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November 2010 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.

Happy Thanksgiving

Nov 24, 2010

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for. You don’t have to look far to see terrible human suffering. Look at what the drug gangs are doing in Mexico just across our border. We should pray for the poor people in Haiti. Right here in the U.S.A., we enjoy abundance that has never been equaled anywhere in the world at any time in history.

That turkey dinner with all the trimmings that you had cost only $4.35. The USDA reports that a U.S. family spends only 6.2% of their disposable income on food. The European countries spend in the range of 15%. And the less developed countries can spend as much as 50% of their income just to feed their family.
At the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Convention in Kansas City, Secretary Vilsack talked about the great job that American farmers and ranchers do. He also said farmers don’t need to apologize for the higher prices we have been experiencing.
We’re not going to see a big jump in the cost of food. This year, the increase in the cost of food is up only about 1%, the least since 1992. Next year, look for a more normal increase of 2% or 3%. I have in my hand the November 15, 2010 Newsweek Magazine. The cover is a beautiful field of golden grain with a blue sky in the background. The words read: “Red State Revival – How the Heartland Could Lead America Out of the Recession.”
I think we can. We’re on the way. Our agricultural economy is in far better shape than big city America. There is hope and it is exciting.
Next week, I’ll be in Illinois on the farm checking the pigs and walking the fields. Also next week, the Congress will be trying to get something done in the lame duck session. They still have not extended the Bush tax cuts and haven’t even given any thought to the death tax ready to explode. We’ll see. I’m encouraged to anticipate a better Congress next year. Maybe they can do the right thing.
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
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.

Time for Leadership

Nov 19, 2010

With the mid-term election now behind us, I thought it a good idea to hear a different perspective from my close friend, Rick Frank. Rick has been my attorney since I left USDA and politically is a moderate Democrat. He practices agriculture law in Washington.

It’s an honor to be able to address your audience across farm country on John Block Reports From Washington. Your nearly 20 years of reporting is an important part of Americana and reflects agriculture views since the time of Ronald Reagan.
The election is now over. Yes, Republicans have made significant gains, reclaiming the House and gaining a virtual tie in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi is out and John Boehner is in. Harry Reid’s already weakened authority has been further diminished and Mitch McConnell will now have a near equal seat at the leadership table.
Where do we go from here? Some say the dysfunctional Congress, now more polarized than ever, will accomplish little. Political operatives on both sides will immediately set their sights on the 2012 Presidential campaign and ignore the country’s important business. I certainly hope not.
The last two years have been marked by a woeful lack of leadership on both sides. Democrats arrogantly tried to rule the country by fiat. Their over-reaching on healthcare and stimulus plans disappointed many in the political middle and ignited the Tea Party revolution on the right. That was a mistake.
Let’s hope that the Republican House will show leadership and begin addressing America’s business. We need to resolve important issues like estate tax reform, immigration reform, and our endless dependence on oil. Unless Congress acts, the estate tax will jump from 0% to 55% on January 1. American farmers will be at risk of losing their farms. The only way to fix these problems is through leaders and leadership instead of simply focusing on the next election. Let’s begin by addressing the country’s business with a compromise on estate taxes. How about an exemption of $3.5 million per person and a rate of 45%?
In closing, I would like to thank Secretary Block for the opportunity to speak with you.
Until next week, I am Rick Frank sitting in with John Block in Washington.

Take Our Government Back

Nov 12, 2010

The election we just had was an unexpected, hard to imagine shock to the ruling Democratic party. In fact, it had to be a surprise to a lot of people, myself included. And yet, when I recall the opinions on national issues that I gathered from the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Convention in Kansas City last year, I should have seen it coming. Here are a few lines from my radio commentary entitled “Heartland Attitude” delivered last year right after the NAFB Convention.

Last week, I attended the annual convention of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. I was surprised to witness the almost universal anger and disenchantment with the leadership in Washington, D.C.
They think the government is spending way too much money.
They are convinced that the healthcare overhaul will cost a ton of money that we don’t have.
Cap and trade legislation will result in more taxes and do nothing to help our plant.
As we all know, the widespread disenchantment with the Obama Administration’s policies did not improve in the ensuing year. In fact, it just got worse and culminated in the political blood bath on November 2.
I think that with the growing power and influence that the Tea Party movement has demonstrated, this is our chance to put the brakes on big government’s power grab.
In 1964 (46 years ago), Ronald Reagan gave a speech entitled “A Time for Choosing.” That famous speech was timely then as its message is timely now. He said, “The issue to decide is whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
I think we have chosen to take our government back. It won’t be easy but neither was the Reagan Revolution.
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
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.

Election Results

Nov 05, 2010

The voters have spoken loud and clear. Let’s hope our Congress and the Obama Administration were listening.

We have seen big game changing elections before. In 1980, Ronald Reagan swept into office with a Republican Senate. The voters were sending a message. They didn’t like sky high interest rates. They didn’t like high unemployment. They didn’t like expensive gasoline. Farmers were furious about President Jimmy Carter’s grain embargo. President Carter had embargoed our grain exports to the Soviet Union – our biggest customer. As the Secretary of Agriculture, convincing President Reagan to lift that embargo was my most pressing challenge. He did lift it. But the other problems we faced took longer to fix. However, President Reagan and the Congress worked together to fix them too.
Let’s hope the new Congress (both parties) understand the message –
  • less government
  • less taxes
  • jobs
  • get the work done
This time around, the ag industry is not concerned about high interest rates or trade embargoes. They want the government to back off. Don’t let EPA run over us or steal our property rights. Forget about cap and trade and CO2 regulations. Don’t try to tell us what to do if we want to drain a pond or fix a little creek on our farm. What is this about a new regulation that will require us to give a 1099 to any person or company where we spent $600? Maybe you haven’t heard about it. You will. Stay tuned.
The nanny state is going wild. Is Secretary Vilsack pushing to get our trade agreements passed? We know our farm programs will be cut. But we don’t want to be singled out. There isn’t that much money there anyway.
We know that there are forces in the Obama Administration that don’t share production agriculture’s vision and priorities. Just as the farm voters wanted me to fight for agriculture in the Cabinet and the White House as I did, today’s ag industry expects the same from Secretary Vilsack.
The voters have delivered a blunt, clear message to big government. Let’s monitor the response and hold their feet to the fire. There will be another election in 2 years.
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
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.
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