From the Column

China Sees Woe, U.S. Ag Sees Red

The fireworks-filled, holiday celebration that is the Chinese New Year doesn’t begin until Feb. 8. Three weeks into calendar year 2016, however, key elements in China’s economy—its wildly speculative stock markets, less-than-transparent currency, sagging heavy industries—have gone boom. That weakness is already being felt in U.S. farm and ranch country. Rural America, after all, is […]

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The Quiet Month

January was a quiet month on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. Maybe it was quiet because we were quiet, drained after December’s month-long buildup to Christmas and New Year’s. Maybe it was quiet because most of our farm machines, like all of our fields, were quiet. Whatever the reason, January still brought […]

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Farm Policy By Fiat

It’s hard, messy work to make U.S. farm and food policy. It’s even harder and messier if anyone in Congress actually proposes policy, actually holds hearings to examine that policy, actually debates and, then, actually votes on how it might affect every farmer, rancher, and eater in the country. Easier by far is to sneak […]

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Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

Originally written on December 25, 1994, this column is now reprinted annually by Alan’s editors across the country to celebrate the season of giving. The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered our farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby woodstove. […]

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On the Road: New York City

Chelsea Market, a block-long, block-wide brick building in New York’s lower west side, was built 120 years ago on the edge of the city’s then-bustling meatpacking district to house a rising food powerhouse, the National Biscuit Company. It was no accident that the-state-of-the-art food factory was located near the city’s slaughterhouses; the neighborhood was knee-deep […]

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CRISPR’s Children

About the only one ever happy to see a mosquito is a hungry purple martin, the acrobatic swallow that dines on the bothersome insects morning, noon, and night. You and me, however, would be perfectly happy never to see another mosquito for the rest of our lives. Science can now make that happen. A powerful […]

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Never Heard of CRISPR? You will.

Few sectors of the global economy are more hooked on gene modification technology than agriculture. Food powerhouses like the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina now grow genetically modified (GM) crops on 40, 23, and 13 percent, respectively, of their arable land and one in five farmable acres around the world grows GM crops. Adoption of GM […]

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Thanksgiving Choices

The gray dullness of November finally made it to Illinois a couple of weeks late. The morning of its arrival began like almost every morning since Labor Day, warm and with a breeze. By noon, however, a sharp wind was blowing from the east and the low groan of thunder promised both a rain and […]

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Who’s The Boss?

In the world of agricultural cooperatives there’s none bigger than Minnesota-based CHS Inc. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, the energy, grain, food, and farm supply giant did $42.9 billion in business in its fiscal year 2014. That makes the mighty CHS bigger than Deere & Co., DuPont, and Tyson Foods, and far bigger […]

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Crop Insurance Goes Global

It was the legislative equivalent of pulling an elephant out of a hat as the stage curtain was about to fall. The day before the House of Representatives voted 266-167 to approve a long-sought, two-year federal spending deal, House and Senate ag committee members complained that the proposed deal—unseen and unaudited—contained an eight-year, $3-billion cut […]

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