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John Block Reports: Christmas Time… Definitely – Pandemic Relief… Maybe

By Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, John R. Block.

It’s Christmas.  And the New Year is almost upon us.  This year has been one for the books.  The Coronavirus has upset everything.  Millions of jobs have been lost.  Some families can’t pay their rent.  Small businesses are going bankrupt.  New virus cases are surging.  One piece of positive news is that our government has passed a $900 billion pandemic relief bill.  President Trump has threatened to not sign the bill.  Ok – so what’s in the bill?  The answer is food.  It includes a 15% increase in food stamps.  We have millions of families short on food.  If the children don’t go to school, they may not get any school lunch.  The legislation will help to deal with our hunger problem.

There will be more money for small businesses.  And keep in mind small businesses employ one half of the private sector work force.  We are aware that the ag industry has received a lot of help this year.  But the virus is still surging to record cases and deaths.  USDA will get $13 billion to help farmers and ranchers in 2021.  There will be some support for biofuel producers.  They need it.  Until now they had not received anything.  At one time half of our ethanol plants were shut down.  Our meat and poultry processors will get some relief.  It has been really hard for them since many of their workers came down with the virus. Some of our farmers couldn’t find a processor to buy their pigs.  Okay, enough on all the tough times.

It is Christmas and we need to be grateful that we live here in the USA.  There is a lot of misery out there in the world.  Most of us will be able to see some of our family.  No big parties.  Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ.  It is good to think about his teachings.  He taught tolerance, compassion and understanding.  He wants us to treat others as we would like to be treated.  We need to be grateful for our blessings.  Someone might say – “Well, I’m not a Christian.”  Okay. There are other religions, but the basic rules to live by are not all that different from one religion to another.  This is a good time to reflect on our lives.  Call our friends on the phone.  I’m calling today.  Yesterday at the supermarket I put some money in the pot for the Salvation Army.  I’m grateful the harvest is all in and no one got hurt.  Our hogs are happy, and the farm team is looking ahead to a New Year.

John Block served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill. John hosts a weekly radio show going back more than 20 years. The commentary and opinions shared are a summary of the discussion from the broadcast and not a reflection of the opinions of the firm at large. For more from John Block Reports from Washington visit


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