John Block Reports: Ag Day

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

President Biden declared March 23rd as National Agriculture Day.  He said, “I call upon all Americans to join me in recognizing and affirming our commitment to and appreciation for our farmers, ranchers, farm workers, and those who work in the agriculture sector across the nation.”  The President’s proclamation makes clear his respect and appreciation for our industry, but also the fact that everyone should salute the team that feeds us. They have been on the job throughout the pandemic.  It makes me think about the farming industry and how it has changed over the years.  If it had not changed, millions of people would be starving.  We could not produce and deliver food with old technology.  Crop acres in the U.S. have actually declined since 1960 but in the world, crop acres have increased from 1.7 billion acres to 2.4 billion acres.

We cannot afford to give up on new technology.  The position of the UK Department of Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs is in strong support of genetically engineered crops.  That’s not the case in the rest of Europe.  Their countries have strict barriers against genetically modified crops.  They want to push organic.  Organic yields are less – maybe 20 or 30% less – and require more labor.  The world cannot afford to go down that road. 

Turn the page.  In recent days some of President Biden’s top officials met with Chinese officials.  The U.S. made it clear to China that we don’t support their heavy-handed actions in Hong Kong, their efforts to bully other Asian nations, or their dominance in the China Sea.  Their reaction – “but out of our internal affairs.”  I hope this elevated dispute does not threaten the phase 1 trade deal we have with China.  They have been buying a record amount of our ag products.

Turn the page.  We just passed a $1.9 trillion spending bill.  But that’s not enough.  Democrats are putting together another $3 trillion bill.  It will focus on infrastructure.  I know we need infrastructure spending, but are we talking about even more debt or more taxes?  Stay tuned.

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


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