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August 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.

John Mackey’s Advice

Aug 28, 2009

The air is saturated with loud noise about health care reform. That’s all we hear.
Are we going to have a public option?
How can we pay for universal Health care?
The whole issue has become very confusing.
Well, an opinion piece written by John Mackey does more to simplify the issue and give us direction than anything I have seen. The amazing thing is that John Mackey is co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods Market is the poster child for the organic food lovers. But the liberal organic food lovers don’t like John Mackey’s philosophy on health care.
Here is what he recommends –
1. We need high deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts. Whole Foods buys for their employees a high deductible health insurance plan. The employee pays for his own doctor visits out of a health savings account supplemented by Whole Foods. This way, for everyday health needs and doctor visits, the individual is paying. That discourages overuse of health care. The high deductible insurance is there for catastrophic needs.
2. Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefit. It’s not the same now.
3. Repeal all state laws that prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. If I want to buy my health insurance out of Kentucky, I should have the right. Insurance from Kentucky might just be less expensive.
4. Repeal the government mandates of what health insurance should cover. The government wants to dictate everything.
5. Enact tort reform. Lawsuits are driving the cost of health care through the roof.
6. Make costs transparent. We need to know what a doctor visit costs. The ten dollar co-pay is not the real cost.
Mr. Mackey goes on to say that the constitution does not guarantee health care as an intrinsic right any more than food or shelter. We are all responsible for our own lives and our own health. He reminds us that many of our health care problems are self-inflicted. Two thirds of Americans are overweight. Some people choose to smoke. Some drink too much. There are many self-destructive lifestyles.
Mr. Mackey’s liberal organic food lovers can’t believe that he doesn’t support a government-run health care system. The fact is we can’t afford it. Remember what Margaret Thatcher said – “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

Personal Responsibility

Aug 24, 2009

I’m holding in my hand today’s Washington Post newspaper. The front page story features a woman who packed up her most precious belongings in her rusty pick-up truck and drove 1,000 miles from Ohio to N. Dakota. That’s where the jobs are. N. Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 4.2 percent, a state budget surplus, and 8,000 unfilled jobs.
What’s going on here? N. Dakota is healthy and happy and California is in turmoil and going broke.
The answer is found in the rural county all across this nation. Rural, small-town people are more conservative. Our county banks didn’t make a lot of risky loans. Rural America believes in personal responsibility and self-reliance. I know that what I’m saying is not absolute, but there is a lot of truth in this premise.
We all know that California is liberal and that the big cities lean liberal. That means that they expect the government to always be there to fix their problems. I think as a nation we depend too much on the government. We are never satisfied. The Congress gets up every day ready to invent another way to spend money. Why not? Spend money on the auto industry. “Cash for clunkers.” Spend money on “green” energy. Spend money on a new flight to the moon. Spend more money on food stamps. Fix the obesity problem. Spend, spend, spend.
The way our system works it encourages our government to take on more responsibility and relieve the individual of that personal responsibility. Voters will elect the candidate that promises the most. The entitlement mentality is going to ruin our country.
I place my confidence in the conservative, good judgment of rural America. Sure, we’ve made some mistakes, but when this Congress comes back after their August recess, keep an eye on them.
We need to demand that any new legislation puts more responsibility on the individual; more self-reliance. We need to balance our budget. Let’s be more like N. Dakota. Not California.
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

Hans Block (1959-2009)

Aug 14, 2009

I’m back on the farm.
It wasn’t a visit of choice. On Friday, July 31, 2009, my son and farming partner for more than 20 years was killed in a traffic accident as he was returning home for dinner.
I have received numerous calls of sympathy and condolence from friends near and far, including President George Bush (Senior). The cards and E-mails are still coming in. I want everyone to know how much I appreciate their support. A tragic event like this reminds us how fragile life is and how precious a loving family and dear friends can be. I know that my family and I are in your prayers.
My son, Hans, came back to the farm after graduating from college to farm with my father and me at age 21. When I got involved in government work (Illinois Director of Agriculture in the late 70’s, and then Secretary of Agriculture), my son was there to help fill in the void that I had left.
My father, my son, and I – family partners – operated and grew the business over the years from 200 acres to 4,000 acres. My son gradually took management control. In August 1997, my father died. That just left the two of us and men working for us that have been so faithful over the years.
The challenge now is to hold it together as my grandson comes back from college next year. That’s what family farms do. The home farm bordering Spoon River, Knox County, Illinois, has been in the family for a long time. It was farmed by my Great Grandfather in 1848.
Hans Block leaves behind five beautiful children and a caring wife. We are reminded that tragedy can strike any family any time. It is natural to mourn our loss, but then we must go on and get the work done.
One of these days, God will call each of us home. When that happens, we will want the family that we leave behind to persevere and prosper.
Thank you for your prayers, and I am John Block from Washington, D.C

GM Crops Blessed by the Vatican

Aug 07, 2009

Maybe you missed this, but I think it is significant. The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Science has endorsed genetically modified crops. It’s good to have the Pope on our side. The Vatican is very straightforward in saying that GM crops offer food security, better health, and environmental sustainability. They are contradicting a UN “think tank” that condemned GM crops last year as dangerous to health and harmful to third world nations.

The Vatican is saying just the opposite, stating that GM crops are the answer to world hunger and poverty.
The United Nations are shortsighted. Just like Europe, they refuse to look to the future where science and technology are revolutionizing our agriculture production. I had lunch this week with former German Agriculture Consular to the U.S., Jurgen Heitman. He agrees with me. Europe needs to wake up to reality. We can’t feed the world with primitive farming.
Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns had this to say: “It’s fine to romanticize that farming should return to its agrarian beginnings where every family owned a few acres, a dairy cow, a couple of pigs, a chicken coop, but it’s far from realistic.”
I am on the Board of the Friends of the World Food Program. The World Food Program does a fantastic job of delivering food to feed the hungry in impoverished countries. But the only sustainable future is for those countries to be able to produce more of their own food, and the only way to do that is to employ all the latest, most advanced production technology. And that, of course, must include GM crops, where the U.S.A. is far and away the global leader. Let’s not forget to feed the crop with fertilizer and use chemicals to control weeds and pests.
When all the best technology is used in production, it takes less land, less water, and less labor.
The blessing of GM crops is a little surprising since the Vatican has historically sided with nature on issues of this kind. This enlightened change of heart acknowledges that improved technology is just helping nature along for the good of mankind.
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.

Health Care Reform

Aug 03, 2009

Health Care Reform and Cap and Trade seem to be the only issues in the spotlight here in this town. Maybe that’s appropriate. It looks like the legislation now on the table would cost a lot of money.
Let’s take a look at Health Care Reform. President Obama says, “Here’s what reform will mean for you. It will mean lower costs and more choices and coverage you can count on. Health insurance will save you and your family money.” That really sounds good. So why not do it right now?
Wait a minute. Here is what the head of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, has to say. “We do not see the sort of fundamental change (in the House bill) that would be necessary to reduce federal health spending.” The bill would push health care costs up.
Who are we to believe? They can’t both be right. I choose to believe the Congressional Budget Office. They are non-partisan. Not Republican or Democratic.
I believe we do need Health Care Reform to include expanding the coverage to many that don’t have insurance, and we must get control of the rising costs. It’s not surprising that our health care costs more than it should. When you go to the doctor for whatever, upon departure you co-pay $10. Big deal! If that is all it costs, you go in for every little thing – a hang nail, a stomach ache, a blister, a sore arm. It only costs ten dollars. The system encourages over-use of medical care as long as someone else is paying the bill.
Also driving up health care costs – your doctor has reason to prescribe all kinds of additional costly tests and procedures. Because, if he doesn’t prescribe all conceivable additional tests, he runs the risk of being sued in case some serious health problems develop.
In addition, the doctor, for his added personal protection, must carry liability insurance costing him as much as 100 thousand dollars or more.
The health care bill in the House does not provide the right reform. It refuses to address obvious costs as I have described. Any legislation as important as this should be bipartisan. This is not the time to play politics. We should take the time to get it right. We’re talking about the health of our citizens and the solvency of our economy.
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.
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