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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 rain came.  We couldn’t do much until June 1st. That meant that half of our corn and all our soybeans were planted late.  We don’t need an early frost.  Spring planting season was tough for almost all farmers in the Midwest.  At long last after thousands of dollars spent on seed and fertilizer, long hours of hard work, we can ride the combine and watch that golden corn roll in.    

When I was on the farm last week, we had one day of harvest and then 5 inches of rain poured down.  We hope to get back to harvest this week.  We have never started this late.  Our early planted corn is yielding 240 bushels per acre at 25% moisture.  That is good.  I don’t expect our late planted fields to come close to that. 

Our pigs look good – healthy and happy.  They are happy they don’t have African Swine Fever.  My pigs are happy about the new trade deal that we have with Japan.  Get those pork prices up to show some respect for pigs. 

While on the farm I met with our supplier of seed, fertilizer and crop protection.  We don’t even have this crop out of the field and we need to get started for next year.  We will be putting nitrogen in the ground for next year’s crop as soon as our soybeans are harvested.  Input costs don’t appear to be coming down.  The price of corn and soybeans is nothing to cheer about.  We need something to stimulate prices for our crops.  A trade deal with China could be a game changer.  Tell the U.S. Congress to go to work and pass USMCA.  Japan has agreed to cut tariffs on beef, pork, wheat, cheese and much more.  Increasing exports would boost prices.  We have worked so hard over the years to develop global markets for our production.  I remember in 1978, Illinois Governor Jim Thompson sent me to lead a team of Ag leaders on a trip to China.  I was Illinois State Director of Agriculture.  That was a long time ago, but we have been working for a long time to find customers.  Our farm exports so far this year are down 7% below where they were last year at this time.  We need to turn this thing around if we want to help the Ag industry.

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 online to

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