Farm Policy

By the Numbers

If it’s all about the numbers, a journalist’s stock-in-trade, what are the numbers telling this journalist as 2016 fades and 2017 rises?
First, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Plowprint Report, issued Nov. 16, “Since 2009, 53 million acres of grasslands—an area the size of Kansas—have been converted to cropland across the Great Plains alone.”
Kansas […]

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If It Isn’t Broken, Don’t Fix It

Truth, civility, and honesty took a hard beating in the brutal 2016 election season but global trade, the campaign’s daily whipping boy, actually grew in the July-September quarter.
Moreover, reports the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, an international group that tracks trade, the late summer surge means global trade “may rise over the year […]

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In Search of “Community”

Recently, a baker’s dozen of old farm and food friends got together with a group of young farm and food friends to discuss everything from yesterday’s disappointments to tomorrow’s hopes.
The differences in our age (mid-20s to early 80s), vocation (farmers to poets), education (undergraduates to Ph.Ds.), and experience (beekeeper to university dean) fueled warm—and, sometimes, […]

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We Feed the World Is “Not a Harmless Myth”

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is using this harvest season to solidify its reputation as the biggest not-for-profit policy organization American farmers love to hate.
The hatred took root in 1995 when EWG published—on something called the Internet—a 10-year, searchable database of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) payments to all American farm entities. Farmers, especially the […]

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Livestock’s Bleak, Industrial Future

The more the American meat and milk sectors industrialize—via integrated contract production, fewer bigger players, machine-centered scale—the more these key parts of American agriculture resemble industry itself: commoditized products, razor-thin margins, and extended periods of steep losses.
This shift from what we once quaintly called animal husbandry has also shifted economic and political power to a […]

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Vote Like It’s 2018

As this year’s harvest and general election roll into October, key Capitol Hill farm policy players are looking past both events to stake out negotiating territory in the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill fight.
It’s not too soon. The Congress elected next month will rewrite the every-five-year law that divvies up $100 billion a year on federal […]

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Close the Barn Door

One of the oldest truisms in agriculture is the simple, rock-solid advice that the time to close the barn door is before the cows get out. Closing the door afterwards, as everyone knows, is pointless because the cows are already long gone.
Everyone, except of course, the U.S. Congress which, on Sept. 20, hosted a Senate […]

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Burning Down the Barn

If the prospect of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as president scares you, put down the television remote and pick up “Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity,” a new report from the United Nations Environmental Program. It makes the dour debaters look positively sunny.
OK, sure, the report’s title suggests it will be as dull […]

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There’s No “Future” In the Futures Market

As the food industry continues to consolidate into fewer, bigger players, the price risk it once hedged in Chicago and New York futures markets is being pushed back onto the very farmers and ranchers it buys from.
The reason is simple: the Big Boys have the market power to do it.
After decades of Big Ag’s talk […]

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The Last Free Trader in America

Can trade—free, fair, or otherwise—get some love this election season?
Fat chance.
In fact, the only national politician four-square in favor of global trade and its latest multi-nation deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is no one anyone could have seen in that role: Barack Obama.
Holy cow, what’s next; the Chicago Cubs in the World Series?
Perhaps, and […]

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