Hello everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.

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Last Friday, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hosted a breakfast at the Department of Agriculture’s executive dining room for former Secretaries of Agriculture.  In attendance were Mike Johanns, Ann Veneman, Dan Glickman, and Yours Truly.  Mike Espy and Tom Vilsack were unable to attend.  We talked about all the challenges that the ag industry faces today.  That bipartisan meeting is valuable for Secretary Perdue and the whole food industry.  Unlike the Congress, there was a lot of unity in that room.

Let me put on the table the hot ag issues of today and where we are.

Do you want to be required to get a permit to dig a ditch or drain a wet hole on your farm?  President Obama issued a rule expanding the Waters of the U.S. regulation of wetlands and ditches.  The Trump Administration is clawing that back because it is overreach, and farmers don’t need that kind of interference.  The fight is not over because environmentalists will challenge the new rule in court.

This week, President Trump is expected to sign a new farm bill.  No one was sure it would get done, but we will have a five-year bill that provides some certainty.  The new bill is not dramatically different from the one we had.  It does help dairy farmers a little more.  We have a huge surplus of milk and especially cheese.  The Dairy Program is too complicated to talk about.  The work requirements in the House bill were eliminated because that was a non-starter.  Anyway, thank you to the Congress for getting one very important bipartisan piece of legislation done.

Let’s talk about trade.  At last, China is back to buying our soybeans.  How much?  We shall see.  I think China is going to make some concessions on trade.  Their economy is not doing so great.  I know that our stock market is slightly lower today than it was one year ago, but the Chinese market is down 20%.  Hope I’m not too optimistic.  Turn away from soybeans and look at pork and beef.  Record exports in 2018.  Also, 2019 is projected up again.

You may know the answer to the next question by the time you hear this program.  Will we face a federal government shutdown?  Or, will the Congress fund the wall demanded by President Trump?

Maybe there is some compromise or Congress could just kick the can down the road with a short-term funding deal.  I predict no shutdown.

Merry Christmas!

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com

Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C.