From the Column

Grandmother’s Quilt, Grandfather’s Ghost

A slightly frayed, white and peach-trimmed quilt now lays unfolded on one of our spare beds. Twenty-nine of its 30 squares each feature the carefully stitched name of one member of the Ladies Aid of Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural Rising City, NE.
The stitching on the quilt’s 30th and final block, also in peach and […]

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Capitol Hill’s Christmas Cookie Bake-Off

Business leaders like Warren Buffett and the late Steve Jobs often credited their enormous success to simplicity. Buffett repeatedly explains that his best stock market secret is no secret at all: Buy quality and hold it. Similarly, Jobs made complex machines—computers, music recordings, cellular telephones—so simple and intuitive that even aging Oliver tractor drivers can […]

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Rising Woe in Rural America

The gap between America’s rural poor and non-poor, like in urban America, continues to widen. The difference in rural America, however, is that the gap is widening faster than in any of the nation’s grittiest cities or suburban counties.
That’s the conclusion of two recent reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University […]

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“Screaming and Yelling in Public”

Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, is not happy with you, me, and, based on comments he made at a gathering of Big Biz executives Nov. 16, our republic’s representative government.
When asked about the slow-and-getting-slower NAFTA trade talks at an invitation-only Wall Street Journal “CEO Council” meeting that day in Washington, D.C., Ross, identified […]

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Those Not Around the Table

The scarlet and gold promise of mid-harvest has slipped into the gray, damp reality of early winter. Last month we smiled at sun-kissed crops; this month we smile when we see the sun.
On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, November was a month more endured than enjoyed. Its most memorable features were muddy […]

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Willful Ignorance

Michael Lewis is a serious writer with a list of serious bona fides: Princeton bachelor’s degree, master’s from the London School of Economics, a stint on Wall Street and author of best-selling, non-fiction books like Money Ball, The Big Short, and The Blind Side. All were Hollywood box office hits. He also writes for the […]

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Lazy Dogs

A joke bouncing around the ag grapevine shines more light on where rural America’s politics are than where its funny bone actually is. The abridged version goes like this:
My dog sleeps 20 hours out of 24, eats free food prepared for him every day, gets free medical care, free housing, and never cleans up any […]

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A Plan or An Obit

Five hundred years ago this week, a German theologian nailed a sheet of 95 statements, or theses, to a church door in Saxony in hopes of starting a debate to reform the church he loved. But Martin Luther’s hammer didn’t spur debate; it sparked a wildfire that changed the world.
That’s the thing about reformers; once […]

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That’s You

If you wanted to renegotiate an aging but working trade treaty with two of your biggest, best customers, you’d think sweet talk and calm persuasion might work better than boorish bombast and shrill demands.
Well, think again because the Trump Administration is now in charge and bombast and demands are standing protocols whether you’re dealing with […]

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Predictably Irrational

When it comes to the artful science of economics, most American farmers and ranchers are classic Ricardians, or followers of David Ricardo, an 18th century English stock trader whose influential book, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, explained what he saw as the market’s guiding lights.
Any ag econ student from the last 150 […]

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