John Block Reports: Earth Day

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

Big Change – we can all remember that President Trump had no interest or concern about “climate change.”  When elected he quickly withdrew the U.S. from the World Climate Accord. 

Thursday this week is “Earth Day” and President Biden will host a virtual climate conference with more than 20 countries.  The U.S. is back as a very active member of the Global Climate Team.  What will be decided at the meeting is a big question.  Will they agree on targets for cutting green house gas emissions?  Will China step up and do their part?  What about Europe?

A poll in the U.S. indicates that our country is ready.  If we are going to do something, our ag industry doesn’t want to be left out.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is pushing the climate agenda.  The Farm Bureau and other farm groups are ready.  Two or three years ago I never would have imagined this farm buy-in.  I guess we can do it.  Vilsack says we need an ag carbon bank.  Farmers will have to be incentivized to take necessary steps.  Another important way to curb emissions would be to expand our conservation reserve acres.  In 2007 farmers had 36.8 million acres of land set aside in the reserve.  The number of acres today has dropped to 20.8 million acres.  The rental rates were cut with the 2018 farm bill.  Not surprising, farmers decided that they should just farm the land. 

President Biden has said that “farmers should be paid to put their fragile land in conservation reserve” as part of climate mitigation.  Just a side note – the Conservative Reserve Program was started when I was Secretary of Agriculture in 1985.  Taking fragile erosive land out of production was a good idea even before we had even heard about climate change. 

I have farmed through so many climate challenges. I thought climate change was God’s threat to farmers.  But, if science tells us it is manmade then we can help get it under control.

 In closing – when you celebrate “Earth Day” – think about the farmers that farm this earth and feed the world.

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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