From the Column

“I Know What I Know”

Members of Congress are finally getting around to reading the Farm Bill they approved late this winter after three years of gum bumping, chest beating, and finger pointing. Their big discovery so far? Many now are shocked (shocked! I say) that the money they thought they had saved in food stamps and commodity programs won’t […]

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Safe, Not Sorry


Almost everyone in American agriculture, from farmers to ranchers to the top executives of the biggest transnational grain trading and meatpacking firms, loves to say the United States is home to the cheapest, safest food supply in the world. Of course, the global commodity slingers love cheap. It’s the yeast that makes their dough rise […]

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Punching Russia’s Breadbasket


When Vladimir Putin sent his nation’s armed, but unmarked troops into sovereign territory of Ukraine, he became the latest in a long line of Russian Little Big Men to punch Eurasia’s famed breadbasket in the gut. First came the imperial czars, then the revolutionary Bolsheviks and, right behind them and most brutally, Soviet leader Josef […]

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Renewable Energy


The tall, mostly dead red oak on the eastern edge of the farmette still stands this late, long winter, saved mostly by this late, long winter. The majestic, strong-armed tree, my age or a little more, had a date with the saw and maul as soon as the weather turned cold. Deep snow and face-cracking […]

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Read It and Pay


On Jan. 5, 2011,, the website for the “House Republican Majority,” trumpeted news that its members had acted on their “promise” to “ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives.” […]

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The Least of Your Problems


Early February was not a good time to be an American carnivore. First, on Saturday, Feb. 8, Rancho Feeding Co. of Petaluma, CA, announced it was recalling 8.7 million pounds of beef carcasses and cuts. That’s virtually every pound of the company’s 2013 throughput. The reason for the recall, explained the Feb. 11 Los Angeles […]

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The Gift That Keeps on Giving


If you’re an ag-dependent advertising agency, a commodity organization hired hand, or an ag journalist who can’t do math, commodity checkoffs are a gift that just keeps on giving. The most recent checkoff gift comes courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General. On Jan. 31, the OIG released a 29-page report […]

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The Next One


House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, a fast talker by birth and trade, spared few superlatives when describing, in a telephone press conference Jan. 28, the finally finished, modestly named Agricultural Act of 2014. “Historic in many ways,” Lucas said of the pending law as he shared the call with his Senate counterpart, Debbie Stabenow, […]

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Go Slow on the Bull


You wouldn’t order a new pick-up truck without reserving the right to amend—choose—how the truck is equipped inside and out. The same goes for a new combine or an operating loan. After all, it’s your farm or ranch so, naturally, you’ll choose what’s right for you and it and not let some ratchet-jawed salesman dictate […]

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Ag’s New Math


It might be a new year but the old year’s weaknesses persist. For example, I still try to type the word “separate” with one “a,” still can’t walk past a display of cherry licorice without buying some, and still can’t do high-end math like, say, division. Part of that latter weakness goes back to the […]

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