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September 2009 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.

Trade

Sep 25, 2009

With all the noise coming out of Washington focusing on healthcare, cap and trade, and financial regulation, it is easy to forget about some other serious issues that need attention. This Congress and the Obama Administration are taking us down a dangerous path of trade conflict.
 
There is powerful pressure in Congress to deny imports of Chinese chicken. Now, the Chinese have cut back on the imports of our chicken.
 
President Obama imposed a 35% tariff on Chinese tires. What do you think the Chinese will do? They will retaliate by not buying any chickens. Soybeans could be next. They have added auto parts to the list. We’re not going to get ahead by picking trade fights.
 
Do you remember when President Bush imposed tariffs on steel in 2001? Russia retaliated by closing the door on a long list of our ag products. It was devastating. Presidents do these kind of things to appease their constituents. President Bush was listening to our steel industry suffering from the last recession. President Obama and this Congress are tied to the labor unions. They are protectionist.
 
This back and forth, tit for tat, can escalate. The steel tariff imposed by President Bush was a big mistake, but he later made up for it by writing and negotiating a series of bilateral trade agreements. President Clinton, over union labor objections, pushed most favored nation trading status for China and wrote bilateral trade agreements.
 
Let’s face it. We are part of a global economy. Trade restrictions hurt everyone.
 
This Administration and Congress have abdicated our trade leadership. The Colombia, Panama, and South Korean trade agreements sit on the shelf. No action. Congress passed a bill to ban Mexican trucks on our highways. That is a direct violation of NAFTA. The U.S. Energy Secretary wants to impose a carbon tax on imports.
 
Countries around the world are fighting their way out of the global recession. The easy political payoff is to shut the door on some imports and take political credit. We could lose control of that game and end up in a real trade war. It is time for the USA to show some leadership on trade.
 
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

Norman Borlaug

Sep 17, 2009

The United States of America has a long list of very famous people. To name a few, you would never forget George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt. Go to Europe and they might remind us of George Marshall and the Marshall Plan that fed Europe after World War II.
 
But if you go to a developing country, a poor country, they probably would add Norman Borlaug to the list.
 
Norman Borlaug, age 95, died last Saturday. “More than any single person of his age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world.” That’s what the Nobel Peace Price Committee said in honoring him in 1970. He was working in Mexico in the ’40s with the Rockefeller Foundation and crossed Mexican wheat with a dwarf Japanese wheat. The new strain with fertilizer produced 10 times as much grain.
 
In India, in the ’60s, he developed a high-yielding rice. The “Green Revolution” was growing. His effort was helping poor people all over the world. Without the “Green Revolution,” we would not have the food to feed today’s world population.
 
It is no accident that we have an abundance of food in the world today. It may not be evenly distributed, but we can produce it.
 
Norm Borlaug believed in using all available scientific technology to maximize production.
 
He said it straight out – that environmentalists are hampering food production by attacking the use of fertilizer, chemicals, and biotechnology. He said it just 4 years ago as he spoke at the U.S. State Department program honoring him. I was there with him and so proud of his courage to be politically incorrect because he was right.
 
In a speech in 1993 in New Orleans, he said we’re not going back to the environmentalists’ vision of “low-yielding sustainable agriculture.” He said, “An adequate supply of food is the first component to social justice.”
 
Norm Borlaug, the son of a Norwegian immigrant, born in his grandfather’s farm house in Iowa – how many lives has he saved?
 
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.
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