Archives

No Trade? No Kidding.

You know it’s a presidential election year when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issues late summer press releases where nearly half the ink touts the Obama’s Administration’s past ag successes even as it announces actual news.
On Aug. 1 USDA issued just such a press release; 315 of its 635 words bragged about the White […]

Read More

The Land of Non

For years we Americans have been perfecting the art of non-action action. It began about a generation ago with the non-apology apology: “If I offended you, I apologize.” Later we moved on to the non-committal commitment: “I’ll be there unless I get a better offer.”
Now, courtesy of Congress, our non-legislating legislature, we might soon be […]

Read More

Trade Deals Going Nowhere

As the politics of this election year heat up, the chances of Congress debating—let alone passing—either of the White House’s marque trade deals continue to melt away.
Oh, there’s plenty of talk about the westward-looking Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Euro-centered Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TPP and TTIP, respectively. Most of the yakking, however, flows […]

Read More

We Should Talk

With little fanfare and barely a nod of public acknowledgement, the world of food turned upside down April 13 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture informed a Penn State University plant pathologist that the “white button mushroom” he developed by removing some of its genetic material is not a genetically modified organism (GMO).
As such, USDA […]

Read More

Checkoffs Go Dark

Big Ag’s control of the non-refundable, federally-chartered Research & Promotion programs—more commonly known as commodity checkoffs—reached new heights April 19 when the House Appropriations Committee approved the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $21.3 billion 2017 budget.
Tucked 34 pages into the pending bill’s 217 pages of bureaucratic thatch was this thorn: Since “commodity Research and Promotion boards”—USDA-appointed […]

Read More

They Never Stopped Making It

Forty-five years ago, anyone hoping to be someone in American agriculture was offered the same, free advice: “Buy land; they’re not making it anymore.”
But “they” were making it. In fact, lots and lots of it.
According to data reported by the United Nations, the world’s farmable land base grew by about 240 million acres between 1971 […]

Read More

The Ethanol Trap

March did not go out like either a lion or a lamb. In fact, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its Prospective Plantings Report midday March 31, the month—as well as the 2016 corn market—highballed it into history faster than a runaway train.
The coal was USDA’s forecast that farmers intend to plant 93.6 million […]

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

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

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 […]

Read More