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June 2009 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.

Venezuela

Jun 26, 2009

I read a very interesting article in the Washington Post last week. There is a lesson to be learned if you think about it.
 
The headline read, “In Venezuela, Land `Rescue' Hopes Unmet.” President Hugo Chavez is systematically confiscating the farms and ranches from the families that have operated them for more than 100 years. He then divides the farms into many small parcels for small farmers to operate. This land redistribution is termed “rescue” and the objective is “food sovereignty” – to reduce food imports. However, five years after the process was launched, imports are six times higher than they were before – importing $7.5 billion worth of food last year. Hugo Chavez, to this day, is still in the process of stealing land from families that were operating efficient commercial farms and ranches. Just weeks ago, the government took 20 farms in Aragua.
 
One 33,000-acre ranch produced 3.3 million pounds of beef per year. Today, the 13,000 herd of cattle that once roamed the fields are gone. The replacement farmers operating the land have just a few cattle and a little corn. Most of the productive land is wasted.
 
Chavez stated just a few weeks ago, “I say to all who say they own land: In the first place, that land is not yours. The land is not private. It is the property of the state.” Think about this. The countries around the world that have failed miserably are the countries where the state has stolen the land from the rightful owners.
 
We can begin with Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. That dictator stole the land, redistributed it, and now the people are starving. The former Communist countries all over the world are in the process of privatizing their farms because that’s necessary to increase production. Ukraine and Russia are important examples. I was in Cuba in March. The government controls everything there, and – not surprising – they have to import 80% of their food. We have people here in the United States that rail against commercial farms. They want more regulation, government control. Private property rights are not in their vocabulary. They think little one-donkey farms are the way to go.
 
If we keep an eye on Venezuela, we can see what not to do.
 
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.
 

Hard Choices

Jun 12, 2009

How many people have gotten into serious financial trouble after running up their credit card debt? How many families borrowed against the equity in their home only to see housing values fall and realize they were buried in debt? Didn’t we, as individuals, make a lot of risky choices that pushed us into this recession?
 
If what I am suggesting is true, then maybe – just maybe – the federal government could learn from those mistakes.
 
You’re going to say that we need to borrow and spend now to stimulate the economy to get out of the recession. O.K. I accept that. But there is a limit.
 
President Obama said, “We can no longer afford to leave the hard choices for the next budget, the next administration or the next generation.” That sounds good. However, he has made no hard choices. He has no plan to keep Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid solvent. And we both know the Congress has no will to do anything. All they want to do is spend money to buy votes. Next year, they will have less courage because it is an election year. We need to make some hard choices now.
 
But instead of hard choices, the President has given us a budget proposal that runs an annual deficit of nearly a trillion dollars as far as the eye can see. We are on an unsustainable course. Of course, we have no credit limit and can just print more money. That will guarantee hyperinflation. Remember the 18% interest rates of the early '80s?
 
President Obama wants to spend billions on education. Where will the money come from? He wants universal health care, but how do we pay for that? He wants cap-and-trade, which will be nothing more than a huge tax on everyone.
 
I know that the President has a lot of challenges on his plate, but he needs to show some leadership in dealing with the budget deficit now. We don’t want to wait until China, our banker, orders us to do it.
 
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

Indirect Land Use

Jun 05, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to rule that “indirect land use” must be considered in calculating the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from biofuels. The issue is radio active.
Listen to the report!
 
If “indirect land use” is to be considered, that could kill the biofuels industry just as we are beginning to make a meaningful contribution to fuel needs. Do we have to take the blame for every time a Brazilian farmer removes some rain forest to graze his cattle or grow some soybeans? They were cutting forests long before ethanol was even an issue.
 
It is a fact that biofuels do deliver a net benefit in greenhouse gas emissions, unless you blame the industry for cutting down a tree in some other country.
 
The Administration’s support for Cap and Trade to cut carbon monoxide emissions is tied to this dispute. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has pushed his Cap and Trade bill out of Committee, but it still must be reviewed by eight other House Committees, including agriculture.
 
The bill requires that “indirect land use” be considered. That provision has sparked a war between rural Members of Congress, supporters of biofuels, and others in the Congress. The bill as it stands now does not have hardly any Republican support. And, House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) has put his foot down demanding farmers and ranchers be given fair and reasonable consideration. He is demanding that “indirect land use changes” such as cutting down forests not be used by EPA in calculating biofuel net benefits. Because there is no accepted scientific way to make an accurate calculation. In addition, similar calculations are not being applied to coal and petroleum.
 
Charging biofuels for “indirect land use” is discrimination.
 
Chairman Peterson claims to have 45 Democrats lined up to vote against the Cap and Trade bill unless agriculture’s concerns are resolved.
 
Keep the heat on Mr. Chairman!
 
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.
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