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April 2012 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.

USDA Anniversary

Apr 26, 2012

May 15 is almost here. Look back 150 years. Abraham Lincoln was President and he signed a bill establishing the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency’s responsibility was "scientific experimentation" and "new seeds and plants." That was the beginning of today’s vast and flourishing land-grant university system. Our Department of Agriculture took the lead in scientific progress in farming.

Just consider what has been accomplished over those years. We have the safest, most abundant, and reasonably priced food in the world. An American family spends less than 10 percent of disposable income on food; China and Mexico more than 22 percent. Our food and forestry industry provides employment for 1 in 12 Americans. Our ag industry is the envy of the world.

There you have it – 150 very successful years. But what about the years ahead? By year 2050, the world will have 2 billion more mouths to feed. We have a challenge. However, we can successfully meet that challenge if we continue to promote agricultural research, science, innovation – including today’s amazing productivity-driven biotechnology.

When I was a boy, our corn yield was 70 bushels per acre. Today, we expect 200 bushels per acre. We couldn’t raise more than 70 bushels because weeds and corn bore and root worms were terrible problems. When I got older, we started using chemicals to fight the weeds and pests. Now that we have biotech crops, we have cut the use of chemicals. With herbicides, we don’t need to till the soil as much, reducing the amount of energy used in raising a crop.

With minimum tillage, we are able to cut erosion and soil run-off. Perhaps you didn’t notice, but we are living sustainable agriculture’s "green revolution."

We don’t know what new technology lies ahead. We do know that in order to produce enough food we need to employ all of today’s technology and to follow through with President Lincoln’s plan. We need to search for the next hybrid seed or biotech discovery.

The world has a limited number of crop acres. We don’t want to cut down the rain forests. We don’t want to see starvation across the globe.

I ask that you broadcast this message of success and hope for our future to your friends, neighbors, and policy makers.

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.


Race for the White House

Apr 20, 2012


With only about six months to go before we vote in November, we have a two-man race for the White House. Mitt Romney appears to be the Republican candidate and it looks like it could be a close race. Of course, six months is a long time.
Here is where I stand. I think Mitt Romney is right on most issues. We do need to cut spending and shrink government. Our debt is growing by a trillion dollars every year. Every time our government spends 1 dollar, we have to borrow 40 cents of that dollar. Republicans are the party of smaller government, less spending, less regulation, and less taxes.
President Obama wants to raise taxes.
I think in the end we will raise more tax money by closing loopholes and simplifying our tax code. Having just filed my taxes, I hope we do that.
The place where Republicans need to change their policy is on defense. How can you be for cutting spending but say no to cutting the defense budget? We already spend more money on defense than all the rest of the countries in the world put together. We don’t want to be the "war party." Nation building costs too much, and we don’t have the money.
It makes me want to cry when I see our wounded warriors on TV with missing arms and legs. They are our children. Has the injury and loss of life of our young people been worth it? The countries we are trying to help don’t even like us. Sixty percent of our citizens want us to stop fighting wars. The Republican party’s "military hawk" position is not a winner. I would add that President Obama can’t capitalize on this because he is the one that pushed for the surge in Afghanistan. He should have brought the troops home. But, NO, he didn’t.
He sent special forces into Sudan, Uganda, Central African Republic, and the Congo. Of course, there are terrorists in these countries, but we can’t be fighting all over the world. We can’t force every country to democratize.
The Constitution says that our military is to provide for "the common defense" of the United States. That’s all.
There are a lot of issues that will influence the Presidential race. I haven’t even talked about immigration. Save that for another day.
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.



Need to Repeal the Jackson-Vanik Amendment

Apr 12, 2012

The Presidential campaign is in the headlines every day. And the number one priority is to create jobs. Well, if we are serious, there is one thing the Congress can do that will be a big help.
They need to pass legislation to repeal the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. Most people have never heard of the Jackson-Vanik. It is a relic of the Cold War with the Soviet Union passed in 1974. It is still on the books to punish the Soviet Union by restricting trade relations.
This summer, the Soviet Union will be admitted into the World Trade Organization. It’s a done deal. We could see our 10 billion dollars in export to Russia double to 20 billion dollars in five years. Agriculture will get our share of that expansion. However, if we don’t get rid of Jackson-Vanik, Russia will likely not lower their tariffs for our goods. They won’t be required to by WTO rules as long as Jackson-Vanik is there. We will be at a major disadvantage compared to other countries.
Over the years, we have waived the Jackson-Vanik legislation. That won’t work anymore. I even ran into that legislation when I negotiated and signed a long-term grain agreement with the Soviet Union in 1984. We found a way around it, but it wasn’t easy.
The Cold War is over, and Russia wants Jackson-Vanik off the books. China has been a member of the WTO for years. Now, Russia will come aboard. But will we be an equal trading partner or not?
With political fights going on in this town, I wonder if the Congress will call a truce long enough to do something that can mean thousands of jobs. I thought jobs were a priority.
As the Vice President of Amway said, "If we don’t get this done, we will stick out like a sore thumb. All it does is hurt American companies."
I ask you to tell your Congressman to get it done.
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.


Some Good Ag News

Apr 05, 2012

It seems like every week there is another attack on commercial agriculture and family farms, whether it is the Humane Society, PETA, EPA, Department of Labor, environmentalists – they all want to tell us how to farm. Well, there is also some good news.
The EPA has been trying to steal our property rights from us for years. Three cheers for the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, it told the EPA that the landowner owns the stream bed and not the government. Landowners and farmers in particular should not have to put up with a government agency telling us if we can drain a wet spot or straighten a crooked creek.
In case after case, the EPA has used its authority under the Clean Water Act to issue compliance orders. The Court’s ruling doesn’t completely get the EPA off our back, but it is a big help.
Another encouraging development is, the Department of Labor has agreed to re-propose a "parental exemption" rule for child labor. Their original rule would have forbidden kids under 16 years of age from doing anything on the farm.
My grandchildren would not have been allowed to help sort hogs for market. I couldn’t teach them how to drive a tractor. You couldn’t have them in the back of the truck scooping corn. Keep them away from the cattle. Send them to the house to watch TV. As a boy, I remember working for a neighbor baling hay and doing all kinds of chores. Hopefully, the Department of Labor is starting to listen to rural America.
On the next issue, we can applaud the EPA. They have approved the first applications for registration of ethanol with gasoline at the 15 percent level. Bob Dinneen, CEO of Renewable Fuels Association, says, "Perhaps as early as summer we could see E15 at fuel stations in the heartland."
I would add that consumers will love it. Ethanol is $1.00 per gallon cheaper than petroleum fuel.
Yes, there are some good things happening. Another good thing – I’m headed to the farm next week.
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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