From the Column

The Artlessness of the Deal

What Trump Administration appointees lack in reticence they make up for in certitude. Take Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
Just two weeks after being shown his stately office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) South Building, Perdue announced a major makeover of it: he invoked a 2014 Farm Bill directive to create a new USDA […]

Read More

Ag’s Greatest Innovation

In my youth, May brought two noticeable changes to the big Lutheran church my family faithfully attended. The first was heat. No building on earth better held daytime heat from Mother’s Day through Reformation Day than that century-old house of worship.
The second was the season’s short-sleeved parade of lost limbs, a brutal testament to the […]

Read More

Pass the Biscuits and the Buck

Leave it to the language experts at England’s Oxford Dictionaries to come up with a two-word “Word of the Year” for 2016.
That (those) word(s) is (are) “post-truth.”
Post-truth, explain the Oxford experts, is “defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and […]

Read More

Sonny’s Big Adventure

Those Wisconsin dairy cows at the center of another trade kettle now boiling between the United States and Canada, a friend suggests, aren’t really black-and-white Holsteins.
They’re tiny, yellow canaries, he opines, and their tweets—not President Donald J. Trump’s—are a warning that America’s reign as the world’s ag export superpower is fading and U.S. farmers and […]

Read More

The Numbers Aren’t Adding Up

According to numbers compiled and published by Agri-Pulse, the Washington, D.C.-based ag news service, the top bosses at ag-centered commodity groups and federally-chartered checkoff agencies had far better recent years than the farmers and ranchers they claim to serve.
For example, Agri-Pulse’s annual compensation report published last September noted that Steve Censky, chief executive officer of […]

Read More

Courting Courage

On April 10, Art Cullen of the Storm Lake (IA) Times was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing. His work, explained the Pulitzer board, “fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing… successfully challenged the powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.”
Challenged, yes; beat ‘em, no.
Cullen, who co-owns the tiny, twice-weekly Times (circulation: […]

Read More

There Goes the Neighborhood

Farmers and ranchers pride themselves on neighborliness, and rightly so. Rare is the season, after all, when the local newspaper or radio station doesn’t carry a lump-in-the-throat story explaining how neighbors of an ill or injured member of a farm or ranch family gathered for a day or two to do a month or two’s […]

Read More

The Auctioneer’s Song

For someone who rarely attended auctions, my father somehow managed to host or co-host four different auctions in the last 20 or so years of his long life. Is that a record of some kind?
The first, held in the mid-1990s, was a dispersal sale for the 100 or so Holstein cows, heifers, and calves that […]

Read More

March Madness

If only Julius Caesar had listened to the soothsayer who, in plain Latin, warned him, “Beware of the Ides of March.” Instead, the powerful, arrogant Roman tweeted, er, complained, “He is a Dreamer, let us leave him.”
And leave Caesar did—forever—on the Ides of March 44 B.C.
Someone should have given American farmers, ranchers, and rural residents […]

Read More

Big Salaries, Big Loans, Big Questions

If you want to get the attention of the $240-billion Farm Credit System (FCS), just mention the $725-million loan CoBank, a System lender, made to Verizon in 2013 to help finance Verizon’s $130-billion buyout of Vodafone, a European telecommunications giant.
The far-from-the-farm loan incensed commercial bankers, the System’s largest competitors, who howled to Congress about CoBank’s […]

Read More