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John Block: TPP

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

Last week, six former U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture released a letter urging the Congress to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Support for passage is bipartisan and enthusiastic. Standing together, you have: Secretary Ed Schafer, Secretary Mike Johanns, Secretary Ann Veneman, Secretary Dan Glickman, Secretary Mike Espy, Secretary Clayton Yeutter, and yours truly. We have seen and experienced the value of other trade agreements that we have supported.

It took eight years to negotiate this agreement.  It includes 12 countries and leans toward Asia. Asia is one of the most dynamic, fastest growing regions of the world. It includes Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, and many others. Other countries are welcome to join the trade group over time (if they are willing to meet the agreement’s high standards). I would welcome China.

Trade agreements are designed to lower trade barriers – cutting tariffs, quotas, and market-distorting subsidies. The American farmer and rancher can compete with any one in the world. Let the markets work.

Now, the Congress – both House and Senate – need to pass the bill and the President must sign it. It will not be an easy process. The good thing is President Obama wants it done. It is part of his legacy, and he will want it done while he is in the White House. You can bet he will twist a few arms to get it passed. American agriculture is in solid support.

I worry if this is delayed until after we seat a new President and legislature in 2017. Will they support the agreement? Hillary Clinton has already spoken against it. Donald Trump doesn’t like any trade agreements. The time has come for “grass roots” agriculture to push their Members of Congress to act.

And even though next year is an election year, I say – get it done!

Finally, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Is everything perfect here in the good old U.S.A.?  No – of course not. But, just look at the turmoil in the rest of the world. I see the thousands of refugees risking their lives traveling over land and sea to flee the Middle East in flames. They have lost their homes and everything hoping for a better life. I’m not sure we have a solution to all of this brutality and suffering.  Everything is relative. We need to be thankful and grateful for the good life we have.  Enjoy.

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