By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.
President Trump held a meeting with farm leaders on Tuesday at the White House. Secretary Sonny Perdue explained how the $16 billion aid package passed by Congress and signed by the President two months ago would be divided up. This bill is the centerpiece of President Trump’s effort to save farmers and ranchers. Farmers can sign up for relief checks next week and after another week money, should be on the way. For some farmers the need is urgent. Farmers could lose $16 per pig and $128 per head of cattle sold. I know that farmers and ranchers are grateful for the support and help the President and Congress have extended. The direct focus on rural America and farmers is something that I have never seen before. Why? Well, with an election this Fall those votes could be the deciding difference.
The other reason is related to the Coronavirus. The importance of food production and food distribution has been in the spotlight. Food industry workers from farm to plate were always overlooked. Not anymore. We all hope that our whole economy can get back to work. Food and farm employees are working. Some restaurants are opening for customers with necessary social distancing. Marvin Irby, President of the National Restaurant Association, reports the industry has lost 8 million jobs and $240 billion in revenue this year.
There is one very important segment of our farm industry that has been overlooked. We have not provided any money or credit for our biofuels industry. There is optimism now that there will be another aid package coming in June. Ethanol is a very important market for our corn. With planes not flying and many of our cars not being driven, the demand for fuel has been soft.
One last issue focusing on the EU. The European Commission has a new goal – “sustainable production.” They want to stop promoting meat – they say 10.3% of greenhouse gases originate on the farm and 70% of that gas comes from livestock. I’m not ready to give up my steak or pork chops and I don’t think they will either.
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 www.johnblockreports.com.