By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.
I will be on my farm in Illinois this week and next week I will report what I find. For now, realizing that almost 30% of our ag production is exported, world markets can be the difference between farm profitability and loss. We now have negotiated favorable agreements with Canada and Mexico (USMCA). We have a deal with China also. Now, they need to be enforced. The United States and our ag industry will see big benefits.
Next on the list, our trade negotiations will begin with talks with the UK. As UK splits from the European Union, they are anxious for a new trade agreement with the US. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that the UK wants to “rigorously protect their National Health Service.” Johnson said, “We want to uphold our high standards of food safety and animal welfare.” My reaction is – there shouldn’t be any barriers there. Our food safety and animal welfare can measure up to any other country in the world. We are already talking to the Europe Union in hopes of negotiating a big reduction in their Ag trade barriers. Their barriers are not based on science. They have shut the door on most genetically modified food products while we eat them every day. We can’t feed the world if we refuse to use new technology to increase food production. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue challenged Europe to accept genetically modified crops and animal growth hormones. He said, “overly burdensome and unnecessary regulatory restrictions hold farmers back from taking advantage of new technologies and producing more food with fewer inputs.” Reform won’t be easy. French President Macron says he will fight to protect E.U. farm subsidies.
According to the USTR many of our trading partners use huge trade tariffs to protect select industries. Under World Trade Organization rules, those tariff rates are locked in place with no sunset clause. President Trump does not want the US to exit the World Trade Organization, but it must be reformed. That’s enough on trade.
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.