By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.
It was so easy and so fast in the Spring — when Republicans and Democrats came together and authorized big spending to support our people and the economy. We didn’t have the money. They spent $3 trillion anyway. The pandemic still rages, and Congress is in the process of trying to decide how to provide more support. Food Aid is top of the list.
In 2019 food assistance money spending went down 8% from the year before. But with the virus food spending has exploded. Food stamp benefits in the month of April rocketed up 40%. There is pending legislation to make school meals universal this year. That won’t be so easy if many of our children won’t be in school. We don’t have a deal yet, but you can expect more food assistance. The $600 addition that has been part of unemployment benefits expired last Friday. Congress will probably continue that added money but at a lower level.
Government has a lot of challenges, but so does our farm economy. We keep getting reports about how good our crops are and how many acres are planted. After harvest we will have a huge surplus. Prices are down. Projections are that grain and livestock farmers can only hope to break even this year, and next year could be worse. Here is some encouraging news. Our corn prices may be in the tank, but in China prices are soaring. Look back to 2016 and China had huge inventories of grain. No more. It is gone, and they will have to import tons of corn. Their hog numbers are starting to recover from the swine flu, and they will need a lot of grain. We have it. We need to limit our disputes with China. And then, perhaps they will make their big buy of our products.
Another market for us is ethanol sales to Brazil. Brazil is our largest foreign market for ethanol. Critics of President Trump are angry that our U.S. Ambassador to Brazil asked that country to lower their tariffs and buy more of our ethanol. Democrats argue that President Trump did that to help his campaign. So what? It was a good idea to lift my corn price. As we approach the presidential election in less than 100 days, the battle rages on.
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 online to www.johnblockreports.com.