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March 2013 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.

PETA Goes Too Far…Again

Mar 29, 2013

If you ever questioned whether animal agriculture was under attack, PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) assault on a 14-year-old boy this week should answer that question.

I turned on my television and could hardly believe what I saw. A 14-year-old boy was selected as a student ambassador for a People to People trip to Europe, but knew he couldn’t go unless he raised some money. The family with 6 kids just couldn’t afford it. So, to be creative, the father and the boy decided to raise some money to help.

First, a neighbor gave the boy a calf. They decided to raffle the calf. That would raise real money. The winner of the raffle could either take possession of the calf or be given hundreds of pounds of beef steak and hamburger.

That’s when PETA showed up. They fired off an E-mail to the 14-year-old boy, Logan Ward.

In part, here is what it said: "It just seems a little strange to me that you feel that someone needs to die for you to go on a school trip. There are other ways to fundraise these days that don’t involve a dead, chopped up corpse." And then, Whitney Calk, writing for PETA, went on to suggest that in order to raise money that Logan should host a veggie dog sale hosted by PETA’s bikini-clad Lettuce Ladies, with a link to their website. It was pure inappropriate porn. Without any question, PETA’s attack on this boy was way out of line.

Think about all the 4-H boys and girls that raise calves and baby pigs – feed them and care for them but then send them to market. That’s what I did. That’s what my kids did. Animal agriculture is a business. We are feeding billions of people. I have friends that are vegetarians. That’s fine.

Individuals can make a choice. I happen to like a steak and pork chops. That’s my position, and we don’t need a bunch of self-righteous extremists trying to make us conform to their preference.
PETA’s crusade is not ethical treatment of animals. It is simply – don’t eat meat.

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


Agriculture’s “Message” Problem

Mar 21, 2013

We celebrated Ag Day this week. Secretary Vilsack did an outstanding job of making the case for our industry at a dinner held in the Atrium of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Barry Nelson (John Deere) provided the welcome, Orion Samuelson (WGN) served as MC, and Teresa Scanlan (Miss America 2011) also spoke.

The challenge we have in agriculture is to get our message out. Secretary Vilsack laid it out about as clear as can be done. We are farming about the same acreage as we farmed when he was a boy, but the amount that we produce today is off the chart. He did have a chart. The amount of labor to produce the food continues to decline. Only 1% of our population is farming. It used to be 30%. Furthermore, a family used to spend 50% of their income on food. It’s less than 10% now.

The Ag Day message needs to be broadcast far and wide. At a different event but still part of the celebration, I heard J.B. Penn speak. He served the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a number of very nigh positions and currently serves as John Deere’s Chief Economist. Without getting into too many details, there will be a farm bill written this year. We will not have the money that we had to spend in the past, and crop insurance will be our primary safety net. It’s a new day. It’s not my father’s agriculture with 2 old horses pulling a 2-row corn planter and it’s not going to be my father’s farm bill.

The last subject that I want to put on the table is Cyprus. Yes, Cyprus. The island country in the Mediterranean has less than 1 million inhabitants. However, Cyprus is a member of the European Union and, like some other members of the EU, is broke. To get money to bail the country out, it was prepared to tax everyone’s bank account up to 10%. Instead of calling it a tax, I would say they were planning to confiscate 10% of the people’s bank accounts. Can you imagine that? If our government tried that, there would be a revolution. I don’t know what will happen in Cyprus, but I can’t believe they can get away with that kind of thievery.

The lesson in all of this is that over-spending and over-promising eventually hits the wall. Maybe we should pay attention.

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


Ag Day Message

Mar 13, 2013

Next week, we will be celebrating Ag Day USA. It is more important than ever that we get the positive message about agriculture out. In this country, we have about 300 or 400 thousand farms feeding our population and exporting $140 billion of food around the world. Look at it this way.

One percent of our population is producing all of this food. Look back to the 1930s. At that time, 30% of our population was farming. And, we didn’t have the abundance that we do now. A family’s income spent on food has been falling over the years. The charge is less than 10%. But, how do we get our message out with only 1% of us farming?

Most people are far removed from the farm and simply don’t know much about it. That provides opportunity for our critics that don’t like modern farming. They shout, "No biotechnology, no commercial fertilizer, no chemical weed control, no gestation crates, no chicken cages. We want organic. We want to tell you how to farm."

Let’s be honest. Some of the most vocal critics don’t want us to eat meat. They were cheering when the Congress closed down all of our horse slaughter houses. Now, we are trucking our unwanted horses to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. We have thousands of unwanted horses every year. Some owners can’t afford to feed them. They turn their horses loose on the roads or in the wild. They shoot them and bury them in the back 40. What a waste!

There is a market for horse meat. When I was in Italy last year, in one restaurant, horse meat was on the menu. I ordered it and ate it. That was my statement. There are hungry people in the world and we should not be wasting food.

As we celebrate Ag Day, let’s commit ourselves and our industry to do a better job of telling our story. Maybe we need more presentation like Paul Harvey for Dodge Trucks on Super Bowl TV.
"So God made a Farmer."

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 from Washington.

Let the Axe Fall

Mar 07, 2013

Last week, I was on the farm in Illinois. I was greeted with 5 days of snow with accumulation of about 7 inches. In ordinary times, I would not have liked the wind and snow, but not this year, after last year’s drought. Replenishing our soil moisture is essential for this year’s crop. Hard to believe, but we could be planting corn in less than 6 weeks.

One exciting welcome event was that the day I arrived, we had 7 litters of baby pigs. How is that for timing? We normally could expect about 1 litter per day. Those mother sows really wanted to impress me. If I were to sum everything up, I would say that we are ready for spring. Our machinery has been gone over to make ready to hit the field. There is a level of optimism and excitement in the air as we look out across those snow-covered fields soon to be sprouting with corn and soybeans.

On Thursday last week, the day that the sequester was scheduled to set in, I spoke to the Galesburg Rotary Club. It was a crowd of some 80 people, many friends and people that I know. My message was summed up in the front page story in the Galesburg Register Mail the next day. The headlines read: "Block says, ‘let the axe fall.’"

That was the sum of my message. I simply think that our debt is serious. We can’t keep borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. We know that cutting back will be somewhat painful, but we have no choice. Keep in mind that the reduction in spending is not a cut from past spending, but a small 2% reduction in the projected growth in spending. It would be helpful if the Congress would pass legislation to give the departments a little more flexibility in where to save the money.

Keep in mind the sequester cuts do nothing to address the runaway cost of entitlements – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The escalating cost of those programs is unsustainable. Our children and grandchildren will not have any support if reforms are not made.

Just look at Europe. Socialist entitlement programs represent a crushing debt. We’re not far behind. I like to think that we still have time to turn around. That will require courage and leadership from Washington.

That’s where I am now.

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 from Washington and still hoping.


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