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June 2010 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 and Jobs

Jun 18, 2010

I want to compliment Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. He has been promoting renewable energy, stressing how that can mean thousands of jobs in rural America. He reminds us that a one billion dollar increase in ag exports creates 9,000 private sector jobs. His agenda is positive for job creation. President Obama says that he wants to double our exports. That could mean thousands of jobs that we desperately need.
 
But what is the President doing to accomplish his worthy goal? Nothing! Four years ago, we negotiated the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, projected to increase ag exports by $815 million. Three years ago, we negotiated the South Korean Free Trade Agreement, which projects an increase in ag exports of nearly $2 billion.
 
It is the Administration’s responsibility to send these agreements to the Congress and their obligation to vote them up or down. But they just sit on the shelf gathering dust. All the while, other competing countries are writing agreements with countries all over the world. We lose ground every day we sit on our hands. Since we negotiated our agreement with Colombia, our ag exports to that country have declined by 50%.
 
Our customers are losing faith in us.
 
On top of that, the President does not have authority to negotiate new trade agreements now. That authority ran out during the Bush Administration and President Obama has not asked the Congress to renew it so he can negotiate. President Bill Clinton had the authority and was very active in negotiating trade deals.
 
Besides jobs, there is a very important strategic opportunity that we are missing. Passing those agreements would demonstrate our close ties and support for South Korea in its stand-off with North Korea after the sinking of the South Korean ship. Passing the Colombian agreement would remind Hugo Chavez and Venezuela that we work with and support our friends.
 
“Double exports and create thousands of jobs?” Unless we do something, those are just words.
 
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 www.johnblockreports.com.
 
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.

Eggs Anyone?

Jun 03, 2010

I sat at my desk this morning to prepare my radio commentary and a host of ideas were on my mind. How about the oil spill in the Gulf? What about North and South Korea at each others’ throats? Then I glanced at an article in the Washington Post Food Section. The title read: “Well, the Yolk’s on Me.” The article is instructive. Let me tell you what it’s all about.
 
This lady and her husband moved from Manhattan to Cape Cod. Like many of their neighbors, they wanted to raise some chickens in their back yard and have their own eggs. They knew without any doubt free range chickens laying fresh eggs would taste so much better. So, they had their own eggs and they tasted good. The couple knew the eggs were delicious, but they couldn’t help but wonder if they really tasted better or did they just think they tasted better.
 
Well, the only way to answer that question would be to have a taste test. They enlisted four neighbors that were blindfolded and ready to sample four kinds of eggs: ordinary supermarket eggs, organic supermarket eggs, high-end organic country hen brand eggs, and eggs from their own chickens.
 
You guessed it – they couldn’t tell any difference. Eggs taste like eggs. There is one difference but it’s not taste. The conventional supermarket white eggs cost $1.99 per dozen. The country hen free range organic eggs cost $3.29 per dozen. The eggs from their own chickens scratching in the back yard just cost some feed and extra work. I know how that is. When I was a boy, my job was to feed the chickens in the hen house and gather the eggs.
 
The story behind this story is that the popular attack on commercial agriculture and push for every family with their own garden, chickens, maybe pigs and a cow to milk is not as perfect as it sounds. I’m not against it. Just remember, it can be costly and may not taste any better.
 
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 www.johnblockreports.com.
 
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.
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