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December 2011 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.

A Look Back At 2011

Dec 30, 2011

With the new year upon us, I want to look back at 2011. I want to categorize it into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 
Now for the good

1. From agriculture’s standpoint, there is a lot of good. The farm economy is booming. Strong farm prices have helped to deliver a record net farm income of over 100 billion dollars. A year or two ago, the livestock and food processing industries were bitterly complaining about the rising cost of corn and other farm products. The livestock industry isn’t complaining much now with hog, cattle, and dairy prices riding high. They have adjusted, as the processors have, with food inflation expected to moderate this new year to less than 3%. The ag industry is in harmony more than I have seen it for a long time.

 

2. Our exports are also hitting a record this year near 140 billion dollars. President Obama and the bickering Congress came together and passed the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea which will equate to billions in new sales. Russia was finally admitted to the World Trade Organization. Russia the last large economy to be admitted. China has been a member for ten years now. The Russian membership will make it easier to deal commercially with that country because the WTO has trading rules. Hopefully, that will discourage Russia’s tendency to use non-tariff barriers to restrict imports.

 
3. Most of rural America supports energy independence and biofuels. We are grateful that President Obama and Secretary Vilsack have stood in support of the biofuels industry even in the face of harsh attacks over the past three years.
 
4. The same is true for GMO crops. Secretary Vilsack has been right there in support even though there are those that want all of our production to be organic.
 
5. This is not exclusively ag, but I am delighted that we are out of Iraq.
 
And now, the bad
1. The Obama Administration’s obsession with regulation -0- I have been out here a long time and have never seen anything like it. The list is long, and the farm country is livid over the effort to regulate farm dust and our creeks and waterways and ponds.
 
2. Another disappointment is this Administration has not aggressively encouraged drilling for our own oil.
 
3. We still have 91,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan. Bring them home.
 
4. Finally, it’s a bad thing that we have this constant attack from the animal rights crowd and environmental extremists. They would only be satisfied if we all became vegetarians and farmed like my grandfather did.
 
Now for the ugly – it’s our debt; 15 trillion dollars and rising and driven by our entitlement society. It will pull us under if we don’t have the courage to deal with it.
 
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.

 

Christmas 2011: Focus on Family, Friends and the Farm

Dec 23, 2011

It’s Christmas. We have almost made it through year 2011. The world has been in turmoil all year. At long last, there is an indication that the public at large may be starting to understand that federal governments can exceed the limits of their credit cards just as individuals can. The welfare state – cradle to the grave vision cannot be sustained.

Here in the good old USA, we have witnessed our own government’s inability to come to trips with the reality that we cannot keep spending what we don’t have. We’re going to enter the new year with the same uncertainty that we have lived with throughout this year.
 
However, down on the farm, things have been different. This past year set a record for net farm income – 100 billion dollars. Export set a record of more than 136 billion dollars. Usually, the good times in farm country are either enjoyed by grain farmers or livestock farmers. Not that way in 2011.
 
Everyone was there to “cash in.” Bring home the bacon – corn, soybean, wheat, hogs, beef, dairy. The livestock industry has successfully adjusted to higher grain prices, except for chickens and they haven’t figured it out yet.
 
As we gather around the Christmas tree to open gifts this year, let’s give thanks for the things that count the most – family, friends, and that the farm has had a good year. We know from a lifetime of experience that some years are not good. The farming business is like riding a roller coaster. Up and down, up and down – hold on. Enjoy it while you can. Next year will be different. If the weather hurt your crop this year – next year, look for a bumper crop.
 
Have a Merry Christmas!
 
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.

 

The Future of Our Social Security Trust Fund

Dec 19, 2011

 

We have heard all the talk about Social Security and whether it can survive. We have a growing aging population drawing out more money every year and a shrinking younger work force putting less money into the trust fund.
 
Last year, Congress voted to provide a $1,000 tax break to workers by cutting the rate on payroll taxes. Consequently, workers paid less payroll taxes, thereby denying the Social Security trust fund that money. That money is supposed to go into the trust fund as savings to be drawn out to pay retirement benefits.
 
I understand that with unemployment high and a recession on our shoulders, we wanted to give the workers a buck. But now, the debate in Congress is about whether it should be extended for another year.
 
As I write this commentary, this issue has not been resolved. Conservatives hate the whole idea. They think that it is just a Band-Aid that denies money that the Social Security trust fund desperately needs. Liberals just like to hand out money. That has always been a good way to buy votes.
 
The Republican leadership is fearful that if the tax break is not extended, they will pay a political price next November. So, the Republican House has passed a bill to extend the tax break, but tied to it is a provision to push forward the construction of the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf. Environmentalists are livid.
 
Our government is $15 trillion in debt. For every $1.00 that we spend, we have to borrow 40 cents. Democrats argue that the tax break could be paid for by taxing the rich. Republicans adamantly oppose new taxes of any kind.
 
Here is what I think. We should not extend the payroll tax cut. It’s the principle of the whole question. The Social Security trust fund needs to be respected and workers should be paying into this retirement fund. Any deal to reduce this obligation weakens the integrity of the fund.
 
If we think we need to give people money, we need to find a different way to do it.
 
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.
 

Controversial Issues in Agriculture

Dec 08, 2011

 

I am sometimes asked if I receive any critique on my radio commentaries. The answer is “yes.” The program is aired on more than 500 radio stations in 30 states. Some listeners agree and some disagree. The one issue where I have taken the most flack has been on immigration. I just don’t believe it is practical to suggest that we can uproot 12 million illegals and ship them back to where they came from.
 
Another issue that has been bouncing around Washington and the World Trade Organization for more than five years is country of origin labeling. We got into trouble because we passed a law which required that beef and pork shipped into the U.S. has to be labeled with the country where it comes from. I never believed that law was good for American agriculture. We export 30 percent of what we produce. We don’t want other countries to label our product going into their country. It’s just another useless regulation. A lot of my listeners were never happy with my position on that issue. Just last week, the World Trade Organization ruled that our labeling law violates WTO rules. Maybe we can get rid of the law now.
 
Another subject where I have pretty strong support in rural America is the horse slaughter issue. I believe that horses are personal property – like cows or pigs. If there is a market for the meat, you should be able to sell your horses to a processing plant. We can export the meat. The French and Italians and Japanese can’t get enough horse meat.
 
Through the efforts of the animal rights organizations, the Humane Society, etc., we lost this right six years ago. The consequence has been more suffering for the unwanted horses. Last year, more than 160,000 head were shipped to Mexico and Canada where slaughter is legal. That meant that the owners got about half as much money for their horses. They weren’t all sent to Mexico and Canada. Some were just turned loose. Some were euthanized. Some were just shot and buried in the back 40. Do the animal rights groups think that is humane?
 
It looks like now the U.S. Congress may open the door for our own processing plants in the U.S. However, the question now is whether the states will allow a horse processing plant. Some states already have laws against it.
 
This is an issue that is not going away any time soon. With all the concern about feeding the world, here we are willing to waste a food supply because we can’t stand to send Trigger to the processing plant. We don’t have any trouble processing our beef and pork.
 
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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