From the Column

Idaho’s “Ag Gag” Bagged

In a relatively short, toughly-worded decision issued Aug. 3, a federal judge in Idaho struck down that state’s year-old “ag gag” law that sought to “criminalize” undercover, or whistleblower, investigations of livestock facilities suspected of animal abuse. The action by B. Lynn Winmill, chief judge of Idaho’s U.S. District Court, is the first time any […]

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Sustainable Is What Sustainable Does

Everywhere you look, there’s a poetic irony to today’s high-speed rush toward “slow” food and agricultural sustainability. For example, throughout the U.S. well-informed, well-intentioned shoppers see no inherent conflict in driving their tank-sized SUVs to the local organic cooperative to purchase sustainably-grown meat, fruit, dairy products, and vegetables. Corporate America is little different. It spends […]

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A SAFE, Silly Trick

There’s little safety and virtually no accuracy in SAFE, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, July 23. It was written by Big Ag to protect Big Ag, not consumers, even though nine out of 10 American consumers want food labels to disclose the […]

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Going Against the Flow

As summer heats up so too will agriculture’s ongoing water quality problems. On July 10, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that Lake Erie’s algal bloom will be “more severe in 2015” due to “historic rains in June.” On a scale of 1 to 10, forecasts NOAA, this year’s bloom will be 8.7, […]

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Out to Pasture

No July passes without baseball’s All-Star game and no All-Star game passes without most middle-aged farmboys recalling childhood dreams of playing professional baseball. That’s what we did two generations ago: we played baseball in daylight, we listened to baseball in twilight, we dreamt baseball at night. My baseball dreams reflected my southern Illinois roots. I […]

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The Chicago Way

It’s an almost poetic coincidence that the day after Greek voters loudly told European technocrats in Brussels and German bankers in Berlin to stuff it, the futures trading CME Group quietly moved its last, open-outcry commodity trading pit from Chicago’s Loop to the perfectly technocratic, globally homeless electronic market. The Greek “No!” vote, like the […]

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“What Makes You an Expert?”

“I just read your column,” noted an Illinois critic of an early May piece that outlined a proposed, multi-billion dollar merger between the key players in the prepared foods sector. “I have just one question,” the emailer went on, “what makes you an expert in the Sysco attempt to buy US Foods?” Ah, blessed readers; […]

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Why Does Monsanto Want Syngenta?

On the mid-1970s, southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, we viewed Monsanto Co.’s new, systemic weed killer, Roundup, as a miracle cure to our biggest perennial headache, Johnson grass, the hard-to-kill weed still listed as one of the 10 worst weeds in U.S. agriculture. The new herbicide wasn’t cheap–$70 per gallon, if memory serves—but […]

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Birds of a Feather

While my family never subsisted on the deer, doves, quail, ducks, and geese that shared the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth with us, we did enjoy a noon meal of rabbit or squirrel several times a year. It wasn’t until I became a journalist, however, that I tasted crow. Yes, crow. You know, […]

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Storm Brewing

As daylight faded, the growing, mid-August thunderstorm chased us eastward across the Kansas plains. In the rearview mirror, it looked like something out of the Wizard of Oz, a rolling mass of perfect fury. Finally, just as we parked under the covered driveway of chain hotel in Russell about 9 pm, the storm caught us […]

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