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John Block Reports: Using Farmers to Fight Global Warming

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

We have our federal government funding bill passed and signed by President Trump and a generous relief package also.  Now is the time to give up on the election challenges.  However, I would stress that we need to make sure that future elections are fair and honest.  The public deserves a voting system that they have confidence in.  The USA needs to set an example for the rest of the world.  Looking ahead we can expect “global warming” and “climate change” to be in the headlights. 

The ag industry needs to look for ways to benefit from this Biden Administration priority.  The place to start is to withdraw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and put it in the soil.  Some very big ag companies including Bayer, Nutrien and Cargill want us to adopt climate friendly practices.    Plants draw carbon dioxide from the air, combine it with water and sunlight and put it in the soil.  The carbon stays in the soil and oxygen goes back into the air.  I don’t pretend to understand the details of this process.  However, perhaps farmers could be paid for this work to fight global warming.  We would be using our fields to capture more carbon. 

Another political recommendation is to increase the acres in conservation reserve.  That would be good for the soil and the climate.  If the land in conservation reserve is along rivers and lakes, that would help to clean up the water running into our streams.  Also, a cutback in crop acres would help to boost our prices.  If our crop land can be used to block global warning, perhaps our livestock industry can make a contribution.  There is a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that really got my attention.  Smithfield, the nation’s largest pork producer, is working on a production change.  Big hog farms have used big lagoons to capture manure from their barns.  Then the methane gas from the lagoons goes up into the air.  But methane is a green house gas that we don’t want in our air.  So, the answer is to cover the lagoons, capture the methane, and funnel it into a pipeline and on to a power plant.  It can be burned for heat.

This process of diverting methane into the energy grid is growing fast.  Dairy farms as well as hog farms can see the opportunity.  Capture the methane and sell it.  I’m not even convinced that mankind is responsible for global warming, but perhaps some of these creative ideas could make a difference.  Happy 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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