John Block: Priorities for 2017

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

We know some people are not happy to see Donald Trump move into the White House. However, many others are very excited. Just go to rural America. Farmers, ranchers, and most red states cannot wait for President Trump to get rid of the flood of regulations that President Obama has weighing on our shoulders. Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) is at the top of the list. The Obama EPA has tried to regulate everything. On my farm, we need to be able to tile a wet hole, straighten a creek, or dig a ditch to improve drainage. We don’t want to be required to get a permit to make improvements on our own farms.

One of the next challenges for the new Republican leadership will be reform of the tax code. Our tax code is thousands of pages, and too complicated. We want the estate tax repealed. Farmers and small businesses should be able to pass their businesses on to the next generation. It’s not right for the federal government to come in and steal it. And, U.S. corporations should not be able to hide their profits in other countries – bring it home.

Also, an industry like agriculture is very concerned about trade since we export almost 30% of our production. We know Mr. Trump wants better trade deals, and I support that. Other countries use tariffs and non-tariff barriers to protect their industries. We don’t have many barriers to their imports. So, as we move to give our companies a fair deal, we certainly don’t need a trade war.

Another question – what about Obama Care? The public doesn’t like it. Republicans will keep some parts of it to include parents keeping their children on their health plan until they reach 26 years, and will make sure pre-existing conditions will not deny an individual health insurance. Repealing Obama Care will be easy, but replacing it without losing the 20 million new enrollees that the plan now helps will be hard.

Let’s not forget about immigration. Yes, we need a wall or at least a much more secure border. Beyond that, we need immigration reform. Send the bad guys back to where they came from. The good immigrants that have been here a long time need to be made legal. We need to be able to bring in farm help to pick the strawberries and milk the cows, and butcher the hogs. I think we will get this done in the next two years. After all, Trump is a dealmaker.

I am optimistic about the next four years. Consumer confidence is spiking up. The stock market had made a run. In spite of the low farm prices, farms and ranchers are very excited and hopeful.

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

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