USDA

Food Industry Challenge

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. Let’s start with some good news.  Russia, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and other oil producing countries agreed to cut production by 10% – about 11 million barrels.  That should give us a modest lift in fuel prices which should help the price of ethanol and corn.  My judgement – …

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Challenging Times

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. There isn’t a lot of happy talk in the U.S. or around the world.  These are depressing times. The Coronavirus sickness and resulting deaths are all you see on tv, hear on the radio or read in the papers.  Concern about the virus and the health of our citizens …

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Virus and Low Prices

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. We have never seen anything like the Coronavirus.  It has been infecting countries all over the world.  I guess that reminds us that we live in a global economy. This virus is an infectious disease that knows no borders.  I am impressed how Americans – rich and poor, rural …

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Frozen Economy

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. After months of uncertainty, the biofuels industry got some good news.  The EPA had been granting exemptions to small refineries so they were not required to blend ethanol with petroleum fuel.  A January ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court put a stop to EPA’s small refinery exemption.  Then …

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Coronavirus

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. It seems like overnight we went from a booming economy to shutting everything down.  Schools are closed, businesses are working online to avoid contact.  “Social distancing” is the new way to live.  In some states they are even closing restaurants and bars.  And what ever happened to “March Madness?” …

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Today’s Agriculture

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. I was on the farm in Illinois last week.  After that tough weather that we had to deal with last year – it was beautiful.  The soil is dry.  Not the muck that made harvest almost impossible.  We weren’t able to get all of the anhydrous applied last Fall …

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Trade

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. I will be on my farm in Illinois this week and next week I will report what I find.  For now, realizing that almost 30% of our ag production is exported, world markets can be the difference between farm profitability and loss.  We now have negotiated favorable agreements with …

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Milk spilt on wood table

Oh, SNAP! FNS Still Hasn’t Released Its FY 2019 SNAP Retailer Management Summary

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has oversight over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The agency’s responsibilities include the licensing of more than 250,000 SNAP-authorized retail food stores. FNS also is authorized to bring administrative enforcement proceedings, including trafficking charges, against SNAP retailers to prevent fraud and other problem violations. FNS publishes annual data …

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Cannabis with black backdrop

The Cannabis Industry’s Own Private Idaho: State Court Upholds Seizure of Truckload of Hemp Bound for Colorado

Big Sky Scientific is a Montana-based manufacturer of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products, including isolate powders, oils, and distillates.  Big Sky sources its products from hemp producers, including in Oregon.  During late 2018, it purchased more than two tons of hemp plant material containing less than 0.3% THC from an Oregon producer and arranged for its …

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Issues of the Day

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. I think we are all aware that many countries in Africa have a long way to go to modernize their ag industry.  Their food systems need to be transformed to help their people.  A positive step has been taken.  United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed Agnes Kalibata …

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Busy Week

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week were something for the record books.  On Monday, the first state Iowa held their primary to begin the selection process of choosing a Democratic candidate to run against President Trump this fall.  On Tuesday President Trump gave his State of the Union address …

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The Issues of the Day

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. The ag industry is excited as a number of trade deals are coming together.  We will have a phase one deal with China signed this week.  Our annual exports to China that have fallen below the $20 billion mark will jump to $40 billion per year.  The Senate should …

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Look Back and Ahead

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. It’s a New Year.  2020 got here so fast.  I want to look back at 2019.  For the American ag industry, I think the weather made our production challenges more difficult than I can remember, and we have farmed through some tough years.  Last spring was so wet it …

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Exciting Week

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. Just when I had concluded that we couldn’t get anything done here in Washington, everything happened at once. We have a trade deal with China.  According to the Washington Post “China will spend $50 billion on US farm goods, tightening its intellectual property protections and opening its financial services …

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Farm Economy and More

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. I want to cover some trade issues today, but first let’s take a look at our farm economy. It’s better than it was last year – better than it was the year before. $92 billion net income is the forecast. Where is it coming from? The answer according to …

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Shredding files

Oh SNAP! FNS Removes All Names from the SAM List

GSA’s System for Award Management is a comprehensive database of persons excluded from doing business with the federal government.  Widely known as the SAM List, most of the people whose names can be found there were debarred or suspended from doing business with the federal government.  Debarment and suspension are serious sanctions that prevent persons …

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Challenges We Face

By former USDA Secretary  John R. Block. I have a number of subjects I will put on the table today.  I want to open by reporting that I thought the National Association of Farm Broadcasters had an outstanding convention last week in Kansas City.  I loved it.  Then I went to my farm in Illinois on …

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Trade Deals

By former USDA Secretary  John R. Block. All we hear about are the trade deals we can’t get completed.  Our new agreement with Mexico and Canada (USMCA) sits in limbo without Congressional approval.  We withdrew from the newly negotiated Asian trade deal the day President Trump took office.  We are still deeply concerned if we …

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Rough Road We Ride

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. We are all quite aware that the Ag Industry has had it tough the last 3 or 4 years.  Let’s look at what we have experienced.  Some of these numbers come from Successful Farming and Top Producers. Look back to 2013, just 6 years ago, when net farm income …

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This & That

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. The meat industry in the U.S. has been shaken by the explosion of fake meat.  Go into your favorite fast food restaurant and you can order a burger that’s not meat.  It tastes like a hamburger, but it is soybeans and peas and who knows what.  Beyond Meat is …

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Harvest

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. Last week I was on the farm.  Looking out over the fields of corn and soybeans, I couldn’t help but recall how hard it was to get this year’s crop in the ground.  We did get some of our corn planted the last week of April and then the …

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GE Salmon

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. I will be on our farm in Illinois later in the week.  We haven’t harvested any corn or beans yet, but it is time to get started.  When I look out over our fields, I can’t help but think about the roller coaster ride it has been over the …

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Farm Safety Week

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. Ever since the past administration rewrote the WOTUS (Waters of the U.S.) rule, farmers have complained about the government’s over reach.  President Trump has acted.  Agriculture Secretary Perdue had this to say- “Repealing the WOTUS rule is a major win for American agriculture.  President Trump is making good on …

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Today’s Issues

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. They are back.  House Members and Senators, after a long summer recess, are back to work.  Let’s hope they can get something done.  Our fiscal year ends September 30 so they have 3 weeks to pass a stop gap spending bill if we don’t want a government shutdown.  There …

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Trade and GE Tech

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. As much as we would like to – the Ag industry can not escape the week to week and day to day damage that our industry suffers from the ongoing trade fights.  It is just back and forth.  We were hopeful last week when our trade team flew to …

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Ag Industry

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. We keep reading that unless we increase farm production, we won’t be able to feed all the people in the world by 2050.  One way to boost food production is to respond to higher prices.  The market will tell us.  We don’t see that now.  Our farm income is …

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Budget Deal

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. There were a lot of doubters, including myself, but it looks like we will get a budget deal.  It will raise our national debt ceiling and set new spending limits for 2 years.  The new budget will authorize the spending of tens of billions of dollars of new money …

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Judge slams gavel

Oh, SNAP! Federal District Court Judge Orders FNS to Remove Owner of SNAP Retailer’s Name from the SAM List

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Not surprisingly, that means that FNS is required to follow regulations and guidance issued by USDA.  This fundamental concept appears to have been forgotten at FNS, at least in the context of the agency’s decision to list the names …

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Trade

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. Some listeners might get tired of hearing about trade disputes.  Why are they important?  Well, for the ag industry it makes the difference between profit and loss because we export 20-30% of our farm production.  Chinese tariffs have been very costly.  Our government will be providing assistance to farmers …

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Down on the Farm

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. Here I am on the farm in Illinois.  I will update you on what I see, but first I still have our Independence Day Celebration on my mind.  All the national attention and the President’s speech can make us proud.  On my radio program in 1995 – 24 years …

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Issues of the Day

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. Hot issues of the day – Are we going to war with Iran?  They did shoot down one of our drones worth more than $130 million.  News reports tell us that in response, President Trump agreed to a retaliatory strike against Iran.  But then at the last minute he …

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Supreme Court Building of the United States

Oh, SNAP! The Supreme Court Holds Store Level SNAP Redemption Data is Confidential Under FOIA Exemption 4

In a major victory for grocers, the United States Supreme Court (in a 6-3 decision) held that store level SNAP retailer data is exempt from disclosure under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). Exemption 4 precludes the disclosure of “commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”  5 …

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Uncertainty in Agriculture

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block. Agri-Pulse Daybreak reported “when asked if he could say when the U.S. and China would reach an agreement to end this trade war, the U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Gregg Doud said ‘No is the answer.’” No one knows.  President Trump and Chinese President Xi will be meeting at the …

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