John Block: Creativity

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

If we are anything in this country, we are creative – from the Internet, to GPS driving my tractor while planting corn.

Did you know that Goodyear Tire Company is now using soybean oil to make their tires? If you want better traction, hit the road with soy-based tires.

Some new ideas flourish and others just never are accepted. Secretary Sonny Perdue wants to reform the Food Stamp Program. As part of President Trump’s budget, a portion of the support would be provided to recipients – not as credit at the store but an “American Harvest Box” of food. Food Stamp recipients could still pick and choose at the store a portion of their Stamp value. The rest would arrive in that Harvest Box.

That new approach to helping families in need has been met with some very loud criticism. But it is a new creative idea. Secretary Perdue said, “I am encouraged by Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway’s willingness to consider a pilot program, because new, innovative ideas often need to be introduced in such a way to see that they work as intended and can be implemented by states to best serve recipients.” I don’t know if this idea is going anywhere, but we need to have an open mind.

On another subject – gene editing – we need to have an open mind. We have been eating biotech foods for more than 20 years with no ill effects. Gene editing is simpler. Make some changes in the genes and you can grow a better product. Previous generations of plant and animal breeders took hundreds of years to make improvements. Now, we can do it overnight. Genetic engineering and gene editing are not accepted by some, but we need to accept science and take advantage of new technology. If we don’t do it, other countries will, and we will be left behind.

Biotechnology is positioned to take on insect pest management. Use biotech sterilization of mosquitos to stop the spread of Zika and Yellow Fever. The possibilities are beyond imagination.

One last subject that has been in the news every day since the school shooting in Florida – what to do about guns? President Trump has said that he is open to some new restrictions. I believe that we do have too many guns in the hands of the wrong people.

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

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