From the Column

“Hoard’s” Priceless Christmas Gift

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.
“I believe this […]

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Big Ag and Big Data

Everyday, according to the coconut milk-drinking nerds in Silicon Valley, the world generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of electronic data.
Yes, 2.5 quintillion. Think two, comma, five and then 17 zeroes.
If a picture helps, picture this: If you placed that data on iPads equipped with a 32-gigabyte memory, you would need 57.5 billion iPads to hold it.
Then […]

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The triumph of dumb

Somewhere along his long, winding way from Delaware to Indiana to Washington D.C., Bart Chilton picked up a desire for public service, a view that government should serve the powerful and powerless alike and a trusted way to bring people together to write straightforward, fair public policy.
Appointed in 2007 by President George W. Bush, Chilton […]

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50 years and no forgetting

Like most Americans of 1955 or so vintage, the lovely Catherine and I will spend time this week recalling our personal whos, whats, whens and wheres of President John F. Kennedy’s murder, funeral and burial 50 years ago.
It is likely, though, we won’t talk much about JFK’s politics and policy because we were too young […]

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How’d you like a buggy whip?

Henry Ford heard the jeers for years before his horseless carriage remade culture forever. Orville and Wilbur Wright were called bird brains before their dreams carried them over a North Carolina sand dune and mankind to distant galaxies.
They had thousands of predecessors. Archimedes was thought to have a screw loose. The Vatican saw Galileo as […]

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‘Just plain stupid’

In a recent television interview, famed Wall Street investor Warren Buffett characterized the October federal government shut-down as “totally irresponsible” and said the failure of leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives to raise the nation’s debt ceiling until moments before possible default was “just plain stupid.”
Unlike most stock market billionaires, Buffett wasn’t talking “his […]

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Want respect? Show respect

Some things never change: In 1981, the White House and Congress were locked in a Farm Bill fight the likes no one had seen before.
On one side was an overwhelmingly Democratic House and Senate that wanted more active federal policies on export embargoes, target prices and dairy support prices. They easily had the votes to […]

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On the road: California

From the baking but breezy rest stop in the middle of California’s Mojave Desert, Interstate 15 disappears into the low mountains southwest toward Los Angeles and northeast towards Las Vegas. The desert is huge, brown and desolate. The highway is flat, gray and jammed with cars roaring both directions at 70 miles an hour.
It’s the […]

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Fields of gold

On a sparkling fall day a week before the first FarmAid concert at the University of Illinois, I drove the back roads to Champaign to pick up two press passes for the lovely Catherine and me. It was mid-September, 1985, and the brown corn and yellowing soybeans rattled and rippled in a soothing breeze.
Later, while […]

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Cartel capers

There are two reasons to keep up-to-speed on the fast pace of events in what would seem to be the very dull world of potash.
The first reason is that the key players in this once-tightly controlled market continue–at least temporarily–to loose their grip on it. According to analysts’ prices for this key fertilizers could drop […]

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