Apr 19, 2014
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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.

Here Comes The EPA

Apr 08, 2014

We start this commentary by acknowledging that agriculture is not going to have a great year in 2014. Net farm income is projected to fall by 26 percent. Livestock farms should fare a little better, but corn, soy bean, and other grain farms are already looking at lower prices.

With that challenge facing us, should we be surprised that the federal government regulators are coming after us on more than one front?

EPA has just proposed a new rule to take over regulation of all water that falls on your land and mine -- not just "navigable" waters like rivers, creeks, and lakes, but all of your waterways, wherever water runs or stands after a rain. You will have to get permits to straighten a crooked creek or tile a wet hole.

Bob Stallman, President of American Farm Bureau, states: "EPA’s proposed new rule poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers, and other land owners." Here they come again. EPA refuses to leave us alone.

On another front, the EPA and the Obama Administration are so obsessed with climate change that they have released a climate action plan that includes the targeting of methane emissions from cows. Blame the cows, and sheep, and goats, ruminant animals for global warming and climate change. They want to slash methane emissions from cows by 25%. They blame the cows for emitting 20% of the methane gas in the U.S.

If you look at the facts, you have to ask, what is this all about? First, methane emissions have already fallen by 17% since 1990 and our CO2 emissions are down by 20%. We haven’t experienced any global warming in the last 17 years. I’m not making this up. This is just another example of excessive government overreach. Their objective is to tie us in knots and control everything.

Here is a good line to conclude this commentary taken from an article entitled, Obama EPA to Regulate Bovine Emissions – "As the EPA tries to grab the bull by the horns, we must deal with this udder nonsense."


Dietary Guidelines and Sustainability

Mar 20, 2014

Congress directed the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to publish dietary guidelines containing "nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public." In developing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has decided to incorporate the concept of sustainability into the guidelines.

Sustainability in food production is an important issue. However, the Dietary Guidelines are not the place for it – sustainability is outside of the mandate from Congress. Not to be deterred, however, the DGAC has created a Subcommittee on Food Sustainability and Safety to "develop and maintain a food system that is safe and sustainable to ensure current and future food security."

Here they come. The socially elite foodies intent on telling us how to farm.

Predictably, at the most recent DGAC meeting, the sole presenter on sustainability wasted no time in pushing the vegetarian and organic agenda, and overlooked all of the benefits that science and technology in agriculture are bringing to reduce water and pesticide use and address volatile weather conditions.

The presenter barely mentioned future food security, and conveniently ignored the inconvenient truth that the world faces an immense food security challenge: feeding an additional two billion people by 2050.

It is sad and ironic that while the U.S. Congress is preparing to unveil a statue of Norman Borlaug (the unveiling is March 25), who pioneered and championed agricultural research to spur the Green Revolution that saved hundreds of millions of lives, the DGAC has veered off course and is attempting to turn back the clock to the day of small-scale, insufficient farming. I remember that agriculture when I was a boy – two old horses pulling a two-row corn planter.

The DGAC would best serve the American public by focusing on its mission of providing the American people with nutrition and dietary information.


Our Debt

Mar 12, 2014

When our country was founded, Thomas Jefferson had this to say about the U.S. government. "When the people realize they can vote themselves benefits, all is lost."

Well, we have arrived. The vast majority of people want our government to get control of spending. Except when it comes to their benefits. "Don’t take away my benefits. I need them." Politicians give out our tax money to buy votes. They don’t dare talk about taking anything away.

It could be argued that if one party controlled the House, Senate, and Presidency, there they could deal with our debt problem. However, on more than one occasion over the last 20 years, one party has had total control. Nothing has been done.

Take a look back. We have built a huge welfare state starting in the 1930s. Even with the cost of WWII, our debt was a manageable 35% of GDP. Today, it is 74%, and if we don’t take some action, by 2024 it will be 90%.

President Obama released his 2015 budget last week. Everyone says it is dead on arrival. It is nothing more than a campaign paper spending money we don’t have.

Fortunately, we still have a sequestration law in place to keep a lid on regular spending, including defense. But it does nothing to deal with our entitlement spending programs. I’m talking about Social Security and Medicare. Our population is much older now and the entitlements are eating up all the money.

Here is an example. An average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program. They will get $343,000 in benefits out of the program. They come out ahead by $234,000. Social Security has the same kind of shortcoming. We are living too long. Are we going to fix this unsustainable shortfall or are we just going to ignore it, and let our children pay?

With an election coming up this fall, the easy way out is just to deny the risk, and kick the can down the road another year.

Genetic Engineering to the Rescue

Feb 27, 2014

It’s not new news to report that genetically engineered products are under assault. We are in free trade talks with Europe. The EU public is adamantly opposed to GE food. There are bills in 23 of our state legislatures to label foods that contain GE products. The naysayers have a loud voice.

However, you don’t hear a whisper out of them opposing genetically engineered medicines. Biotech health products have exploded. Totally unacceptable. Where is the logic?

Ring spot virus was devastating the Hawaiian papaya industry. To the rescue came Rainbow – a (GE product) resisting ring spot. If you go to Hawaii, you will be served GE papaya.

Now, we face another challenge – much more widespread and closer to home. The orange industry is under assault by an expanding bacterium. This new bacterium started infecting our citrus crop about 10 years ago. Citrus is threatened in a number of states, including George, South Carolina, Texas, California, and especially Florida. Millions of orange trees have been destroyed, cutting Florida citrus production to the lowest level since 1969.

Researchers are working frantically to find a solution to the "citrus greening" disease. Today, there is no known cure.

The last thing the industry wants to do is turn to genetic engineering to save their apples (oh, I mean oranges). However, Texas A&M University is coming to the rescue. They are introducing "spinach genes" into citrus trees to provide the citrus resistance.

Field trials are under way to give birth to a new GMO. This is not a done deal yet, but if proven successful, the next challenge will be to get public acceptance of GE orange juice. Maybe GE could save our oranges as GE saved the papaya.

Eventually, the public will come to appreciate the true value of this advanced science. They will come to accept the safety of the product.

GMOs have been subjected to more testing worldwide than any other products. They are safe, according to such well-respected organizations as the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Science, and the European Food Safety Authority.

Nature is Still Stronger than Man

Feb 20, 2014

We are experiencing one of the coldest winters that we have seen in decades. The news is reporting about all the flights cancelled. It has been a challenge on our farm to make sure we have the heat for our baby pigs. Natural gas prices have gone through the roof, soaring more than 40%. Al Gore says, "The science is settled -- no more debate about global warming."

But, wait a minute. This is cold, frigid weather with killer ice storms. How can this be called global warming? Well, they don’t call it global warming anymore. They have conveniently said that the "greenhouse gasses" that mankind is releasing into the atmosphere is causing severe "climate change."

That we have climate change makes more sense. In fact, we have always experienced climate change. We have suffered with scorching summertime heat, and spent winter in the deep freeze.
Between 1900 and 1940, the earth was warming. We didn’t have that many cars belching out greenhouse gasses then either. In 1940 to 1975, the climate turned colder. There were alarming articles written about the "new ice age" coming. Then, it started warming again.

That’s what triggered the new "global warming religion." Surprise! For the last 17 years, we are not warming. We are not cooling. We are marking time. That is in spite of the fact that, globally, we are creating more CO2 than ever before. President Obama, just back from California, blamed the drought out there on global warming. In a speech at Georgetown University, the President falsely claimed that the earth has been warming over the last 15 years.

I don’t understand how the global warming crowd can claim that they have science on their side. Just look back 2 or 3 thousand years. We had a "medieval warm period" and later a "little ice age." We have always experienced climate change, but it’s hard to blame it all on carbon dioxide gas.

We can’t manage the weather. Nature is stronger than man.


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