“What Makes You an Expert?”

“I just read your column,” noted an Illinois critic of an early May piece that outlined a proposed, multi-billion dollar merger between the key players in the prepared foods sector.

“I have just one question,” the emailer went on, “what makes you an expert in the Sysco attempt to buy US Foods?”

Ah, blessed readers; they are heartwarming and hazardous, professional and profane, loving and loathing. Without them, I’m out of business; with them, I’m often hearing their business. Together, hand-in-hand and pen-in-hand, we march into the future one word, one email, and one week at a time.

Take a March email from Lowell who managed to offer me both warm compliments and cold chastisements in almost every sentence of a 250-word note on a column that questioned the fairness of America’s key ag policy initiative: federal crop insurance.

“Your recent column on crop insurance describing the upside-down nature of the federal crop insurance program only covered one aspect of the upside-down nature of this program,” Lowell wrote (I presume) while upright. Fact is, “This insanity has truly granted the wealthiest and largest the most income-enhancing competitive advantage ever over smaller competitors.”

Hmm, Lowell sounds like an expert.

Then there’s Mike from Texas, a faithful replier to any mention of climate change in any manner in any column. A February letter from him began, “The morons under (President Obama’s) control who came up with the phrase ‘climate change’… have neither studied history or read the Bible. There has been climate change ever since God created the Earth.”

Thank you, Mike, for what sounds like an almost-expert observation on climate change. One question though: where did you get your info on the reading habits of the Obama Administration?

Similarly, Gerald from Iowa wanted to know where I had gotten my information in February to impugn Senate Republicans, but not Senate Democrats, for farm policy failures. “Both sides loaded the current Farm bill with ‘gifts’ but more blame goes to [former U.S. Sen.] Tom [Harkin of Iowa] and the Dems than the GOP.”

“You know it, I know it,” Gerald went on, “BUT you did not call them out. Yet you sure would have called out the Senate GOP if they had written the bill. Let’s be fair!!!”

Well, Gerald, you may know it but I do not know it. In fact, I’m having serious doubts about what I know about, well, ag biz mergers, climate change, and the Bible.

Not all of 2015’s correspondents offered their low opinions of my weekly opinions. Some—most, in fact—were kind and complimentary like Karen who wrote in mid-April, “Wow. Just wow. Each essay is hard-hitting and well written and researched. When are you running for President?”

Probably when I become an expert in something, Karen. Thanks for the vote of confidence though.

Another email, this one sent by Bob from Ohio, wasn’t as effusive but contained more insight. “You seem to be sensible. Trouble is, the populous on or off the farm, doesn’t have much interest in sensible.”

Richard, an emailer from either on or off the farm in central Illinois, is the sensible exception to the above rule. “Just a follow-up to your most recent article: I use up many of my free articles a month online just reading your column. How do you find such interesting material?”

No real secret, Richard. I use many of my free, online articles each month to read this and that. Nothing, mind you, that might require any real expertise though.

Another recent emailer, Ken, who identifies himself as someone with “over 40 years of federal service as a research scientist,” is equally levelheaded. “You must be correct in your assessments,” he writes, “because I am usually in full agreement with you.”

Finally, an expert!

© 2105 ag comm

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