Jack Block: This and That July 2018

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

I’m going to focus on some different issues today. Trade is in the spotlight. We can only encourage the U.S. and the countries that we have challenged – Canada, Mexico, EU, and China – to sit down and negotiate a compromise. We need a better deal.

On the uproar over Russian interference in our 2016 election – I agree Russia should not have done that, but let’s be clear – it’s not anything new. Back in 1996, President Boris Yeltsin ran for re-election in the Soviet Union – U.S. and our European allies did everything we could to change the outcome. As recently as 2015, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry paid hundreds of thousands of our taxpayer dollars to try to defeat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In December 2016 on National Public Radio, Carnegie Mellon University researcher Dov Levin said: “U.S. has meddled in the elections of other nations more than 80 times between 1946 and 2000.” As I said – not new and you haven’t seen the last of it.

Beef, chicken, and pork producers have a new challenge that they need to worry about. The subject is cell-cultured meat. We have companies that are starting to produce a “lab-developed imitation of a hamburger.” Cell-cultured meat is not on the market yet, but the emerging technology has drawn investment from major meat processors such as Tyson Foods and Cargill.

The Washington Post describes the process this way: “Cells of meat are fed oxygen and nutrients like sugar and minerals and can grow into skeletal muscle that can be harvested within a few weeks.” Then you have meatballs. However, we don’t want them to call it meat. That is misleading. It could be just another challenge to cattle, pig, and chicken farmers.

I wonder if the critics of genetically engineered food products will support this. It doesn’t seem natural to me.

Big news this week for agriculture – President Trump is offering $12 billion of support to help farmers hit hard by the trade war conflict. Secretary Perdue calls it a “short-term solution to give the Administration time to work on long-term trade deals.”

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, visit johnblockreports.com.

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