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Former Ag Secretary John Block –

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

And now for today’s commentary—

I’m talking to you today by telephone from the farm in Illinois.

I was last here a little over a month ago. We were just wrapping up soybean planting then. What a difference that short time span can make. I was standing in one of the corn fields this morning, and the corn is shoulder high. It is a solid deep green color. And there are no yellow spots in any of our fields. Last year, when it rained all the time, the nitrogen loss in the wet spots was very damaging. Our yield was down by 25 percent.

Like a lot of farmers, we have big potential this year. I said potential, but no guarantee. We need rain and if we don’t get it on a timely basis, down goes the yield. Farming has about as much risk and uncertainty as gambling in Las Vegas. You can do everything right – make no mistakes and still you are at the mercy of the weather.

Anyway, the corn is beautiful and tall. When I grew up, they said the target was for corn to be “knee high by the 4th of July.” This year, our corn was hip high by the 4th of June. So we are grateful for a good start. This crop is in God’s hands now.

In walking through our hog barns, I see the mother sows in farrowing crates nursing 8, 10, or 12 little babies. I can’t help but think about all the hog farms that use gestation crates. That is about 90 percent of the hog farms. We don’t. Never have. We do pasture breeding and our mother sows run in the pasture until time to bring them in to farrow. Then they go in a crate.

The pressure on the hog industry now is to get rid of gestation crates. McDonald’s says crate free pork by 2022. The cost to switch to pens and group housing will be huge. The consequence will certainly be that a lot of producers will throw their hands up and sell out of the business. I hate to see this. The big operations will just get bigger because they have the resources to restructure.

In agriculture, we are used to challenges. Every year, we roll the dice. We don’t need to go to Las Vegas. I love it.

In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to

Until next week, I am John Block down on the farm. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.