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From the Farm

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

This week I was in Peoria, Illinois speaking to the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association.  I am on my farm now broadcasting on the phone. 

Farmers and ag suppliers had a lot of concerns about the government shut down.  But now that the shut down is behind us for now, maybe we can concentrate on trade.  Don’t forget that we export 1 out of every 3 acres to other countries.  Ninety percent of food consumers live in other countries.

We have until the end of February and then new tariffs will be imposed unless the U.S. and China can make some progress on our trade dispute.  Those tariffs could shoot up from 10% to 25%.  The most difficult trade issue is China’s reluctance to refrain from stealing our technology.  There is no doubt that the trade war has taken a toll on the Chinese economy.  Their stock market has tanked by 20%.  Hopefully, we have some leverage now to get reform.  Keep in mind that their economy isn’t very free. It is government owned.

On the government shut down issue, President Trump is still insisting on a wall to secure our Southern border. Republicans and Democrats and Trump need to sit down and find a compromise. It is unacceptable for our government to be so dysfunctional. 

Here I am on the farm.  It is so cold – below zero.  Our baby pigs are warm in their heated barns.  I have never seen healthier hogs.  We have another trailer load headed for market.  Their line weight is close to 300 pounds.  Prices are soft on pork, corn, soybeans, and other products.  Too much supply.  Ag industry’s net income is half what it was 4 years ago. Congress needs to approve the trade deal with Mexico and Canada (USMCA). 

One last thought –- we need to cut our government spending.  Our debt is rising every year.  We just can’t help ourselves. We spend too much.  60% of our budget is on automatic pilot.  If we don’t act, our annual deficit will exceed 1 trillion dollars. 

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

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