Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Elite Food Standards and More

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

Thank you, God, for all of our blessings.  Look at the turmoil, poverty, and destruction around the world.  On this Thanksgiving Day, let’s not fail to appreciate our nation and our people.  (I’m glad that we live here.)

The cost of your Thanksgiving dinner has fallen for the third year in a row.  That turkey in the oven cost 4.9% less than last month.   Enjoy.

Here are some hot issues.

Farm bill – lawmakers are out of town, but staff are working to get a deal that their Members can approve in December.  Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts is optimistic.

Our newly negotiated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada needs to be signed.  But we still have tariffs on steel and aluminum from Mexico and Canada, and they have duties on $15 billion of our exports.  Congress is not going to approve the trade agreement until duties are lifted.

A long-time friend of mine, Gary Baise, has a very good article in “Farm Futures” which focuses on an issue which needs to be addressed – trade between the states.  In the very early years of the U.S. when we had only 13 states, each state put up all kinds of trade restrictions.  It was so bad that in 1787 the framers of the Constitution concluded that there must be a commerce clause giving Congress the right “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states and Indian Tribes.” 

California seems to think they can stop free trade between states.  They require that cages for laying hens are banned.  Also, by year 2020, calves raised for veal must have 43 square feet of space and breeding sows must have 24 square feet.  That shuts the door on farmers in other states that want to sell eggs or meat in California.  Where is the free trade?  Here we are trying to negotiate free trade agreements with other countries, and we don’t even have free trade between states.

And California – don’t be telling us that you are just imposing reasonable health and welfare standards.  What do you know?  Researchers at Michigan State, Iowa State, and USDA found that hens were twice as likely to die with your space.  You should not be allowed to impose your elite food standards on all food sold in your state.  Let the consumer decide.

John Block was 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.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to

More From


Subscribe to receive OFW’s Food & Agriculture World Insights Newsletter.