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John Block: Down on the Farm

I was on the farm earlier in the week and I am now in Kansas City at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention. Harvesting our crop at the farm this fall has been so smooth. However, spring planting season was so difficult. It seemed to rain all the time. Most of our crop ground is upland, but we do have about 300 acres along Spoon River. That low ground was flooded 3 times. We finally wrapped up our soybean planting on June 15. And – surprise! – the bean yield was better than 60 bushels per acre. Our corn has proven to be just as good – in the 200 bushel range.

The quality of seed, production technology, precision farming today is unbelievable. Look back 20 or 30 years – we could not have come close to matching these yields. USDA reports that, nationwide, we are harvesting near record crops of corn and soybeans.

I bring this up because the ag industry needs to stand tall and protect our new technology. We can’t go back to farming the way my grandfather did or like they do in Africa, where they’re starving.

On my first day on the farm this week, I was happy to note that we had 4 new litters of pigs. Those babies are so cute.

We have had a good year. That makes me think – what about next year? There is always something threatening a farmer’s success. As an example, there is a serious swine virus (PEDV) that has taken a toll on many farms. Another example – I feel sorry for the ranchers in South Dakota who lost so many cattle to an unexpected huge snow storm. I feel sorry for the cattle that suffered also. Mother Nature can be brutal but to lose 10,000 to 20,000 cattle as reported is devastating.

Farming is not an easy ride. Ride the prices up and they come down. Raise a big crop and the next year you have a drought. But, farmers are resilient and persistent. We keep coming back.

I said our harvest is all but finished, but bringing in the crop after a whole year of effort and hard work is just over the top satisfying. There is nothing like it.

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.

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