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On the Farm

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

I have escaped the wild and crazy political wars of Washington, DC.  I am on my farm in Illinois.  My first time back since the virus hit.  My voice will sound a little different since I am on the phone.  I am so excited to look at our fields of corn and soybeans – I walk in the corn fields, check the ears.  Our combines are out and starting to roll.  Corn moisture is not bad – about 24%.  I’m a little surprised, but our soybeans are ready for harvest.  The weather is just beautiful here this week.

As I look at our crops, I feel so grateful.  Thank you, God.  I can’t help but feel sorry for the farms in Iowa and other states that had their crops destroyed.  Don’t forget about the hurricanes in the South East.  Farming is a risky business.  On our farm we have dealt with down corn in years past.  We have seen the Spoon River flood our river bottom corn and soybeans.  Even if you do everything right – timely planting, good seed, weed control – you can’t control the weather.  I am reading in Successful Farming magazine that because of La Niña, next year’s weather “could bring widespread severe drought and catastrophic hurricanes to the United States.”  They project well below trend yields in 2021.  Hope they are wrong.

I was in our hog barns.  Three new litters born yesterday.  Our hogs are healthy and happy.  We have a trailer load (180 head) headed for market tomorrow.  Processing plants are managing the virus now.  A positive lift for agriculture – President Trump announced that USDA will roll out another $13 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers whose markets have been disrupted by coronavirus.  That should help.  Farmers and ranchers say thank you.

I also want to thank my farm team.  They do the hard work – growing, harvesting, caring for baby pigs.  I do the easy work – selling the grain at the right time or wrong time.  Nothing is easy.  And yet, I love it – just being with my feet on this rich black soil and holding a beautiful golden ear of corn in my hand.

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

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