From the Column

Free Markets Work, When We Let ‘Em

There is a certain poetry in Sen. Pat Roberts’, R-KS, failure to convince the U.S. Senate to squash state and local food labeling laws. His proposed fix, fail though it did, may have done more to boost consumer faith in the market than anything Congress has or hasn’t done in years. Roberts’ winning loss began […]

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Cuban Junket Summer

America’s counter-culture had its Summer of Love in 1969 and baseball its Home Run Summer in 1998. U.S. farm and checkoff groups will have their Cuban Junket Summer in 2016. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack guaranteed it when, on March 21, he gave the green light to “22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs”—federally-chartered commodity […]

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Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

What most American voters don’t know about plate tectonics would kill a bull. Still, something deep in the North American continent and the American consciousness has shifted to alter our adopted land and its political landscape. For example, the Ides of March brought both the 2,060th anniversary of Caesar’s assassination in the Roman Forum and […]

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My Best Friend

On a sparkling blue Friday afternoon in October 1965, I stepped off a noisy school bus with my best friend, Marvin, to walk the long lane to his family’s farm. It was my first, non-family trip anywhere and I was so excited to go to Marvin’s house for the weekend that I doubt my feet […]

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A Stiff-Necked People

The message from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Outlook Forum in late February was pretty clear: In 2016, we will again grow more farm goods—and, in some cases, far more—than the U.S. and world markets can profitably use. In case you missed the number-fest, permit me to highlight the low lights of this year’s presentations. […]

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For Sale: Cheap Bull

Despite the bile pouring out the nation’s capital, there still are three daily events in Washington, D.C. that every American can count on: sunrise, sunset, and U.S. farm groups’ unwavering support for “free” trade. In fact, most U.S. farm and commodity groups support free trade so reflexively that nearly every one gave the just-completed Trans-Pacific […]

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Dirty Secrets, Dirty Water


It’s been a quick year since the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) sued the boards of supervisors of three, ag-based Iowa counties over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. It has not, however, been a quiet year. The lawsuit against 10 drainage districts in Sac, Buena Vista, and Calhoun counties, explains the DMWW, is […]

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This is What “Feed the World” Looks Like Today


As American agriculture grinds through February’s dull weather and even duller commodity markets, two Chinese firms have used the month to make inroads into the American farm and food colossus. First, on Feb. 3, China National Chemical Corp., known as ChemChina, announced its purchase of Syngenta, the Swiss-based chemical and seed giant, for the equivalent […]

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Free Trade! Free Lunch!


We in agriculture talk about free trade agreements as if they are the international equivalent of a free lunch. All we need is a trade deal, we preach, and a full belly—easy profit—is an almost certainty. This lovely belief, of course, overlooks the absolute certainty that there is no such thing as a free lunch. […]

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February (And the Coming Apocalypse?) In Sight


Despite claims to the opposite, the increasing chances of Donald—“You’re fired!”—Trump changing to “I, Donald—do solemnly swear—Trump” is not a sign of the coming apocalypse. Granted, the end could be closer than we think when any billionaire steps off his Boeing 757 airliner and declares, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and […]

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