John Block: Issues

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

It could be announced any time, but we still don’t know. Will the EPA provide a waiver to allow the sale of E15 ethanol blended fuel during the summer? Right now, the sale of E15 is restricted June 1 through September 15. National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Skunes had this to say: “E15 is more affordable at the pump and better for the environment. There is no good reason to limit access to E15 in the summer.”

I say, let’s get it done.

Next week on June 12, President Trump is scheduled to meet in Singapore with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. No sitting U.S. President has ever agreed to meet directly with the North Korean leader. Can we get an agreement to denuclearize North Korea? Some politicians worry President Trump will not be tough enough. We need to be talking instead of getting ready for war.

Keep in mind that President Trump backed out of the agreement with Iran because it wasn’t good enough. It’s hard for me to imagine he would agree to a bad deal with North Korea.

Something else to remember – Kim Jong-un wants to see North Korea prosper. That’s not going to happen with the global restrictions they face today.

Look back – President Nixon went to China. President Reagan negotiated a deal with Gorbachev. Those surprise actions have proven historic, but they weren’t very popular at the time. We know that a one or two-day summit is not going to fix everything. But it is a start. And you can bet that South Korea will be cheering for a deal. I think China would also want a resolution. China was not happy when President Trump was rattling the saber at North Korea.

My last issue is the one that worries the ag industry the most – trade war. The back and forth tariffs between the U.S., China, Europe, Canada, and Mexico are driving our ag commodity prices down. We desperately need expanded trade to lift farm income. The Wall Street Journal reports: “China has offered to purchase nearly $70 billion of U.S. farm manufacturing and energy products if the Trump Administration abandons threatened tariffs.” That sounds good to me. Let’s cut a deal.

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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