Lunch Act, if passed, would provide flexibility to individual school districts to decide the level of protein and grains in the lunches served. The legislation leaves in place the calorie cap and emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Makes sense to me. "One size fits all" is a bad idea.

Turn the page. The federal Sugar Program is in trouble. Will it be changed in the new farm bill? It’s too soon to know. The program is a relic of the old command and control farm programs. We have gotten rid of almost all of them. But, our Sugar Program requires that 85 percent of the sugar used in the U.S. shall be provided by U.S. farmers. The rest can be imported with "quotas" for certain countries. That doesn’t sound like free trade to me. What if we tried to do that on oranges or tomatoes?

Turn the page. In the U.S., we plant 69.5 million hectares to biotech crops. That’s only half of the story. The other half is that developing countries today plant more than half of the global biotech acreage. Yes, modern agriculture has its critics, but there is no turning back.

I say that in spite of the fact that Whole Foods just announced that it intends to label all food sold in its 300 stores if they contain GM ingredients. Labeling GM foods doesn’t make any sense.
On a positive note, the Administration is moving ahead with an effort to write free trade agreements with the EU and another with Pacific countries. It won’t be easy but it’s the right thing to do.
Next week, I want to talk about budget and debt.

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

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