By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.
I want to talk about a frog today, but before the frog hops up on the table – just a few words on the subject of trade.
The U.S. trade deficit rose in August to $53.2 billion. That’s up $3.2 billion. A decline in soybean and oil exports is what pulled us down. China is not buying our beans – at least, not now. Their companies don’t want to pay the 25% tariff imposed by China on our beans.
There is some good news. USA Rice Chairman Charley Mathews, Jr. is cheering a big purchase – 90,000 metric tons of rice by Iraq. That is triple what they had been buying. The National Pork Producers Council is praising President Trump for announcing that the U.S. and Japan are to begin trade talks. National Pork Producers Council President Jim Heimer said: “Fantastic news. Japan has been our top export market for years.”
Also, beef exports are expected to increase to South Korea. The duty has just been reduced to 21.3% from 40% and will be eliminated by 2026. Cattlemen are excited to see the U.S. as the largest supplier of beef to South Korea.
We need to make free trade deals with South Korea, Japan, and other Asian countries because we are not part of the Trans Pacific agreement. President Trump withdrew.
I said I wanted to talk about a frog. Here we go. Assume that you own a farm and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came and said they would take it away from you, even though you own it. It would be off limits to you. The dusky gopher frog doesn’t live on your land but the government decided it would be a perfect home for that useless frog. He is an endangered species but to kick a farmer off of 1,500 acres of his land for a useless frog is outrageous.
It has been more than 50 years since the gopher frog was on any Louisiana land. Gopher frogs live in Mississippi now. The Louisiana land owner has been fighting a legal battle with the government to save his farm for years.
Can the federal government designate private land as a critical habitat for an endangered species even when the animal isn’t living on that land? Well, the Supreme Court just heard the case. There seems to be a split on what to do. Maybe our new Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh will support a farmer’s private property rights. We hope.
Last point – it’s big news. President Trump just announced that E15 ethanol can be sold year round. More on this subject next week.
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.