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February 2009 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.

Property Rights

Feb 20, 2009

The erosion of personal property rights is a serious concern for a lot of people in our country. We have reached a point where you really don’t know what to do if an intruder enters your house in the middle of the night. Do you defend your home and family with a gun? If you shoot the intruder, you could go to jail.
Here is another real life example. Roger Barnett has a ranch in Arizona on the Mexican border. His 22,000 acre ranch has become a favorite route for illegal immigrants to slip into the USA. They have torn up his water pump, killed his calves, destroyed fences, stolen trucks, and even broken into his home. The Border Patrol has not stopped them from coming. Mr. Barnett has been rounding up illegals that come on his property over the past 10 years and turning them over to the Border Patrol. Yet, they still keep coming. What is a rancher to do?
Mr. Barnett concluded that he needed to stop them. What happened next is only too common today. The Mexican Legal Defense and Educational Fund sued Mr. Barnett and his wife, and the Cochise County Sheriff, seeking 32 million dollars in punitive damages for civil rights violations. “Civil rights violations of the illegal trespassers!”
Can you believe the nerve?
The case goes back to 2004, when, with a gun, and a big dog, Rancher Barnett apprehended 5 women and 11 men crossing his land. The illegals complained that the dog barked at them. Oh, how frightening! And, Mr. Barnett allegedly said, “my dog is hungry and he’s hungry for your buttocks.” I don’t think those words are too harsh.
I understand his frustration. Our immigration system is broken. And worse, our justice system won’t defend our good citizens. Mr. Barnett was just protecting his property. And the illegal aliens sued him. They were trespassing. He had even installed a faucet on an 8,000 gallon water tank so the intruders wouldn’t damage the tank trying to get water. Nothing worked.
I know that we need a certain number of immigrants to do a lot of work in this country that no one else seems willing to do. But, I support protection of personal property first.
Mr. Barnett said, “This is my land. I’m the victim here.” He is right. We need to stand up against those that want to take away our property rights.

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Where Secretary Vilsack Stands

Feb 18, 2009

I called Secretary Vilsack last week and wished him well. Secretaries of Agriculture are never lacking for challenges. I inherited a grain embargo that was killing our farm economy. He has a peanut butter problem that is killing people.
We now have an indication of what is on the Secretary’s mind for USDA. He addressed a joint meeting of U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers this week and spoke to some high priority farm issues.
He made clear that the future for direct farm payments is limited. He just doesn’t know when they will go away. I agree completely.
On the subject of farm payments, he definitely wants to cram down the lid on payment limitations. This is not a big surprise. Iowa’s Senators both have the same position.
Perhaps even more important, he has made his support for biofuels very clear. He is proud that “Iowa has embraced biofuels.” He sees Iowa as an example of how agriculture can diversify with biofuels, windmills, and organic agriculture. In another interview with Bloomberg News, he revealed that USDA is talking with EPA to raise the amount of corn-ethanol that can be blended into gasoline. This is a big deal.
Recalling President Obama’s statements on trade during the campaign, there are a lot of questions about Secretary Vilsack’s position. At this point, it is a little unclear, but I am convinced he understands how important exports are to agriculture.
We have been wondering where the Obama Administration would stand on some of these issues. Maybe we are getting some indication. We have to assume that Secretary Vilsack’s positions are consistent with the President’s. I like what I hear so far.
On the food safety issue, Secretary Vilsack raised the possibility that he would support a single food agency to ensure food safety for the country. Today, the Agriculture Department inspects meat and FDA takes care of the rest. I wouldn’t object to a single food agency if it was all under USDA. With the peanut butter salmonella problem in the spotlight, we are going to hear more about this in the days ahead.
Although it has only been a week, the early sounds from USDA are encouraging.

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