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This and That

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

There are a lot of balls in the air.  I will try to deal with a few select ones today.  I’ll start with aluminum tariffs – President Trump re-imposed a 10% “national security” tariff on imports of aluminum from Canada.  Was that justified?  I have my doubts.  We just got the USMCA trade agreement approved and in place.  Now Canada will retaliate with tariffs on some of our products – including washing machines, golf clubs etc. We have enough problems without creating another one. 

Next – the COVID-19 aid fight.  We don’t know where this is going.  Negotiations have stalled.  President Trump said he would take care of the aid with an Executive Order if Congress won’t step up and do it.  The President ordered extended unemployment benefits, deferral of payroll taxes, and more.  Democrat leadership and some Republicans question the President’s legal authority to do this.  He is doing it any way.  Perhaps Democrats will launch a lawsuit to stop the aid, but politically that might be a bad idea for them.

A better outcome would be for both parties to come back and hammer out a compromise pandemic relief package.  Continuing Resolution – that’s what we will get.  With less than a dozen Congressional workdays left before the end of this fiscal year, Congress is not going to pass a budget.  We don’t want to shut down the government.  A Continuing Resolution will carry us beyond the election.  Late again, but they can get it done.

Trade – U.S. agriculture is in position to end this year with a net trade deficit.  I cannot ever remember that happening before.  Our deficit this year is $3 billion and not expected to get any better in a month and a half.  Corn sales are down 11%, cotton down 19% – fruits and vegetables also down.  China is coming on strong now. A 799,000 metric ton purchase of soybeans was just announced following last week’s 1 million ton purchase.  I still worry every day as our U.S. – China relations continue to deteriorate.  Trade disputes have hurt our sales, and the virus has disrupted trade.  Many normal trade channels are not working, and at the same time it is reported that there are 844 million people in the world that are “food insecure.”  They need food.

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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