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Too Many Cooks

Toques, the starched, stovepipe hats worn by chefs, are crowned with 100 tiny pleats that, explain the French, represent the 100 ways to prepare an egg every cook must master before earning the title “Chef” and a much-prized toque.
Recent action by President Donald J. Trump and his administration suggest there must also be 100 ways […]

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Meat and Money Always Cook Up Corruption

Political scandals in Brazil, like much in the fast-growing, global food giant, are so bold and so far out of bounds that calling them “outrageous” slanders their perpetrators.
Moreover, the scandals occur so frequently that it seems Brazil requires political chicanery and bribery to even function.
The latest evidence involves JBS SA, the Brazilian meatpacker that dominates […]

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Hard Numbers and Hard Politics

The calendar may have changed but the numbers all U.S. farmers will work with this new year are little different from the numbers everyone worked with last year.
For example, 2016’s corn production was baked-in last fall and so too are most of 2017’s options. We grew a staggering 15.3 billion bu. last year, will use […]

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The “Con” in Econometric

While American farmers and ranchers were eyeball-deep in spring planting and first-hay cutting, their commodity groups and federal government were knee-deep in narrowly-focused studies filled with meaningless numbers and unchallenged econometric puffery.
For example, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and U.S. Grains Council (USGC) released a privately “commissioned” report May 24 that proclaimed the 2014 […]

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Cuban Junket Summer

America’s counter-culture had its Summer of Love in 1969 and baseball its Home Run Summer in 1998. U.S. farm and checkoff groups will have their Cuban Junket Summer in 2016.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack guaranteed it when, on March 21, he gave the green light to “22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs”—federally-chartered commodity checkoffs—and […]

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Free Trade! Free Lunch!

We in agriculture talk about free trade agreements as if they are the international equivalent of a free lunch. All we need is a trade deal, we preach, and a full belly—easy profit—is an almost certainty.
This lovely belief, of course, overlooks the absolute certainty that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone […]

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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 […]

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China Sees Woe, U.S. Ag Sees Red

The fireworks-filled, holiday celebration that is the Chinese New Year doesn’t begin until Feb. 8. Three weeks into calendar year 2016, however, key elements in China’s economy—its wildly speculative stock markets, less-than-transparent currency, sagging heavy industries—have gone boom.
That weakness is already being felt in U.S. farm and ranch country. Rural America, after all, is China’s […]

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Diversity and Resilience versus Corn and Soybeans

By car, Quebec City, Quebec, is 1,840 miles from Bismarck, ND. I know because in the last two months I have seen every mile of highway between North Dakota’s state capital on the Missouri to Quebec’s provincial capital on the St. Lawrence.
Interestingly, as you drive west to east across arguably some of the New World’s […]

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Quantitative Spinning

Against all odds, economics, the dismal science, has become even more dismal. Since the Great Recession of 2008, what once was equal parts science and art is now equal parts politics and disdain.
What I mean is that nearly every economic report and analysis now comes freighted with political spin and partisan derision. Economic numbers—jobs, exports, […]

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