Former Ag Secretary John Block –

Hello everybody out there in farm country.

And now for today’s commentary—

I was hungry and in a hurry yesterday after a meeting down town. I couldn’t help myself. I ducked into McDonald’s and grabbed a double cheeseburger and ice cream. How could I do that – eating that junk food with all the concern about obesity?

Let’s consider this national obesity issue. I read a report this fall that predicted that half of the adults in the U.S. would be obese by 2030. It went on to say “personal willpower and efforts to maintain a healthy weight are largely impossible.”

There are all kinds of opinions about this problem. The experts in the field of nutrition have been telling us – eat less fat. Well, we are eating less fat. They told us to eat less meat. We’re eating less meat. Eat more fruits and vegetables. They attack fast food restaurants. The simple fact is that it doesn’t matter what we eat as much as how much we eat. All the research tells us that it’s calories that count. Consume too many calories and you will get fat.

I don’t think you can categorize what we eat as good food or bad food. We know it’s not good to just eat one thing. Gorging yourself on French fries or candy is bad. Eat a wide variety of food. There’s nothing wrong with a McDonald’s burger.

Let’s face the facts – food is cheap and it tastes good. And we don’t get the exercise we used to.

Taxing soft drinks, so-called junk food, won’t work. In a rich society such as the U.S., we will never raise the cost of food to a level to make any real difference. We spend less money on food in this country than any country in the world – less than 10% of expenditures. The world average is 35%. In the countries where they spend 30% or more for food, they aren’t fat. But we’re not going there.
Our government requires mandatory labeling of the food that we buy. That’s a good thing, but the only thing on that label that really counts are calories.

I don’t think that government taxes and regulation will do very much to deal with our obesity problem. That doesn’t mean that the politicians won’t try. It makes them look good. They are doing something; might help to get them elected.

I know we’re looking for an easy answer. How about personal responsibility and will power?

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 in 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.