By former USDA Secretary John R. Block
Issue number 1 – China is very unhappy that President Trump has imposed heavy tariffs on Chinese exports. Tensions have escalated. When I was in China with the Farm Broadcasters in June, we had a long meeting with our U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad. He was challenging the Chinese unfair trade practices, but was reserved.
Not now – he is very vocal in openly criticizing China because on September 23, China
Daily bought an ad in the Des Moines Register, an Iowa newspaper, criticizing U.S. actions on trade. I know we have “free speech” and “free press” but this is too much. The trade war goes on.
So that you are not worried: the federal government will not shut down. Most of the money to keep the doors open has been appropriated for the coming year. There will be a little work to do in December.
I wish I could say the same about the farm bill. The 2014 farm bill has officially expired. Now, can we get a new bill by the end of the year? There are several hurdles blocking the passage of a new bill, but the biggest is the House insisting on work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients. The Senate says “no way.”
The biggest event of the week was Canada coming aboard with the U.S. and Mexico on a new NAFTA – now to be called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the Canadian Foreign Affairs Rep had this to say: “USMCA will give our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses a high-standard trade agreement that will result in freer markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth in our region.”
Canada and Mexico are two of our biggest trading partners. Sealing the deal is not only good for North America; it sends a strong sign to other countries where we have trade disputes. I’m sure China is watching. If they keep watching, they are going to see new agreements with Japan and the European Union. As Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “The dominoes will begin to fall.”
The USMCA is a win for our dairy industry and the wheat industry. Wheat sold to Canada will now be graded the same as Canadian wheat. Harmonizing food safety standards across all three countries is progress.
Maybe Brett Kavanaugh will get approved. I hope so.
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, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.