From the Column

Fifth Avenue Cowboys

Maybe it’s a sign of our fast-changing times, but paradox and irony seem as common today as lunch and supper. For example, the world’s largest taxi company, Uber, owns no taxis and the world’s second largest air force is the U.S. Navy.
The same is true of the American beef sector. As of mid-January, the owner […]

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This is Crazy, Right?

You’re pretty sharp; tell me if this makes sense.
Right now, the cotton and dairy lobbies are pushing Congress to pass an additional $1 billion of federal farm spending by attaching not-yet agreed upon language to a must-pass $81 billion disaster relief bill that promises aid to long-suffering Americans overwhelmed by rain, wind, fire, and mud.
And, […]

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Mojo Working

The knuckle-cracking cold that accompanied most of the country out of 2017 also followed most of us into 2018. Worse, it didn’t come alone. Much of last year’s bad mojo—the crazy weather, its bitter politics, policy gridlock—also crossed December’s ice bridge into the new year.
For example, President Donald Trump’s closed-fisted trade negotiating style reappeared Jan. […]

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The Anti-Science of “Sound Science”

For more than 20 years, farm and ranch groups, Congress, and Big Agbiz have used the phrase “sound science” like a sharp shovel to undermine agricultural policy they want to alter or bury.
Ask them to define “sound science,” however, and you’ll get no clear explanation. That’s because “sound science” is a political weapon, not a […]

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Catcalls and House Calls

It’s entirely likely that I will anger people from Delaware to Montana any given week with nothing more than an idea, supporting facts, and a couple of barrels of ink. Spurring anger takes no special talent; it’s me, remember? Still, every week dissimilar people 2,000 miles apart send me amazingly similar emails.
For example, one emailer, […]

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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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