Rural America

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 […]

Read More

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.
–Barring an […]

Read More

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 over […]

Read More

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 shoot […]

Read More

Sure, That’ll Work

There was a mirrored symmetry to the news last week that reflects badly—but not unfairly—on American agriculture.
On Jan. 18, Farm Futures Magazine released its updated presidential surveys among farmers for both the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus and the overall United States. The clear leaders among farmers who said they’d vote GOP in either Republican contest were […]

Read More

The Quiet Month

January was a quiet month on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. Maybe it was quiet because we were quiet, drained after December’s month-long buildup to Christmas and New Year’s. Maybe it was quiet because most of our farm machines, like all of our fields, were quiet.
Whatever the reason, January still brought 100 […]

Read More

On the Road: New York City

Chelsea Market, a block-long, block-wide brick building in New York’s lower west side, was built 120 years ago on the edge of the city’s then-bustling meatpacking district to house a rising food powerhouse, the National Biscuit Company.
It was no accident that the-state-of-the-art food factory was located near the city’s slaughterhouses; the neighborhood was knee-deep in […]

Read More

Who’s The Boss?

In the world of agricultural cooperatives there’s none bigger than Minnesota-based CHS Inc. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, the energy, grain, food, and farm supply giant did $42.9 billion in business in its fiscal year 2014.
That makes the mighty CHS bigger than Deere & Co., DuPont, and Tyson Foods, and far bigger than […]

Read More

Crop Insurance Goes Global

It was the legislative equivalent of pulling an elephant out of a hat as the stage curtain was about to fall.
The day before the House of Representatives voted 266-167 to approve a long-sought, two-year federal spending deal, House and Senate ag committee members complained that the proposed deal—unseen and unaudited—contained an eight-year, $3-billion cut to […]

Read More

Hi, My Name is America and I’m a Reductionist

Most Americans like things simple because, well, life is just simpler that way. We like our choices even more simple—up or down, baked or fried, boxers or briefs—because we believe simple choices shorten the odds of mistaken choices.
Our friends in ivory towers disagree. Reductionism—their big word for making problems small—actually increases the odds of making […]

Read More