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The big profit margins aren't in exporting grain -- and John Block knows it. True, Agricultural Secretary Block leaves Oct. 9 on a two-week promotion tour through South Korea, Japan, China, and Hong Kong designed to sign up new customers for US wheat, corn, and soybeans. That's still a priority goal at a time of bumper grain harvests in the US.

But support is growing in the farm belt and on Capitol Hill for a switch away from exporting high-bulk, low-price grain. Instead, critics say, the US should concentrate on exporting high-priced agricultural products such as beef and poultry.

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Block, a successful Illinois hog farmer, knows the profitability of feeding corn to hogs rather than selling it directly. But he faces stiff opposition to any changes -- particularly from the giant grain-trading firms that like the system just the way it is.m

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