From the Column

Picking Up the Tab

In good years and in bad, there’s a lot of money in American food. Regardless of the year, however, less of it flows back to the folks who actually grow the food, American farmers and ranchers.
For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that cash paid to American farmers and ranchers this year—for everything […]

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Cat’s Feet

The early morning fog, like poet Carl Sandburg once noted, arrived on cat’s feet and remains, napping, on the lake until a warming sun causes it to slip away the way it came, in silence.
Fifty years ago I watched the September fog while waiting for the morning school bus on the southern Illinois dairy farm […]

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Demanding More

After Hurricane Harvey plowed through east Texas with roof-peeling winds and never-before-seen rain, millions of Americans were left not knowing what to do or where to turn.
President Donald J. Trump made two trips to the flattened, flooded region. In his first drop-in, most observers noted, the President failed to cry with any bereaved, comfort any […]

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Groundhog Day

The calendar may show Labor Day but with another enormous American harvest and its resulting low prices just around the corner it feels more like Groundhog Day.
The movie, I mean, not the shadowy holiday.
The reason why, as Bill Murray’s boorish character learns, is because we’ve been here before. And before and before and before. In […]

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Commodity Agriculture’s Dark “Green” Future

A generation ago, GMO sounded like the name of an American muscle car, a text was what the preacher based his Sunday sermon on, and Facebook was two words that meant face and book.
Now, 25 short years later, genetically modified seeds dominate American agriculture, texting has replaced baseball as our national pastime, and Facebook’s market […]

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Men in Black

Play, watch or listen to any baseball game and, sooner than later, what you thought was a strike will be called a ball, or vice versa, by the home plate umpire.
Most times, it’s not a big deal. There are, after all, hundreds of pitches in any game and the balls and strikes called by the […]

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Let Me Translate

No one you know says “grain” when they mean “soybeans” or “John Deere” when they mean “tractor.”
Of course, you might get away with these vague and misleading substitutes when talking to the non-farming public because most people don’t know soybeans are an oilseed, not a grain, and that Deere & Co. makes a lot more […]

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We Need to Talk

It’s August and that means much of Congress is, literally, either out of session, out of the country or out to lunch. That doesn’t mean, however, some of its more diligent members aren’t somehow serving the public.
Take the House Ag Committee. (Please.) A handful of its 46 members will attend three Farm Bill “Conversations in […]

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Rules for Fools

During my first days of Lutheran grade school, I was surprised to learn that the world had only 10 rules. Sure, eight of them ordered what I “shalt not” do and just two told me what I must do. Still, no Lutheran worth his catechism ever had a problem with a negative four-to-one ratio.
But then […]

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Dew Point

The sun’s steady rise slowly spreads its gathering light on the morning dew until the lawn dances with sparkles and the day with possibilities.
The July dew, soaking wet and glistening bright, almost always promised a day of sunshine, heat, and humidity on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. Jackie, the farm’s main field […]

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