April 01, 2004

John R. Block to discuss food safety, world hunger

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- John R. Block, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture under President Reagan, will discuss food safety and world hunger during a lecture Wednesday, April 7, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The lecture is at 7:30 p.m. in the law school auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. Block's appearance, sponsored by the Public Policy Institute, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, is part of the Gil and Jean Kroening Lecture Series.

Media Availability

Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary John R. Block will be available for interviews at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, at Stone Center on the SIUC campus. For more information, contact Public Policy Institute Development Director Matt Baughman at 618/453-4001.

Block, 69, joined President Reagan's Cabinet in 1981 and served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for five years. From 1977 to 1981, Block served as director of agriculture in Illinois under Gov. James R. Thompson.

"John Block served as an outstanding secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Reagan, and has strong Illinois ties," said Matt Baughman, development director at the Public Policy Institute.

Food safety and world hunger are "two issues that the Public Policy Institute and Gil Kroening agree are pertinent and timely, and that Mr. Block will have some particularly insightful comments and history to talk about," said Baughman.

As a member of the Reagan Cabinet and key member of the Economic Policy Council, Block dealt with difficult tax and domestic farm program issues. He played a key role in developing the 1985 farm bill that helped to restore profitability to a farm sector devastated by recession in the first half of the 1980s. During his tenure, the USDA established a Conservation Reserve Program, taking highly erodible land out of agriculture production, and insuring natural resource preservation. Under his leadership, the agriculture department's Food for Peace Program was a primary resource in feeding a starving African continent.

Baughman notes that Block remains active in agriculture and agribusiness even though he is nearly 20 years removed from his Cabinet post.

Block is currently executive vice president of the wholesale division of a Washington, D.C.-based trade association, Food Marketing Institute. The institute represents retailers and wholesalers in the U.S., Canada and overseas.

He also serves on corporate boards including Deere and Co., and Hormel Foods Corp. He is president of the board of directors of the U.S. Friends of the World Food Programme Ð a joint initiative of the United Nations and the Food and Agriculture Organization. Block is also on the board of advisers for the Retail Food Industry Center at the University of Minnesota.

This is the second Gil and Jean Kroening lecture. Gil Koening, former dean of the SIUC College of Agricultural Sciences, and his wife, Jean, a Carbondale Realtor, established the fellowship so a distinguished speaker can come to campus annually to address issues such as U.S. and world agriculture, food and environmental issues.

Creating citizen-leaders with global perspectives is among the goals of Southern@150, a long-range plan that clearly articulates a vision of becoming one of the nation's top 75 public research institutions by 2019, the year SIUC celebrates its 150th birthday.