By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.
Some listeners might get tired of hearing about trade disputes. Why are they important? Well, for the ag industry it makes the difference between profit and loss because we export 20-30% of our farm production. Chinese tariffs have been very costly. Our government will be providing assistance to farmers hurt by the trade war. Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production says qualified farmers could start getting some money from the $16 billion Market Facilitation Program next month. Farmers received government support last year and will get some this year. That will be welcome, but we really want an end to the trade conflict with China.
Now we have some trade war hawk voices crying out that “a China deal could cost Trump the election next year.” I don’t agree. A deal should help the President. President Trump and President Xi are expected to meet in September. It would be a victory if something could be worked out by then.
China isn’t the only trade question. We have negotiated a new agreement with Canada and Mexico. USMCA needs to be passed by our Congress. There is strong bipartisan support for the bill, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t let the House vote on it. She is demanding significant changes. To me it is all politics.
Here is what the National Corn Growers Association had to tell us. “Over the past 25 years American agriculture exports have tripled to Canada and quintupled to Mexico. Times are tough across the farm belt and reaffirming our relationship with Mexico and Canada will provide a more certain future for American farmers. It’s time for Congress to pass USMCA!” Well, I second that motion.
Next week the European Commission’s new Director General for Trade will come to Washington to talk trade. The EU is a problem. At this point they have refused to include agriculture in the trade talks. Let’s not forget about Japan. We are working with them now to cut a trade deal. The word is that we could have one by some time in September. Stay cool.
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.