Former Ag Secretary John Block –

Hello everybody out there in farm country.

And now for today’s commentary—

May 15 is almost here. Look back 150 years. Abraham Lincoln was President and he signed a bill establishing the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency’s responsibility was “scientific experimentation” and “new seeds and plants.” That was the beginning of today’s vast and flourishing land-grant university system. Our Department of Agriculture took the lead in scientific progress in farming.

Just consider what has been accomplished over those years. We have the safest, most abundant, and reasonably priced food in the world. An American family spends less than 10 percent of disposable income on food; China and Mexico more than 22 percent. Our food and forestry industry provides employment for 1 in 12 Americans. Our ag industry is the envy of the world.

There you have it – 150 very successful years. But what about the years ahead? By year 2050, the world will have 2 billion more mouths to feed. We have a challenge. However, we can successfully meet that challenge if we continue to promote agricultural research, science, innovation – including today’s amazing productivity-driven biotechnology. When I was a boy, our corn yield was 70 bushels per acre. Today, we expect 200 bushels per acre. We couldn’t raise more than 70 bushels because weeds and corn bore and root worms were terrible problems. When I got older, we started using chemicals to fight the weeds and pests. Now that we have biotech crops, we have cut the use of chemicals. With herbicides, we don’t need to till the soil as much, reducing the amount of energy used in raising a crop.

With minimum tillage, we are able to cut erosion and soil run-off. Perhaps you didn’t notice, but we are living sustainable agriculture’s “green revolution.”

We don’t know what new technology lies ahead. We do know that in order to produce enough food we need to employ all of today’s technology and to follow through with President Lincoln’s plan. We need to search for the next hybrid seed or biotech discovery.
The world has a limited number of crop acres. We don’t want to cut down the rain forests. We don’t want to see starvation across the globe.
I ask that you broadcast this message of success and hope for our future to your friends, neighbors, and policy makers.

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.