Issues of the Day

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

I think we are all aware that many countries in Africa have a long way to go to modernize their ag industry. Their food systems need to be transformed to help their people. A positive step has been taken. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed Agnes Kalibata of Rwanda as Special Envoy to provide outreach and leadership to bring food security and productivity to millions of small farmers in Africa. Special Envoy Kalibata is well qualified with a doctorate in Entomology from the University of Massachusetts. Good luck. It won’t be easy.

On this same subject of helping the African ag industry, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to establish a new ag center in St. Louis called Gates Ag One. Their focus will be to help small holder farmers in low income countries become more productive. I have been on those small farms in Africa. They are 100 years behind us.

Back to Washington DC – with the State of the Union behind us and impeachment dead, we have a budget to talk about. This week President Trump put forward his budget for 2021. Keep in mind the Congress last summer approved a spending plan for this year and next year. The President signed the bill but now says he wants to change the budget for 2021. He wants spending cuts in most departments. It is his “conservative dream budget.” Cut commerce by 37%, EPA by 27%, US AID by 15%, Agriculture by 8% (crop insurance subsidy to be cut). The only departments that get any more money would be defense with a tiny .01% uptick. Homeland Security would get 3% more. Veterans Affairs gets the biggest bump of 13%.

President Trump is sending the message that he wants to cut spending to help balance the budget. He says there will be no cuts in Social Security or Medicare. But here is what will really happen. The President’s budget is “dead on arrival” like it is every year. Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo) said he will not even hold a hearing on the President’s budget. He stated, “nobody has listened to the President’s budget in the 23 years that I have been here.” He is right. Forget the budget now. It is more fun to watch the Democratic party struggle to choose a candidate to run against President Trump.

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.

Categories: USDA

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