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Virus and Low Prices

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

We have never seen anything like the Coronavirus.  It has been infecting countries all over the world.  I guess that reminds us that we live in a global economy. This virus is an infectious disease that knows no borders.  I am impressed how Americans – rich and poor, rural and urban, even Republican and Democrats, have come together to defend our nation against a common threat.  I’m not suggesting that we don’t have any political conflicts.  But the Senate last week passed a $2 trillion stimulus package by unanimous vote – Republicans and Democrats standing together.  This is a war and we must fight it.  President Trump says that we will need another month of lock down.  There is talk of one more stimulus package. 

President Trump is joining with Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass “a very big and bold” infrastructure bill as a component of the next coronavirus relief legislation.  I guess we need to spend money to get our jobs and economy back to where they were.

Another subject very vital to the ag industry – we need workers.  Ag Secretary Sunny Perdue is cheering for the State Department.  They announced changes to the H-2A and H-2B visa programs.  They will authorize temporary visas without in-person interviews.  That will dramatically speed up the process.  We need workers now as the planting crop season is at hand.

There has been a lot of concern about making sure that food gets to the consumer.  Families are getting their food from the grocery stores or having it delivered.  In more cities the restaurants are closed except for take-out.  Consumers purchased 77% more meat in March than before.  And still, meat prices in the last 3 weeks have dropped 3.5%.  What is going on?  Iowa Senator Grassley has called for an antitrust investigation into the beef industry.  It has been a surprise to me to watch pork prices.  They keep going down.  I realize one problem is that we have too many market pigs and calves.  Especially pigs – we have 4.3% more than last year.  Hang on for the ride.

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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