This year has been one for the record book, and it’s not over yet. We were riding a wave of success when it started with the lowest unemployment in years – rising wages and the ag industry had an exciting trade deal with China. Then along came the Coronavirus – killing millions of people all around the world. No one can be certain of safety. In the spring when the virus hit and devastated New York and California, rural America hoped it might miss us. No way – it went to Texas and Florida and now the Midwest is the latest hot spot. The Dakotas, Iowa, Wisconsin and spreading fast. There is no escape.
Now – President Trump has the virus. We are happy he seems to be recovering quickly. We pray for all individuals and families that have had to deal with this. It has been a major disruption of global trade. Jobs have been lost. Many of the world’s countries that used to be big customers of ours just don’t have the money to buy our export goods. Our U.S. trade deficit hit a record high in August - $67 billion including services. The deficit in goods – almost $84 billion. China seems to be recovering faster than a lot of other countries. The Washington Post writes: “Economies in Europe, Japan, Brazil and India all are projected to suffer deeper recessions this year than the U.S. U.S. output is expected to drop 4% while Europe will experience a 7% decline.” If we are going to recover from the virus recession, we will have to do it without much help from overseas.
Here is another challenge that we face here in the U.S. Wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington. Fires have burned more than 4 million acres. We may have a shortage of California wine now. Everyone is looking for who to blame. Fires in the West are not new. But they are worse this year. It is warm. Can we blame climate change? But we are not going to fix climate change overnight. We could, however, do a much better job of managing our forests. All the dead trees, wood, and leaves are just waiting for the first spark. Stop worrying about the spotted owl. Clean up our forests. If we don’t, the owl will burn with everything else.
I have escaped the wild and crazy political wars of Washington, DC. I am on my farm in Illinois. My first time back since the virus hit. My voice will sound a little different since I am on the phone. I am so excited to look at our fields of corn and soybeans – I walk in the corn fields, check the ears. Our combines are out and starting to roll. Corn moisture is not bad – about 24%. I’m a little surprised, but our soybeans are ready for harvest. The weather is just beautiful here this week.
As I look at our crops, I feel so grateful. Thank you, God. I can’t help but feel sorry for the farms in Iowa and other states that had their crops destroyed. Don’t forget about the hurricanes in the South East. Farming is a risky business. On our farm we have dealt with down corn in years past. We have seen the Spoon River flood our river bottom corn and soybeans. Even if you do everything right - timely planting, good seed, weed control - you can’t control the weather. I am reading in Successful Farming magazine that because of La Niña, next year’s weather “could bring widespread severe drought and catastrophic hurricanes to the United States.” They project well below trend yields in 2021. Hope they are wrong.
I was in our hog barns. Three new litters born yesterday. Our hogs are healthy and happy. We have a trailer load (180 head) headed for market tomorrow. Processing plants are managing the virus now. A positive lift for agriculture – President Trump announced that USDA will roll out another $13 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers whose markets have been disrupted by coronavirus. That should help. Farmers and ranchers say thank you.
I also want to thank my farm team. They do the hard work – growing, harvesting, caring for baby pigs. I do the easy work – selling the grain at the right time or wrong time. Nothing is easy. And yet, I love it – just being with my feet on this rich black soil and holding a beautiful golden ear of corn in my hand.
Until next week, this John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.
I want to open today by talking about corn. There are a lot of crops planted in the Midwest, but none as important to the economy as corn. When I grew up we fed the corn that we produced to our pigs, cows, and chickens. Our yield per acre was about 70 bushels. Today we expect 250 bushels per acre or more. We are thankful that the industry has found new uses for corn besides feed. Forty percent of our corn crop is processed into ethanol. That has meant everything to the corn industry.
When you are farming, you are faced with a lot of unknowns - What will the weather be like? Will these low prices ever recover? Our corn and soybeans are planted on my Illinois farm. They are up and it is time to spray to kill weeds. We are ready. But just last week the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court ruled that herbicides whose active ingredient is dicamba cannot be used. We already paid for that weed killer. We have been using chemical Roundup for years. Suddenly out of nowhere, we were unsure about what to do. Suddenly, Monday evening this week, EPA announced farmers can still spray dicamba on our crops. The weed killer can only be used until July 31.
For the Court to throw a wrench into the works just when we needed to spray was the ultimate of inconsideration. Thank God and the EPA – we will be spraying this weed killer unless another roadblock is thrown up. If you are in the business of farming, you never know what your next challenge will be.
That is true with a lot of small family businesses you see them on television where their stores have been destroyed and looted by rioters. Who would have ever expected this? Peaceful protests are fine. I read an article about an Idaho city. Many heavily armed citizens came out to support peaceful protesters and protect local businesses and citizens against shipped in ANTIFA members, but when they saw the local defense, they did not cause any trouble. They knew that looting and destruction would not be tolerated. A local citizen, Brett Surplus drove into the city and here is what he saw-
“Wall to wall with armed citizens walking the streets and sidewalks making their powerful presence known. Good guys with guns keep bad guys with evil intent away.” I know this kind of defense could work in rural America but in our big cities – not a chance. I know that the message is out that there are some bad cops, but the vast majority are great. More than 70% of our citizens think our police do a good job. The far left are demanding that we “defund the police”. That would result in more crime.
The debate goes on. Stores are opening and the crops are in God’s hands now.
The Coronavirus came out of nowhere and has crippled the world economy, killing thousands and thousands of people. The virus is not through yet either. Look at Brazil. President Trump just shut off travel from Brazil to the US. As our new cases have declined, things are getting better here. Our economy is starting to open up. We can’t stay locked down. China is where the virus originated. Loud voices screaming from both parties to see who can be tougher on China. China allowed the virus to spread all over the world and now they plan to put a heavy hand on Hong Kong. Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden says President Trump is too soft on China. What should the US response be? Will President Trump abandon the “Phase One” China trade deal? Let’s hope not. China has committed to buy $80 billion of ag products. President Trump negotiated a good deal for the US and especially agriculture. He made progress on protecting our intellectual property.
Turn to the UK – Prime Minister Johnson wants a comprehensive trade deal with the US and he wants it done soon. We are ready but the fact that the UK has not finalized a trade deal in their separation from the European Union may be a problem. Speaking of the EU, they have adopted some sweeping goals for their agriculture industry that to me are shocking. They want to transform how Europeans farm and what they eat. They want 25% of their food production to be organic. They want to dramatically reduce the chemicals used in farming by 50%. Fertilizer is to be cut by 20%. If they don’t use some chemicals to kill the weeds, they will need a lot more labor to hoe the crops. They don’t use biotechnology now to keep the corn borer and root worms at bay. That’s one reason why they use more pesticides than we do. Their goal is to reduce carbon emissions and improve water quality. That’s good. But here is what will happen. They will produce less food.
We all know that organic farming delivers less food. If the farmers of the world don’t accept and utilize new technology, yields could be 30% less. Who is going to starve? Of course, the world could cut down more forest land in order to produce enough food. I don’t think the EU plan makes much sense.
Until next week, this is John Block reporting from Washington, D.C. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.
. There is no shortage of issues to talk about. I am so sick of listening to the left wing politicians’ constant attack on President Trump and the impeachment hysteria. Get over it! If you don’t like him, we have an election next November and you can vote for his challenger. Of course, no one knows who that will be. It is all politics. USMCA, which is a much-improved trade agreement over NAFTA is just sitting there waiting for the House to vote. They don’t want to give Trump a victory.