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November 2013 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.

Farming is Not an Easy Ride

Nov 14, 2013


I’m on the phone today. I was on the farm earlier in the week and I am now in Kansas City at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention. Harvesting our crop at the farm this fall has been so smooth. However, spring planting season was so difficult. It seemed to rain all the time. Most of our crop ground is upland, but we do have about 300 acres along Spoon River. That low ground was flooded 3 times. We finally wrapped up our soybean planting on June 15.

And – surprise! – the bean yield was better than 60 bushels per acre. Our corn has proven to be just as good – in the 200 bushel range.

The quality of seed, production technology, precision farming today is unbelievable. Look back 20 or 30 years – we could not have come close to matching these yields. USDA reports that, nationwide, we are harvesting near record crops of corn and soybeans.

I bring this up because the ag industry needs to stand tall and protect our new technology. We can’t go back to farming the way my grandfather did or like they do in Africa, where they’re starving.

On my first day on the farm this week, I was happy to note that we had 4 new litters of pigs. Those babies are so cute.

We have had a good year. That makes me think – what about next year? There is always something threatening a farmer’s success. As an example, there is a serious swine virus (PEDV) that has taken a toll on many farms. Another example – I feel sorry for the ranchers in South Dakota who lost so many cattle to an unexpected huge snow storm. I feel sorry for the cattle that suffered also. Mother Nature can be brutal but to lose 10,000 to 20,000 cattle as reported is devastating.

Farming is not an easy ride. Ride the prices up and they come down. Raise a big crop and the next year you have a drought. But, farmers are resilient and persistent. We keep coming back.

I said our harvest is all but finished, but bringing in the crop after a whole year of effort and hard work is just over the top satisfying. There is nothing like it. Turn the page…

From the farm, I flew to Kansas City and the National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention. That’s where I am now. If you want to get a broad national flavor for what rural America thinks, go to the NAFB convention.

1. They always ask me – "Why is Washington so dysfunctional?" At this point, they are convinced that Obamacare is a disaster.

2. They are very unhappy that we can’t seem to get a farm bill passed.

3. They don’t care very much about the Middle East. We have enough to take care of here at home.

That’s it for this week.

Will We Get a Farm Bill or Won’t We Get a Farm Bill?

Nov 07, 2013

No one knows at this point. There are still a number of unanswered questions.

The biggest fight is over how much to cut the spending on food stamps. We have 50 million people receiving food stamps now and growing. House Republicans want to change the eligibility with work requirements which could save 40 billion dollars over 10 years. The Senate only wants to save 4 billion dollars. That is a 36 billion dollar difference.

On the farm side of this bill, there is broad agreement that crop insurance should be the foundation of the farm safety net. However, there is still debate over how much the government should subsidize the insurance. Another difference between the House and Senate is that the Senate insists that participants in crop insurance be required to meet certain conservation standards. The House says no. We have too much regulation now.

Country of origin labeling (COOL) is such a serious problem between U.S. and Canada that the farm bill could try to settle that dispute. Getting rid of COOL is the best answer. Also, our cotton program is a real headache. If we don’t make some change in it, we will continue to pay Brazil millions of dollars each year because our cotton program violates WTO rules.

There are a lot of individuals who want to influence the outcome of this bill. Secretary Vilsack says, "It is a bill that the White House is quite interested in and quite involved in."

Senator Pat Roberts offered this advice to House Ag Committee Chairman Lucas: "Do the best you can, Frank. When you are leading the posse, it’s always good to take a look back when you’re riding point to see if the posse is still there."

We all know that herding cats is not easy. Getting a farm bill will require a lot of give and take.

My advice is – keep it as simple as possible, make sure it is in compliance with WTO rules. Ensure that the supports in the bill do not distort farmer decisions. Farmers should plant for the market, not the farm bill.

Get it done!

 

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