By former USDA Secretary John R. Block
Last week, I attended the Farm Broadcasters Annual Convention in Kansas City. Over the last 35 years, I have attended almost all of the NAFB events. This year’s convention attracted a near-record crowd. It was very exciting.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke and took questions from the audience for more than an hour. He reminded us why Secretaries of Agriculture rarely miss the convention. It is the perfect opportunity to communicate his message across the country.
I also was at the Ag Roundtable luncheon this week here in Washington, D.C., where Steven Censky, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture spoke. Having had the chance to hear from both the Secretary and Deputy in the past week, I can say they have strong support from the ag industry. We are convinced that they have our backs. Their priority issues are our priority issues.
Trade – “We need to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement, but do no harm,” according to Secretary Perdue. He expressed his frustration with Europe and their many barriers to our exports. He made clear that a bilateral agreement with the UK can be negotiated.
Farm Bill – Congress needs to get it done. The current bill will carry us through next year. My experience is that farm bills never get done until the last minute. We can hope to have a bill by the end of next year. Secretary Perdue said, “The 2018 bill will be evolutionary – not revolutionary.”
Immigration – agriculture needs the labor to pick the strawberries, milk the cows, and butcher the hogs. The Secretary said the Administration understands that. Congress is working on legislation to provide legal labor for our industry. They need to hurry and get it done.
Infrastructure – Deputy Secretary Censky made clear the priority the Trump Administration has for locks and dams, roads and bridges, and seaports.
Tax reform – That is the hottest piece of legislation out here right now. The House and Senate need to pass their tax bills. The bills will not be the same. Then, they need to be negotiated, and if a final bill can be put together and pass both the House and Senate, President Trump will sign it. The goal is to pass tax reform before Christmas. Good luck.
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.