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This & That

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

The meat industry in the U.S. has been shaken by the explosion of fake meat.  Go into your favorite fast food restaurant and you can order a burger that’s not meat.  It tastes like a hamburger, but it is soybeans and peas and who knows what.  Beyond Meat is one of the companies selling the plant-based burgers and the company’s stock is up 4-fold this year.  The meat industry is fighting to stop their new competitors from using the word “meat.”  It’s not meat.  The dairy industry doesn’t want to hear the word almond milk either.  We’ve got something to chew on now.  The battle has just begun.    

Here is some good news.  For years we have been told – red meat is bad for you.  Processed meat must be avoided.  Now we have a new scientific review by a respected team of researchers.  They report that the connection between red and processed meat and cardiovascular health, cancer risk and other health outcomes is not clear.  The evidence is not there to recommend that we reduce our consumption of red meat or processed meat.  The scientific community is divided on this issue.  Consumers will be confused but I’ll feel good when I order my steak and bacon burger. 

Some other positive news is that U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer and Japanese Trade Envoy signed a new bilateral trade deal.  The agreement will give U.S. agriculture equal access to the Japanese market that was negotiated in the Asian trade deal that President Trump pulled the U.S. out of.  President Trump called the new pact with Japan a “game changer” for farmers and ranchers. 

Trade talks with China this week.  Optimism is not what it could be.  On Monday President Trump “blacklisted” 8 Chinese companies.  The U.S. will not sell them products that they use in surveillance of Muslim minorities in Western China.  Our action is not going to be a positive step for trade negotiations.  China has been buying more of our soybeans and pork in the last week or two to warm the atmosphere.  Now we have poured cold water on the meeting.  I still hold some hope.   

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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