By former USDA Secretary John R. Block
I am encouraged. I think that we have some pretty strong voices in the Trump Administration speaking out in support of agriculture. Our strongest voice comes from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. He said after meeting with 75 Senators “their number-one, two, and three priorities were trade, trade, and trade. The good news is that I’m a ‘grow it and sell it kind of guy’.” I might add – I think Perdue has the President’s ear. Now, it looks like we will be able to get our U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer confirmed next week. I know him from the Reagan years. He will be a strong supporter of our industry.
The President finds the time to trash more job-restrictive regulations every day. Illegals trying to cross our border have dropped by three-fourths. Also, refugees trying to come to the U.S. have fallen by nearly as much. That brings up the subject of labor for our farmers and ag industry. That is a concern, and will be a subject for another week.
Today, I want to talk about a moth – the diamondback moth. The diamondback is the most serious pest of Brassica crops such as cabbage and broccoli, etc. Vegetables in California, Florida, Texas, and other states are at risk. If field tests at Cornell University to find a solution are approved by USDA, we may have an answer.
Perhaps genetic engineering can come to the rescue. Here is how it could work. Male months are genetically engineered. They are released to mate with female moths. But because the males have been generically engineered, their offspring die before they reach adulthood. And so, the number of moths that can damage crops are drastically reduced and you won’t have to spray chemicals to kill them.
That is the same way GE is being tested to cut the mosquito population that causes Zika virus. Less mosquitoes means less chance of Zika virus. What other opportunities might be within our reach? We can only imagine.
Genetic engineering – new science at work – this is just the beginning.
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.