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February 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.

Thoughts from the Farm

Feb 24, 2012

Last week, I was flying from Chicago to Moline, Illinois – heading back to the farm.
A gorgeous day with sun and blue sky; flying over hundreds and thousands of acres of rich, productive black land. It was a beautiful sight. It can only be more beautiful when it is green with growing crop. That’s not too far off. In less than 60 days, the planters will be rolling.
I have been coming back to the family farm regularly (almost once a month) for more than 30 years, since President Ronald Reagan called me to work for him. My roots are still in that black dirt.
Every year, we plan carefully to get everything just right to give us the best chance of raising a big crop. Three years ago, it rained all fall. We didn’t finish corn harvest until Christmas. The last two years, the heavy rains early after planting and severe heat at pollination hurt our corn yield. Fortunately, our soy beans were excellent. Explain that. I can’t.
The point I am making is that farmers across the land work to do everything just right. Precision farming – the best seed, correct level of fertilizer based on soil tests, crop protection chemicals to control the pests and kill the weeds.
We think and plan long and hard to ensure perfection. But, unfortunately, one of the most critical concerns that we have – we can’t control – the weather. Just ask the farmers and ranchers in Texas and Oklahoma. Or ask the farmers in Argentina and Brazil as they suffer through a Southern Hemisphere draught right now.
We can’t control the price either. Even after doing everything right. A draught can ruin a crop, and a price collapse can steal your profit.
I don’t know of another business with more uncertainty, with critical variables that can’t be controlled. And yet, I love this business. Just meeting the challenges, watching the crops grow strong and tall from a tiny seed. How satisfying is that?
Before long, our planting season will begin. Yes, there is risk but we’re optimistic. We’ll put that little seed in the ground and then the crop will be in God’s hands.
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.


My Policy Predictions for 2012

Feb 17, 2012

Just step back and look at the U.S. and the world. What a mess! Everywhere you look, there is another serious problem. It’s U.S. debt! It’s European debt! Will there be war in the Middle East – Israel and Iran? Serious disagreements on U.S. government policy persist. What about North Korea and Iran’s race to create a nuclear weapon? The future is about as uncertain as it has been since the fall of the Soviet Union.
So, with that backdrop, I want to review my predictions made last year and give some for this year.
Last year, I said –
  1.  We will get a U.S.-South Korean trade agreement passed. We did and also passed one with Colombia and Panama.
  2. The farm bill would not be written in 2011. It wasn’t.
  3. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood would fix our trucking-trade dispute with Mexico. He got it done.
  4. Pressure to produce more grain would push the Administration to release some of our conservation reserve acres to go back into production. Didn’t happen. But the strong grain prices have discouraged sign-up for the reserve and, therefore, we do have more acres to plant this year.

Now for 2012 predictions –

  1. The Congress will pass a farm bill this year but not until after the fall election – perhaps in a "lame duck" session. Agriculture spending will be on the "chopping block." Not the nutrition programs.
  2. The ethanol "fuel mandate" will survive. We have critics but they won’t win. Not this year. The gallons of ethanol produced will depend more on the price of oil than anything else.
  3. Our livestock industry will continue to face headwinds. The Humane Society wants to tell us how to raise our pigs and calves and chickens. They have enough allies in the public that our customers are applying pressure. McDonald’s is telling us to get rid of our gestation crates. We should stand our ground, but we’re not going to win. And don’t forget the government’s long list of regulations that give us problems.
  4. I predict that Romney will, in the end, be the Republican nominee. I expect it to be a very close Presidential election, and it could go either way. I say Romney will be our next President, but I’m not going to "bet the farm" on it.
  5. Republicans will retain control of the House and also gain 4 or more seats in the Senate. Harry Reid will be Leader no more.
  6. Finally, this will be another good year for the agriculture industry – from the farmer-rancher through the whole food chain.
In spite of the global uncertainty, let’s take it on.
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.


Future Leader of China to Visit Iowa

Feb 09, 2012

The Chinese Vice President will arrive in the U.S. next week. You might ask – so what? Well, there is more to this story.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is destined to become China’s next leader later this year. He will meet with President Obama next week (February 14) to discuss U.S.-Chinese relations. But that’s not the most important meeting. He will fly to Muscatine, Iowa the next day, and there, he will reconnect with a number of Iowa individuals and families that he met 27 years ago.
27 years ago, Mr. Xi was a leader in a pig farming operation in China. He led an animal-feed delegation to Iowa, touring farms, speaking at the Muscatine Rotary Club. He stayed two nights as the guest of a local family, sleeping in their sons’ bedroom. The boys were off to college. That country hospitality reached out and established a bond with the next leader of China.
We need to give credit to Mr. Xi for making the effort to reestablish his old relationship with those that had welcomed him 27 years ago on his first visit to another country outside of China.
Mr. Xi, over those 27 years, has worked his way up in the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party and is now positioned to take over the leadership.
Will his memorable experience in visiting the Heartland U.S.A. make it easier for the U.S. to work with China? The fact that he knows pigs is bound to help.
An interesting side bar is that in 1978, I led an Illinois agriculture delegation to China and we visited farms. I will never forget that trip and the warm hospitality they extended to us. These kinds of exchanges can have a lasting effect on strengthening understanding and building enduring friendships.
Hopefully, the U.S. and China can look forward to more cooperation and better relations in the future. After all, both countries have North Korea to worry about. And a positive trading relationship is vital.
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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