By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.
All we hear about are the trade deals we can’t get completed. Our new agreement with Mexico and Canada (USMCA) sits in limbo without Congressional approval. We withdrew from the newly negotiated Asian trade deal the day President Trump took office. We are still deeply concerned if we will be able to end the trade war with China.
But did you know that China and 16 Asian nations are working toward a new Regional Economic Partnership? The countries will include China, Philippines, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and maybe India. The target time to sign is next year. I would say it could be a big deal. The U.S. seems to be on the “outside looking in” on too many trade agreements. Maybe phase 1 of our trade wars with China can be settled. President Trump wants to sign an agreement with Chinese President Xi in the U.S., hopefully in farm state Iowa. Talks continue. China wants removal of many of the tariffs now in place. We shall see.
I find it interesting and encouraging that agriculture - farmers and ranchers - seem to be in the headlines every day. I have never seen the time when politicians of both parties made a major effort to get support from our industry. Democratic candidates including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and almost all the others have toured ethanol plants in Iowa. The one candidate that has not is Bernie Sanders. It is a new political world out there with our industry in the spotlight. Newspapers and TV are giving more attention to agriculture and Rural America then I could ever imagine.
Next week I will attend the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) Convention in Kansas City. I have been attending their annual conventions every year going back to 1981. I will be moderating a panel on Wednesday afternoon. We will be looking at our farm economy today and how it compares to the 1980’s. I will also be on the farm in Illinois next weekend. I would love to finish harvest. I know farmers are making some progress but as of last weekend US farmers still had almost half of our corn to pick and 75% of our soy beans. Way behind normal.
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.