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July 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.

Meat Processing Technologies

Jul 28, 2011

E. coli contaminated foods and food safety have been in the headlines of late. With that threat in mind, you might think that a company doing something to protect the consumer from food borne illness would be praised. But that’s not the case.

A company called Beef Products, Inc. has four meat processing plants in the Midwest delivering a guaranteed 94% lean, safe, ground beef to the consumer. Who can complain?
Naysayers ranging from ABC News to Midwestern bloggers to the New York Times have expressed alarm about lean beef trimmings because they are processed with tiny amounts of ammonia hydroxide which raises the product’s pH and kills deadly pathogens like E. coli.
 
The boneless lean beef is made from the same high quality USDA-inspected trimmings as other ground beef. The naysayers conjure negative visions by calling the product “pink slime.” No one will argue that the process of turning livestock into meat is a pretty picture but we don’t need to denigrate the product and scare the public.
 
Ammonia hydroxide is approved for processing of foods by the Food and Drug Administration, USDA, the World Health Organization and most other countries. It is used in the processing of a wide array of other foods including soft drinks, baked goods, cheeses, and puddings. Ammonia is essential to life and naturally present in meat and almost everything else we eat.
 
Beef Products, Inc. samples each and every box of meat product and holds it until it is verified to be E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella free. The company is now testing for the top six other E. coli pathogens. Their ground beef is as safe as you can find. They deserve credit, not critique.
 
Mischaracterizing new technologies is not new. Look at the assault on GM foods. The point to be made is, if we can advance the cause of food safety, then we should have a full and fair discussion, not one based on agendas, prejudice, and scare tactics.
 
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.

Debt Debate

Jul 15, 2011

What to talk about this week? Farm prices are good – corn, soy beans, hogs, cattle. Not much to complain about. We just have to worry about the weather.

Right now, the debt debate is crowding out everything. The United States of America is going to run out of money to pay our bills some time around August 2. That’s not too far off. Liberals say – “Just borrow some more money to pay the bills.” Conservatives say – “We can’t do that. We already owe too much. It is selfish of us to borrow today so that we can enjoy it and leave our children and grandchildren with the bill.”
 
Here are the facts. Our national debt has exploded in a little over 2 years (since Mr. Obama became President). We are spending 1.7 trillion dollars each year more than we take in.
 
We are going the way of Greece if we don’t do something soon.
 
The only solution is to spend less (a lot less) or find the money; we really can’t keep borrowing. We can tax the rich. The truth is, that is not a very good solution. Half of the people in this country already don’t pay any federal income tax. Others pay all of it. Forty percent of Americans receive 45% of their income from the federal government. We had 26 million people on food stamps in 2007. Today, we have 44 million. According to Steven Moore (Wall Street Journal senior economics writer), “We have become a nation of takers, not makers. There are twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing.”
 
I am convinced that we’re not going to solve our debt problem by taxing the rich. Although, I do believe that we could close loopholes in the tax code and it certainly needs to be simplified.
 
We have a spending problem. We are addicted to spending. We need to cut everywhere but we cannot expect to achieve anything unless we go where the money is spent. Two thirds of our spending goes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense, and interest on the national debt.
 
Too many of our elected representatives are so afraid of not being re-elected that they are unwilling to take anything away from their voters. Their preference, of course, is to hand out money to their voters.
 
That habit needs to end. We can’t afford 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.
 
 

Trade Agreements

Jul 08, 2011

It’s almost every other word out of their mouths. The President and Members of Congress talk about jobs all the time. President Obama is bragging about crating 2 million new jobs. Never mind the fact that we have lost more than 2 million and the unemployment rate is up, not down.

Talk is cheap. It’s time to do something about the job issue.
 
We have three trade agreements that were negotiated by President Bush. They have been held hostage by the labor unions for almost 5 years. If President Obama would just submit the South Korean, Colombian, and Panamanian agreements to the Congress, and the Congress would vote to approve them, we could expect $13 billion in new export business. That would equate to thousands of new jobs.
 
We could expect $11 billion of new exports to South Korea alone. South Korean Tariffs on two thirds of our ag exports would be eliminated. Our South Korean beef exports would double. According to the National Pork Producers Council, passage of these trade agreements would create more than 10,000 new U.S. jobs related to the pork industry.
 
About a month ago, I thought we would be able to pass these agreements. But then, out of the blue, the President and the union-controlled Democrats in Congress said no deal unless -- $1 billion of trade adjustment assistance money is made available to displaced workers. Now we’re supposed to buy the unions off – it’s blackmail.
 
If anyone is wondering how we ever accumulated $14 trillion in debt, now you know. Everyone wants government money as if it’s free.
 
I don’t know if we’ll get these agreements passed. Tell your Member of Congress to “get it done.”
 
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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