Congressional Change in Leadership Could Impact Agriculture

Former Ag Secretary sees potential power shift sending a message.

Published on: Sep 9, 2010

Reagan Administration Agriculture Secretary John Block says a GOP Congress next year would likely mean fewer differences from Democrats on the farm bill, and more on trade and regulations. Block, who headed USDA from 1981 to 1986 and worked on the 1985 Farm Bill, suggests party label may not play that big a role in formulating the 2012 Farm Bill.

"I think we're going to be faced with some cuts anyway, it's just a matter of can we hold our ground," Block said. "And I'm not critical of Chairman Peterson, I think he's fought a good battle, he's actually fought against Nancy Pelosi on several issues." 

Still, Block says more Republicans from rural areas could change the urban balance in the House and improve agriculture's voice in the Congress.

However money will continue to be a huge issue, influenced by the debt crisis, the 'tea party' movement and other factors, and it will impact the next farm bill.

"I think even for the Democrats, I don't think they know just where this thing is headed," Block said. "Nobody does for sure because nobody has really acknowledged how powerful the movement will be to get control of our spending. And until they do I don't think they're going to know what kind of farm bill we're going to be looking at. I think that the direct payments are in jeopardy, but there are other things that we'll have to wait and see where this takes us." 

Meantime, Block hopes a power-shift in Congress sends a message to the Obama White House that it can't let EPA just, as he puts it, "run amok over everybody."

"If you have a pond out in the field; it's your pond but they want or regulate that," Block said. "If you have a little creek running through your farm; they want to regulate that. It's just everything, the dust - as if they don't know that there is going to be some dust when a combine runs through a field, harvesting corn." 

Separately, Block sees a new push to ratify languishing trade deals with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.

"I've said several times that this Administration, they are talking about trade, doubling trade in five years, but you have to do something," Block said. "You can't just talk about it, and there's a lot of things you can do and they haven't done much." 

Block blames organized labor for the plight of the trade deals, which have been languishing now for more than two years awaiting ratification by Congress.