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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.

An Obama Presidency

Nov 14, 2008
Today, just an extra word about Wal-Mart. This weekend, I picked up the newspaper. The 30 biggest companies on the Dow Jones were listed, and every company’s stock value has declined this year – some by a huge amount, except Wal-Mart. Up 14%. The explanation is simple. Wal-Mart is well-managed and is providing real value to their customers. Congratulations!!

And now for today’s commentary.

The big question in the country is – “What will an Obama Presidency mean for agriculture?” Some are excited and hopeful. Others are apprehensive and unsure.

If he governs from the center and resists the pull to the left by many in his party, it should be OK. I talked with Charlie Stenholm, former Congressman from Texas. He is a farmer and highly regarded in farm country. He says the moderate “Blue Dog” democrats will keep Obama in the middle.

Marshall Matz, who co-chaired Obama’s farm and ranch team, said “There will be no losers in agriculture under an Obama Administration.”

Charlie and Marshall are both on the short list for Secretary of Agriculture. I respect their confidence and judgment. Still – I think there are some things that we should keep an eye on.

Obama has been solid behind ethanol. He voted for the farm bill. That should give us some confidence. However, will Barack Obama be able to push the environmental fringe, which is a powerful force in the Democratic Party, to accept offshore drilling, to build nuclear power plants, and refineries? I’m not sure Obama is tough enough to get this done even though the vast majority of the people support it. These low energy prices are not going to last. Charlie Stenholm says, “We need energy from every available source.” I agree.

Trade also is something to worry about. The Democratic leadership in the Congress has blocked a vote on the Colombian and South Korean trade agreements. Obama at one time said the North American Free Trade Agreement needed to be renegotiated. For those of us in agriculture, trade is vital. We export 25 percent of what we produce. Keep the trade channels open.

Federal government regulation is another concern. Property rights, EPA dictates, are things that can keep us up at night.

Finally, taxes – Obama is committed to support an increase in capital gains tax, dividends, and the death tax. Not good news for some farmers.

We’ll see where the new leadership team takes us. Dealing with the crippled economy is Challenge No. 1 right now.


Listen to the broadcast here.
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