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May 2011 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.

21st Century Challenges

May 26, 2011

U.S. agriculture exports in the first 6 months of this fiscal year have exploded to a new record – 75 billion dollars. That’s a 27% increase over last year. Now that’s something to get excited about. Congratulations to American agriculture! In spite of weather problems, volatile markets, and government agencies, both state and federal, trying to tell us how to farm – we are getting the job done.

Some state governments are demanding that we get the chickens out of the cages. Let them run around pecking in the dirt. Get the sows out of the crates. The “sustainable” agriculture fanatics are demanding all kinds of things.
Get this. I just received a request from an elevator where I market some of my grain. I am asked to sign a paper which declares that my corn is “sustainably produced.” “Sustainably produced” – what does that mean? Why am I asked such a question? I am asked to certify that on our farm we didn’t clear any rain forests, any wetlands to farm the ground.
All of this intrusive nonsense is requested because some of this grain might be processed into ethanol and exported to Europe. The Europeans are requiring a “sustainable guarantee.”
I do qualify. I can sign this paper. However, I am offended by this request. What if I tiled out a wet spot in one of my fields? What if I bulldozed some trees to add a few crop acres? Are these land improvements considered unsustainable?
Another example of the busy bodies that think they know how to farm – listen to this. A National Research Council report entitled “Toward Sustainable Agriculture Systems in the 21st Century” has this to say:
“It’s become apparent that as modern agriculture grapples with important issues such as climate change, biodiversity, resource conservation and public health problems, a transformative approach is needed. The field of agro-ecology adapts the principle of nature to farming systems.”
What are they talking about? We produce the most affordable food in the world right here in the USA. And we are still able to export 30% of our production which reduces our trade deficit.
It looks like we’re doing quite a few things right.
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.


Tough Decisions – Where Is The Courage?

May 20, 2011

There are more questions than answers right now. We have tight grain and oil seed supplies, not just in the U.S., but worldwide. We need a big crop this year, but the weather doesn’t seem to be cooperating. The U.S. government is worse than broke, but we keep spending money as if we really have it to spend. Our system is structured so that our political representatives are afraid to cut back on spending because that’s how they buy votes. They won’t get elected if they stop handing out the candy.

Listen to the voters whine – “I want my money. I am entitled.”
Well, on that issue, let’s hope the common sense Members of Congress have the courage to stand up to the babies that are whining and insist upon absolute strict requirements to cut spending when they lift the debt ceiling.
Look at it this way – take Fred the farmer. What if he had a gross annual income of $60,000. But he spent $100,000. His banker would say, “No more money for you, Fred.”
We need to take some bold steps. With crop production in question, I would support releasing some acres out of our Conservation Reserve. Not going to happen this spring. It’s too late. Maybe next fall.
On trade – the White House is refusing to submit the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama for approval unless Republicans agree to support trade assistance to those that might lose their jobs because of foreign competition. Ridiculous – we don’t have the money. It would cost 800 million dollars that we don’t have. That’s just another entitlement. Our government promotes dependency. What about self-reliance?
Now that we’re on this subject, let’s turn the page to the next farm bill. Farm supports are under assault and they need to be cut back. I know how uncertain the farming business can be. Just look at the flooding and draught farmers face right now. However, we don’t have the money to keep handing it out anymore.
It has to be scaled back, and it will be. I ask you, the voters, to keep your eye on the Members of Congress and the President. Are they courageous and bold, doing the right thing for our country, or are they a bunch of wimps?
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.

Planting Corn…Finally

May 12, 2011

Down on the farm planting corn and soybeans -– that’s where I was this week. After a month of rain, it finally dried up, and the corn is in the ground now.

I have farmer friends in the eastern Corn Belt that can’t get anything done – it’s just too wet. I really feel sorry for those that are flooded along the Mississippi River.
Anyway, as I watched our 32-row corn planter eat up the acres, I couldn’t help but recall as a boy watching my father plant our corn with two old horses pulling a two-row planter. He planted 100 acres of corn in a week. We just planted 2,400 acres of corn in a week.
When I was a boy, we didn’t have chemicals to control weeds. We "checked" our corn, which required a wire stretched from one end of the field to the other. The wire had clips every 42 inches which triggered the seed to drop. That made it possible to cultivate the field, not only with the row, but also to cross the field. Weeds were a terrible problem and this helped. Our yields were less than one-quarter of what they are today. Farming is not the same.
Today, we have better seeds, better machinery, better crop protection. And we have fewer farmers. We are so efficient. We don’t need the labor. Some will criticize modern agriculture as "factory farming." You can call it what you want, but it is progress. We make fewer trips across the field, we use less fuel. We use less labor. And we get much better yields. Perhaps the factory comparison is not all wrong. Our factories in this country employ fewer workers and put out more cars and tractors with much less labor. That just frees up more people to work on the Internet or something else.
Just think about this. Our farmers and ranchers are competing against farms in Brazil and Europe and Russia. We have to be good or we’ll lose the race. That’s the same as our car manufacturing companies competing against Japan, Germany and Korea. It’s global competition, and we intend to win.
I’m hopeful that we’ll have a good crop this year. It’s in God’s hands now.
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.

Elections Matter

May 06, 2011

What a difference an election can make! After last November’s "shellacking," as President Obama put it, the White House and many members of Congress have changed their tune. 

This is all good. Before the November elections, their approach to governing was consistent with President Reagan’s description of government. Reagan said, "Government’s view of the economy can be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
Before the November election, nothing was being done to get the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress for approval. After their being held hostage for four years by the labor union lobby, Obama is finally asking Congress to pass the agreements.
During the first two years of the Obama administration, the Department of Agriculture spent very little time showing appreciation for our great commercial agriculture industry, which has delivered to us the most reasonably priced food in the world. They were doting instead over locally grown garden farms. That’s not the emphasis now. Secretary Vilsack is singing the praises of our efficiency and supporting biotechnology. He is vigorously defending ethanol.
In a recent article by Robin Bravender, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is shown trying to win back the farm states. "Lisa Jackson is looking for some friends down on the farm," Bravender writes. She has been in California, Iowa and other states trying to "patch up" the administration’s relationship with rural America. At a House Ag Committee hearing, Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) told Jackson, "The EPA is the most unpopular agency in farm country from sea to shining sea –- bar none."
Now we see EPA backing away from earlier moves to regulate farm dust, spilled milk, streams and ponds on farms.
All of these changes in direction and emphasis are encouraging. With the 2012 election on the horizon, the Obama administration has concluded that it’s not too late to win back the support of rural America. We shall see. For sure, there is nothing like an election to focus the mind of a politician.
In closing, I 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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