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September 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.

Atlantic Salmon

Sep 23, 2010

There is a segment of our population and the population in other developed countries that want to turn back the clock. They choose to ignore and question scientific development at every turn. If we accepted their policies, we would all go back in time to the days of farming with oxen. 

Our willingness as a nation to accept new technology, including hybrid seeds, genetic engineering, large machinery, chemicals for pest and weed control, and many other advances has given us the prosperity that we enjoy today. If modern agriculture had not delivered the bounty that it has, all those critics wouldn’t have time to complain; they would be scavenging to find enough to eat.
 
Environmental groups and consumer organizations now have a new target to attack – a genetically modified Atlantic salmon. Aqua Bounty is the company asking FDA to approve their fish. The ordinary Atlantic salmon is inserted with a gene from a Chinook salmon and a gene from some eel-like species and, like magic the genetically modified fish can grow to market size in 18 months instead of 3 years. Salmon on steroids – sounds like progress to me.
 
When will FDA decide if this is acceptable? We don’t know. It is just another example of science and technology marching on. We are able to feed the world today because we have accepted new technology. An obvious example where genetic engineering has made an enormous impact is in corn and soybean production. Between 1987 and 2007 (that’s 20 years), we have been able to produce 40% more corn and 30% more soybeans on the same amount of crop land.
 
The comfortable, well-to-do critics of scientific farming in developed countries probably would not be so critical if they lived in the poor countries. If they were starving because of global food shortages, maybe then they would welcome modern farming and its bounty.
 
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.

Mid-Term Election

Sep 17, 2010

Rural America has not been happy with the direction our federal government has taken in the last 2 years. Now, we have a mid-term election coming up in less than 50 days that could flip the control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. There is a remote chance that the Democrats could also lose control of the Senate. Regardless, there is no question but the  policy direction that President Obama and his party have pursued since the last election is going to change.

The anger in the country is not dominated by the war as in the last election. Social issues are pushed to the back burner. Jobs and the economy are in the spotlight. But just as high on the agenda and related is the voters’ intense consensus that government is too big, government spends too much, government regulates too much, government taxes too much. Our debt is unsustainable. It’s time to insist that individuals take more personal responsibility.
 
Sounds like the “Tea Party movement” and it is. Sounds like Ronald Reagan.
 
I am hopeful that after this election, we will have enough new conservative voices in the Congress to begin to move us in a new direction.
 
  1. Stop EPA – EPA is out of control, wanting to regulate dust on farms. When a combine goes through the field, there is going to be dust. They want to tell us what we can do with our ponds and little creeks on our farms. They intend to regulate CO2, and I don’t agree with that either.
  2. Government should stop trying to tax everything they don’t like. They want to tax soft drinks, they want to regulate fast food, they want to tax, tax, tax. Why? Because they want the money to spend on their pet programs. With a new Congress, we can stop the rush to tax everything and everyone. Maybe we can get some relief on the death tax. How irresponsible can a government be with the tax this year dropping to zero and next year scheduled to jump to 55 percent.
  3. When we turn to farm programs, we can expect to take our cuts, but that’s OK if other programs are put under the knife also.
  4. Finally, on trade – maybe, just maybe, trade will get some attention.
 
In this election, if we can replace a large number of the tax-and-spend liberals, Ronald Reagan would be proud.
 
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.

Biofuels

Sep 14, 2010

I believe in and support the agriculture industry from the farms and ranches to the nation’s dinner tables. Rural America is where common sense prevails. I am convinced that this industry must work together for the good of all. I understand the competition for acres and production, whether it be between corn or soybeans or cotton or between pork or beef or chickens.

However, we are all in this together and there is nothing to be gained by nationalizing our family fights. That is what happened in 2008 when commodity prices spiked and food prices jumped up. Those affected, including food processors and livestock producers, were quick to blame biofuels.
 
Last month, the World Bank set the records straight. They did a complete about-face from their report on 2008 when the World Bank blamed biofuels for the spike in commodities. Their new study reveals that most of the increase experienced in 2008 can be traced to energy prices and speculation.
 
Biofuels could not have been responsible for the price spike for the simple reason that land used for biofuels does not represent a large percentage of worldwide grain and oilseed acres. “Globally biofuels account for only about 1.5% of the land acres planted to grains and oilseeds.” If, of all the millions of acres planted to grains and oilseeds in the world, only 1.5% of those acres are used for biofuels, that is negligible. I rest my case.
 
It is time to move on, put the “food versus fuel” issue behind us, and continue to reduce our reliance on oil from other countries. We are spending 300 billion dollars per year to pay other countries for oil. It is far better to reduce that transfer of our dollars and produce more energy right here at home. We can use the jobs.
 
Renewable Fuels President Bob Dinneen has it about right; he said, “The World Bank report should silence critics in the food processing industry, the livestock industry, on Capitol Hill and anywhere else that sought to portray ethanol as the boogeyman.”
 
It’s time for the ag industry to unite together, stand up to our critics, and serve our nation in any way we can.
 
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.

Labor Day

Sep 03, 2010

Hard to believe, but summer is over. It’s Labor Day. On that note, I want to say how much respect I have for the hard-working men and women that labor in the trenches. I’m not talking about big corporation managers, not talking about Wall Street, not talking about political big wigs or university professors. I want to honor the carpenter, the plumber, the factory worker, the farmer growing the food, the rancher caring for the cattle, the workers in the processing plants – I don’t think they get the appreciation they deserve.

We are all aware that jobs are scarce with unemployment close to 10%. However, Secretary Vilsack’s recent review of the rural economic picture is encouraging. I think we all would agree that 2009 was not a great year. Our input costs soared. In fact, the nitrogen fertilizer in 2009 cost twice as much as it did for this year’s crop. Now, we seem to have settled into a comfort zone that may last for a couple of years. USDA reports farm income up 24%. Farm asset values up 2.5%. The income improvement is across the board – cattle, hogs, dairy, poultry and eggs. Grain prices are strong, and we have a pretty good crop. We can thank drought in Russia and Ukraine for better grain prices. Also, I reported when in Germany recently the German farmers couldn’t harvest their wheat because of too much rain. I read now that they still are having trouble harvesting the crop.

So, U.S. agriculture seems to be riding above the difficult economic times much of the country is struggling with. And Secretary Vilsack goes on to say, “The outlook going forward into fiscal year 2011 is even more promising.”

I have one last subject that I want to mention – the Glenn Beck “Tea Party” rally held here in Washington, D.C. this past Sunday. We had two friends from Montana come and stay with us for the express purpose of attending the event. They were so inspired. 400,000 people, Sarah Palin, Albert Pujols (Cardinals first baseman), and more. A lot of big political insiders have underestimated the power of the “Tea Party” movement. But I think they are starting to get the picture.

That’s it for this week. Harvest time is just around the corner. Be safe.

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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