Rural America

Bring It On

Fall’s first frost, usually a mid-October event in my adopted central Illinois, waited until the last possible monthly moment—deep into Halloween night—to finally show winter’s white face.
We didn’t so much see it coming as feel it coming. A stern northwest wind arrived before sun-up that day and built into a gale by noon. It scattered […]

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2014 Farm Bill: “Immense Bundle of Subsidies”

In a series of toughly-worded articles published in Choices, the quarterly journal of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA), nearly every major element of the 2014 Farm Bill—from its expanded crop insurance program to its impact on global trade negotiations—comes under fire as either “perverse,” “false,” “vacuous,” “absurd,” “failing,” or “wasteful.”
The seven articles, overseen […]

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Who Knew…

… that Bill Gates, the Harvard drop-out who co-founded Microsoft, owns 8.4 percent of Deere & Co., worth about $2.5 billion and “at least 100,000 acres of farmland in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana and other states” that includes a 490-acre Wyoming ranch once owned by William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Gates also holds a stake (oh […]

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Slouching Toward Election Day

There are facts on which the world operates and there are facts on which politics operate. Spoiler alert: the two are not the same.
For example, key Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate have fought every effort this year to allow Congress a vote to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour […]

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Change on the Wind

The early morning wind rises with the sun from the east. Where I live, an east wind blows change. There’s a meteorological explanation for this, of course, but long before there was meteorology or meteorologists the east wind blew change.
The wind (it’s not a breeze) rattles the two black walnut trees in the far backyard […]

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Say What?

Farmers and ranchers have a well-deserved reputation for straight talk. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say, after all, were essential elements in the handshake deals that were the hallmark of rural business for generations.
They still are.
Now, however, some folks outside the nation’s fields and fences are working overtime to wash—and, in many […]

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Going to School During Recess

As the calendar turns to August, Congress turns to recess.
What, our federal legislators haven’t earned a five-week furlough after 90 or so days of sweaty inaction since January?
In preparation for their stopovers in fly-over country, farmers, ranchers, and foodies should read “Packing Political Punch in Rural America,” a six-part online series, on, literally, the lay […]

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The Carnivore’s Dilemma

If most American followed commodity prices as blindly as they follow the Kardashians, the national dinner menu might well feature bushels of cheaper-by-the-day grains and teaspoons of record-priced pork, beef, poultry and fish.
Call it the revenge of the vegan or (with apologies to author Michael Pollan) the carnivore’s dilemma, but 2014 is fast becoming a […]

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Right On?

You’d think that a state constitution eight times longer than the U.S. Constitution might cover every right, act or idea any of its citizens might need, do or ponder.
Not so in the Show Me State, Missouri, where on Tues., Aug. 5, voters will decide if they should add a “right to farm” amendment to its […]

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June’s Sweetest Sound

There’s no more comforting sound to awaken to than a soft June rain falling on a shingled roof. The patter of the light rain whispers sweet, two-word poems like “Maybe slowly” and “Rising delayed.”
On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, a rainy June day was a treat almost as great as homemade ice […]

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