Current Week

Farm Program

July 20, 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary— Let’s talk about the farm bill today.

The level of support and type of support has evolved over time. Today’s bill isn’t my father’s farm bill.

The importance of farm supports to farmers has diminished over the years. When I came in as Secretary of Agriculture, the farm program was designed to support price and stabilize farm income. To lift price, we had acreage set asides. Take 10% of your corn land out of production, and you would qualify for price supports.

Things began to change over time. Exports continued to grow in importance. As a member of the World Trade Organization, the pressure began to build to ensure that a country’s farm program did not distort planting of the crops. We’re living with an infraction now. We have been paying Brazil millions of dollars because our cotton program has not satisfied WTO.

With most price supports gone, to help farmers we went to direct payments. These payments were hard to justify. You didn’t have to do anything to earn them. Now, they are.

Suddenly, we look at today’s farm bill and 80% of the money goes for food stamps, school lunch, and WIC. We’ve always called it a “farm bill,” but I’m not sure it is. As we wrote this last bill, the traditional alliance of farmers and nutrition advocates almost collapsed.

The Congress is working on the appropriations to fund our new farm bill. It’s not easy. School nutrition requirements are still in debate. When I look at the farm supports, I think they are too complicated. How did that happen? 600 companies spent half a billion dollars on lobbying for 2 years, telling the Congress what to put in the bill. It’s a food bill today. Not a farm bill.

On the farm side, the centerpiece of the bill is crop insurance. It is meant to manage the risk of draught, floods, and other crop problems. Crop insurance is government-subsidized to the level of 60%. To receive crop insurance, you must be in compliance with the conservation requirements of the bill.

Some individuals think this 5-year farm bill is our last. I doubt that. However, we could see farm and food part ways the next time around. Farm bills over the decades have become more market-oriented, and that’s where the next one will lead.

That’s it for this week. Until next week, I am John Block in Washington, D.C.

Previous Weeks

Checkoff Programs

July 9 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country.

This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

The ag industry in recent years has been on a roll – strong prices, increased exports, reasonable yields and a level of optimism not enjoyed by much of the rest of our economy.

Still, it’s no time to relax. As an industry, a…

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Roads & Bridges

June 12 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today's commentary —

What's in the news? It's all over TV – the Veterans Administration scandal. Next, you will hear about the questionable swap of 5 terrorist prisoners for 1 army deserter. Obama Care problems are always in the news. However, have you…

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This and That

June 5 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today's commentary —

This week, we'll talk about more than one issue. The first is one that really concerns me and should concern farmers and ranchers across the country. The EPA is at it again. They have given the public until July 21 to comment on new…

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Farming Today

May 29 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

This week, I’ve been walking the fields of corn and soybeans on our Illinois farm. Those little seeds germinated, and the plants are pushing through the soil and heading skyward. Look down those green rows stretching across the…

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Export Advantage

May 22 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today's commentary —

U.S. agriculture has a global competitive advantage. We have access to, and use the best production technologies available. We have creative, educated, smart farmers and ranchers tilling the land and managing the livestock. But…

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Federal Land

May 15 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today's commentary —

The federal government doesn't have many fans in rural America, and we can't blame everything on EPA. Now, the Forest Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Bureau of Land Management both have…

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GE Crops

May 8 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary —

Did you know that 80% of the food we eat here in the U.S. contains ingredients that have been genetically engineered? GE technology is not new. We have eaten our weight in GE foods. All of the corn and soy bean acres that we are…

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Dietary Guidelines vs. Sustainability

May 5 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary— 

Congress directed the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to publish dietary guidelines containing “nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public.” In developing the 2015 Dietary…

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Down on the Farm

May 1 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary— 

 I was on the farm in Illinois last week and part of this week. Of course, the first subject to talk about today is the farm. It’s time to plant corn. The weather cooperated, and watching that corn planter roll across that black land…

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Trans-Pacific Partnership

April 24 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary— 

We started planting corn this week on our Illinois farm. It is always exciting to begin a new season. A lot of people depend on the U.S. farmer; not only our own citizens, but we export almost 30% of what we produce, feeding people all…

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