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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—

It’s a new year with some new challenges, but many of the old challenges are still with us.

We have a farm bill extension to carry us through this year. Milk prices won’t double. It looks like all the work the ag committees did last year to try and get a bill was wasted. They will be starting all over again. There will be cuts in money allotted for agriculture – maybe 25 to 35 billion dollars – maybe more. Don’t expect the farm bill to be completed before next fall. There are more cliffs ahead.

The first challenge will be the debt limit, which we have already technically surpassed — $16.4 trillion. Either the government shuts down or the Congress passes legislation to allow the government to borrow more money. If we don’t get the money, we can’t pay our bills. Our credit goes in the tank. Our creditors could stop lending us money or certainly charge a higher interest rate. As farmers, we understand this. You can’t keep borrowing 40 cents of every dollar you spend. At some point, your bank will close the door. So, here we are with Republicans insisting on serious spending cuts in exchange for a vote to raise the borrowing limit. The “game of chicken” begins again.

The second cliff is also coming up March 1. The White House and the Congress agreed to cut $1.2 trillion in spending over 10 years back in August 2011. After 17 months, nothing has been cut. Now on March 1, the cuts will be automatic, across the board, equally divided between defense and non-defense spending.

I know the military hawks are wringing their hands warning about defense disaster. The liberals can’t stand to see any cuts in program spending. I say – “Let the meat ax fall.” We need to get serious about reducing our spending.

We can only hope that the new Congress with President Obama in his second term will be more responsible than in the past. Maybe the Senate will write a budget — something they have not done in almost 4 years. The House has written one each year. Maybe the Congress will appropriate money for the different departments on a timely basis — something they have not been doing. The government has been operating on a continuing resolution. The current resolution will run out at the end of March if something is not done.

Stay tuned. This circus just goes on and on.

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 from Washington 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.