From the Column

Winter’s Workings

January started gray, stayed gray, and ended gray. Worse, it wasn’t a shining silver gray or an inviting blue gray. It was the flat, disengaging gray of used dishwater that seemed to whisper, “Don’t bother.”
The one-colored weather wasn’t cold weather, though. Early in the month, a few days of Arctic temperatures did thicken the lake […]

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Promises Made, Promises Kept

Of all the words used to describe President Donald J. Trump during his first days in office—bold, boastful, alternative facts—here are two that almost no person or pundit uttered: promise keeper.
Love him or loathe him, Trump took no time in checking off key items from his unconventional campaign’s list of unconventional promises.
Toss out the Trans-Pacific […]

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Sunny and Chair

The chairman gaveled the Ag Committee to order.
“We’re here today,” he announced in his best radio voice, “to rapidly confirm our President’s nominee for secretary of agriculture. He is, like most us, self-made, rich, manly—”
“Mr. Chairman!” interrupted a female voice from the far side of the horseshoe-shaped dais. “What are you talking—”
The sharp rap of […]

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More Money, Less Accountability

On Jan. 5, Harvest Public Media reported that “a federal investigation has been launched into the alleged embezzlement of $2.6 million by an employee” of the Oklahoma Beef Council.
According to the report, the state’s beef checkoff-collecting group had been unaware that “its former accounting and compliance manager” allegedly “started forging checks in the group’s name” […]

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An Allegory and A True Story

The allegory:
Not long ago, a man named Jim was in business with his brother Bob. Jim was the hardworking, money-making side of the firm; Bob was the always smiling, money-spending side.
And, sure, Jim knew the arrangement was lopsided but he loved and trusted Bob and Bob was Jim’s greatest admirer and biggest promoter.
The business did […]

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Major Farm Groups to Trump: Adopt GIPSA Rules

For almost a month now, we’ve watched what DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton calls “the visceral political fight” over three changes to livestock marketing rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, or GIPSA.
“Visceral” is a fitting word to describe Big Meat’s reaction to the Dec. 14 rules […]

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Hard Numbers and Hard Politics

The calendar may have changed but the numbers all U.S. farmers will work with this new year are little different from the numbers everyone worked with last year.
For example, 2016’s corn production was baked-in last fall and so too are most of 2017’s options. We grew a staggering 15.3 billion bu. last year, will use […]

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“Mooey Christmas”

As this thinly-priced farm year and deeply bitter election year glides toward its inevitable end, readers continue to pack my email inbox with sugar-coated compliments and napalm-encased invective.
Sometimes this polar divide is showcased by comments on the same column and, sometimes, these warmly complimentary/on-fire angry emails even arrive the same day. This past summer, however, […]

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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. Yellowed […]

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By the Numbers

If it’s all about the numbers, a journalist’s stock-in-trade, what are the numbers telling this journalist as 2016 fades and 2017 rises?
First, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Plowprint Report, issued Nov. 16, “Since 2009, 53 million acres of grasslands—an area the size of Kansas—have been converted to cropland across the Great Plains alone.”
Kansas […]

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