Labor Day

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

It’s hard to believe, but summer is all but gone. We are looking at harvest season. Get that combine ready to go. Labor Day is next Monday.

Speaking of Labor Day, I want to say how much respect I have for the hard-working men and women that labor in the trenches. I’m not talking about big corporation managers, not talking about political big wigs or university professors. I want to honor the carpenter, the plumber, the factory worker, the farmer growing the food, the rancher caring for the cattle, the workers in the processing plants. I don’t think they get the appreciation that they deserve.

There is some good news. With the shortage of labor today, companies are starting to raise wages – not enough but some. Many young people that were unemployed have now found jobs. Unemployment is at 3.8%. Unemployment for Blacks and Hispanics at is the lowest point ever.

Businesses big and small have started training high school graduates and some that didn’t graduate – training not just carpenters or welders but in technology, manufacturing, etc. Many companies have relaxed their standards for hiring. You may not have to have a college education. Individuals who have a criminal record – if it is for a minor offense – may be hired. Opportunity has finally arrived for many who didn’t have a chance before. Perhaps they were too poor to go to college – that costs a fortune. Now, they can learn a trade and become a tax-paying citizen. Have a great Labor Day!

Other issues – it looks like we have a trade deal with Mexico. Details are not all ironed out, but I have a good feeling about this. Now, Canada is coming to the table to see if NAFTA can be saved. Let’s hope they can get it done.

Senator Pat Roberts tells us that “they have made real progress” in the conference negotiations on the farm bill. However, work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients are still a sticking point. There is optimism that it can be completed and passed by the end of the fiscal year – September.

I mentioned that harvest season is here. Be careful. Don’t take any chances. Farming is a dangerous business.

Until next week, I am John Block in Washington, D.C.

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, just go on-line to

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