Big Ag

China Remains Our Biggest Export Market and Biggest Troublemaker

Talk about mixed messaging.

Two homemade campaign signs from last fall’s presidential election remain on the edge of a sprawling, well-kept dairy farm I recently passed. One, large and white against a green backdrop of tasseled corn, touts Donald Trump; the other, smaller and more wordy, declares that if Biden wins, all Americans soon will be “working for […]

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Like a SNAP

This year of striking contrasts continues to build: a late winter of pandemic horror, a spring of vaccine relief, a summer of social sunshine, now a Covid reprise this fall.

For agriculture, August delivered its own contrasts. For example, the often market-rattling August Crop Report carried the unlikely news of near-record 2021 corn and soybean crops […]

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The ‘True Cost of Food’

Like any chain, today’s ubiquitous “supply chains” are only as strong as their weakest links. Americans again learned this elemental lesson a year ago when the rapidly exploding Covid-19 pandemic swept the nation’s streets, sidewalks, and pantries clean of cars, people, and groceries.

Less evident are today’s still-broken links in the global food supply chain.

For example, […]

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The Actual Costs of the ‘Industrial Mind’

In an essay in his new book, Hogs Are Up, Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute near Salina, KS, revisits a speech he gave in Coon Rapids, IA, in August 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of Nikita Khrushchev’s famous visit to the Roswell Garst farm.

During that cornfield summit, suggests Jackson, Garst and Khrushchev chatted about […]

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Bigger Means Bitter, Not Better

In a sweeping, 72-point executive order on competition, the Biden Administration announced it was taking dead aim at the heavily concentrated “multinational companies (that) increasingly dominate markets for crops, chemicals, seeds, and meat,” reported Bloomberg.

The competition order–that “reach(es) from the FDA to the Pentagon”–includes “directives… such as rules that would help chicken farmers and ranchers… […]

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Everything–Corn, Soybeans, the Truth–Needs Sunshine

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A local grain company does well year-in, year-out buying, storing, and processing a few million bushels of soybeans. Nearby farmers love it; a strong local processor means strong local prices.

As the years pass, the plant ages and–too soon for local farmers–closes. A statewide farm group, knowing the plant’s importance […]

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The Ag Politics of Being Agriculturally Apolitical

It’s a widely held belief that if you want to get ahead in farm group politics, you can’t be political. Well, not overtly political, anyway. Quietly, sure; loud and you’re outta’ here.

For example, according to OpenSecrets.org, the best tracker of campaign cash in American politics, the nation’s largest, richest farm group, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), contributed a stunningly puny […]

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This Time, The Scoreboard Tells the Whole Story

In farming, the late Farm Journal economist John Marten liked to say, we keep score with acres.

Right or wrong, acres–and the wealth they represent–have always been a measure of personal and professional success. The converse is true, too; the lack or loss of acres usually implies failure of sorts.

That critical measure is at the center […]

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Truth in Labeling is the Opposite of Branding

If up is up and down is down, it makes sense then that organic food—especially food that carries the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s treasured “USDA Organic” label—is organic, right?

Not all the time, maintains Francis Thicke, an Iowa organic dairy farmer introduced here last month. In fact, Thicke and hundreds of other long-time organic farmers maintain […]

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Ag Groups Make a United, Hollow Call on Meatpackers to Play Nice

On May 17, six farm groups joined voices to call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Congress, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure a “more financially sustainable situation for cattle feeders and cow-calf producers.”

      That’s make-nice farm talk for “Meatpackers are skinning U.S. cattlemen so badly now that we six, not-usually-friendly groups ask the federal government—swamp […]

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