The Debate?

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

How exciting – With the Presidential race headed for the finish line, we got to hear President Trump and Vice President Biden debate the issues.  What a waste of my time.  All they did was talk over each other with interruptions and insults.  Biden said Trump has been the “worst President that America has ever had.”  After a number of interruptions Biden told President Trump to “shut up.”  President Trump pounded Biden for his plan to make U.S. a socialist Country.  I don’t think the public learned much from that debate.

Let’s turn to farming and agriculture.  We have not been blessed with good prices.  You can blame the Coronavirus and all the supply disruptions or over production.  Ohio State University projects that prices for next year won’t be any better – $3.40 per bushel for corn and $8.50 for soybeans.  I hope they are better.  In the last month we have seen some better prices.  The government support programs for agriculture have been very helpful.  Without that money there would be a lot more bankruptcies.  However, farmers and ranchers cannot take this money flow for granted.  We will have to survive without it. 

Not counting this year – U.S. farm subsidies fell below what is spent by other developed countries.  According to statistics from OECD and Successful Farming magazine the world spends $2 billion a day on farm subsidies.  The 54 leading countries in the world spend $700 billion a year supporting farmers.

My position is that developed nations should work together in cutting market-distorting subsidies and get rid of non-tariff trade barriers.  It won’t be easy.  As challenging as the farm economy has been, we have others hurting even more.  We have families without the money to pay the rent or buy food and medicine.  One in four Americans have less than $400 in savings.  Millions have no savings at all.

Last of all – Hats off to Orion Samuelson who has just announced that he will retire from farm broadcasting at the end of the year.  No one has done a better job of telling agriculture’s story to the public.  Thank you, Orion, for your leadership and friendship.

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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