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John Block: Thanksgiving 2016

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

I’m not talking about politics or President-Elect Donald Trump today.  Let’s be thankful for our good fortune to be here in America this Thanksgiving weekend.  The celebration of Thanksgiving dates back to our ancestors that settled this country.  They didn’t have the comforts that we take for granted today.  They were just thankful to have a roof over their head and food to eat.

Watch the news and we see people in other countries going hungry.  Some are at war.  Their homes are destroyed.  The misery is more than we can imagine.  In Africa, the families use more than half of their income just for food – whereas, an American family spends less than 10%.

This year’s Thanksgiving dinner costs less than $5.00 per person – 24¢ less than last year.  I’m looking at a Thanksgiving dinner chart going back 25 years.  Inflation adjusted, the dinner cost is less than it was in 1986 – thank you American agriculture.

There are a lot of reasons why food is such a bargain in the U.S.  We use new technology.  When I was 10 years old, one farmer produced enough food to feed 15 people.  In 1964, one farmer was feeding 26 people, and today, one farmer supplies food for 155 people.  That is a 10-fold increase.  And, we do it with less crop acres.

I pick up the paper and another boat sinks in the Mediterranean, drowning more than 100 refugees – women, children and families trying to escape the war and devastation in the Middle East. 

Is everything perfect here in good old U.S.A.?  No.  Farmers don’t like low prices.  Some have had to deal with drought and floods.  Every family is forced to manage some problems.  But, look around the world.  As we sit down at Thanksgiving dinner, we should thank God for our many blessings.

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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