John Block: Two Issues

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

“Trump’s Tax Plan Would Spur Growth” – that is the headline in a recent Wall Street Journal paper.  First, let me say that President Trump’s tax reform plan is not very specific.  I think that is good.  The Congress will write the legislation anyway.  We all know if we are going to cut the tax rates, we will need to find the money somewhere.  There is one very bad idea that some Members of Congress are considering.

We just filed our taxes last month.  Farmers and many small businesses borrow a lot of money to buy seed, fertilizer, and pay machinery expenses.  We deduct that interest charge from our income.  That is a legitimate cost of doing business.  But, there are some Members of Congress that are thinking about denying that deduction to raise more tax money.  This is a red flag.  Make sure the Trump Administration and our Members of Congress know how devastating that would be.

The other subject today is organic food.  Should we be suspicious?  Is it really organic?  Two extensive articles within two weeks in the Washington Post raise that question.  One article headline is “Why Your ‘Organic’ Milk May Not Be Organic.”  After months of research and milk testing, the Post is not convinced that High Plains Dairy in Colorado is delivering legitimate organic milk.  The operation has 15,000 cows, which is 100 times bigger than the typical organic dairy farm.  Cows are in feed lots more than pastures.  Their milk was tested and it is about the same as conventional milk.  So why are we paying so much more for it?

The second article in the Washington Post provides great detail covering one whole page.  It reports that 36 million pounds of soybeans were shipped from Ukraine to Turkey, and on to California.  Somewhere along the way, shipping records changed from standard soybeans to “USDA Organic” – suddenly, the value of the shipment shot up $4 million dollars.  Besides the fake organic soybeans, we have been accepting tons of corn that is falsely labeled organic.  It is fed to livestock and chickens so that the meat and eggs can be labeled organic.

There is a German testing company that has found significant levels of pesticide in Chinese crops that are supposed to be organic.  About one-half of the organic labeled corn and soy that is fed to our livestock and poultry is imported.  And, it may not be organic.

Science tells us that organic is not any better for us than standard food, but it sure costs a lot more, and it may not even be organic.

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, visit johnblockreports.com.

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