Jul 29, 2014
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March 2014 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.

Dietary Guidelines and Sustainability

Mar 20, 2014

Congress directed the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to publish dietary guidelines containing "nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public." In developing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has decided to incorporate the concept of sustainability into the guidelines.

Sustainability in food production is an important issue. However, the Dietary Guidelines are not the place for it – sustainability is outside of the mandate from Congress. Not to be deterred, however, the DGAC has created a Subcommittee on Food Sustainability and Safety to "develop and maintain a food system that is safe and sustainable to ensure current and future food security."

Here they come. The socially elite foodies intent on telling us how to farm.

Predictably, at the most recent DGAC meeting, the sole presenter on sustainability wasted no time in pushing the vegetarian and organic agenda, and overlooked all of the benefits that science and technology in agriculture are bringing to reduce water and pesticide use and address volatile weather conditions.

The presenter barely mentioned future food security, and conveniently ignored the inconvenient truth that the world faces an immense food security challenge: feeding an additional two billion people by 2050.

It is sad and ironic that while the U.S. Congress is preparing to unveil a statue of Norman Borlaug (the unveiling is March 25), who pioneered and championed agricultural research to spur the Green Revolution that saved hundreds of millions of lives, the DGAC has veered off course and is attempting to turn back the clock to the day of small-scale, insufficient farming. I remember that agriculture when I was a boy – two old horses pulling a two-row corn planter.

The DGAC would best serve the American public by focusing on its mission of providing the American people with nutrition and dietary information.

 

Our Debt

Mar 12, 2014

When our country was founded, Thomas Jefferson had this to say about the U.S. government. "When the people realize they can vote themselves benefits, all is lost."

Well, we have arrived. The vast majority of people want our government to get control of spending. Except when it comes to their benefits. "Don’t take away my benefits. I need them." Politicians give out our tax money to buy votes. They don’t dare talk about taking anything away.

It could be argued that if one party controlled the House, Senate, and Presidency, there they could deal with our debt problem. However, on more than one occasion over the last 20 years, one party has had total control. Nothing has been done.

Take a look back. We have built a huge welfare state starting in the 1930s. Even with the cost of WWII, our debt was a manageable 35% of GDP. Today, it is 74%, and if we don’t take some action, by 2024 it will be 90%.

President Obama released his 2015 budget last week. Everyone says it is dead on arrival. It is nothing more than a campaign paper spending money we don’t have.

Fortunately, we still have a sequestration law in place to keep a lid on regular spending, including defense. But it does nothing to deal with our entitlement spending programs. I’m talking about Social Security and Medicare. Our population is much older now and the entitlements are eating up all the money.

Here is an example. An average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program. They will get $343,000 in benefits out of the program. They come out ahead by $234,000. Social Security has the same kind of shortcoming. We are living too long. Are we going to fix this unsustainable shortfall or are we just going to ignore it, and let our children pay?

With an election coming up this fall, the easy way out is just to deny the risk, and kick the can down the road another year.

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