By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.
What should we focus on today? Let’s start with African Swine Fever. ASF is the deadliest disease threatening the pork industry. It is estimated that China has lost as much as 30% of their swine. We don’t have any vaccine to protect our pigs. Fortunately, the virus does not infect humans. With the liquidation of so many animals in China, pork prices have skyrocketed. Our pork exports to China are off the chart. ASF is spreading to other countries including eastern Europe. We need to do everything we can to keep it out of the U.S. If we get African Swine Fever, other countries will shut down all our pork exports.
Now that we are talking about trade let me suggest that of all the legislation that needs to be passed, perhaps the most important is USMCA.
USMCA is the new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada – an improved and updated NAFTA. It should be easy to get it passed but it won’t be. Some Democrats want changes in the deal. It’s also a fact that they don’t want Trump to win anything. President Trump isn’t helping the effort since he wants to keep steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada. Senator Grassley said, “we’ve got to get rid of the tariffs or nothing is going to happen.” He is right.
Last subject – GMO’s and Gene Editing. Science is making it possible to do things that former generations never imagined. Most of the corn, soybeans and some other crops that we grow are not what they used to be. With genetic engineering, they resist root worms and other critters that can damage the plants. The plants are not affected by our weed killers either. We get a big bump in yield with less labor and energy.
We have a gene editing technique called CRISPR which has given us cows born without horns. GMO technology makes it possible to move a gene from one organism to another. When scientists do gene editing they can just alter one particular gene in an animal. They are not bringing in outside genes. All this science has opened the door to the most shocking announcement. But not surprising, a Chinese scientist moved ahead with gene-editing of humans. What’s next – designer babies?
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 online to www.johnblockreports.com.