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John Block Reports: A New Day

By Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, John R. Block.

President Biden has a long list of priorities.  Control of the Coronavirus heads the list.  He has told us that he wants to work across the aisle, but if the Democrats run through Congress the $1.9 trillion relief package without some meaningful compromise, where is the shared responsibility?  On top of that Democrats are pressing ahead with impeachment of former President Trump.  It’s all politics.  It’s time for our politicians to find some bipartisanship.

There are some good things happening.  The Department of Agriculture is aware that we have hungry people and the Department is moving quickly to help.  On the foreign affairs front President Biden reached out to Russian leader Putin and they agreed to extend our arms control agreement that was due to expire.  Whatever we can do to limit the risk of nuclear war is vital.  We have had a travel ban on South African H-2A workers.  We need them to help harvest our crops.  That ban has been lifted along with H-2B laborers that work in our food plants.  Food price inflation last year jumped up 3.4%.  That was much higher than recent years.  The food inflation rate has been 2% or below for years.  USDA predicts a 1 or 2% grocery store increase this year.  I expect more than that with the big jump in farm prices.

Just out of the blue with all the talk and push to limit climate change, we are reading articles about carbon as a new cash crop for farmers.  Top Producer Magazine writes about “The Chase to Capture Carbon.”  Mike Frank, CEO of Nutrien Ag Solutions had this to say – “We think this is going to be a $100 billion industry, and Agriculture can get rewarded for what it’s doing today and what it can do in the future.”  Land O’ Lakes’ farmer cooperative has already offered to work with these farmers to cash in on carbon dioxide trapped in the soil.  Who would have ever predicted that we would be talking about this? 

My last note – I want to recognize fellow Cabinet Member George Schultz.  He was 100 years old and passed this week. As Secretary of State, he did a super job for President Reagan.  Everyone respected him.  I loved working with him.  After President Reagan lifted the Soviet grain embargo, I wanted a trade agreement with the Soviet Union.  Secretary of State George Schultz gave me the green light and with the help of US Trade Representative Bill Brock, we got it done.

John Block served as 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. John hosts a weekly radio show going back more than 20 years. The commentary and opinions shared are a summary of the discussion from the broadcast and not a reflection of the opinions of the firm at large. For more from John Block Reports from Washington visit www.johnblockreports.com.

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