Big Ag

Talkin’ About My Generation

      It’s a truism in American agriculture that food-growing technology undergoes an industry-shaking metamorphosis every generation.

      When Grandpa (both yours and mine) farmed, hybrid seed corn came in and oat-eating horsepower went out. His sons, our fathers, were early adopters of anhydrous ammonia, 2,4-D, and, whoa, combines.

      Twenty-five years later, our generational farm-changing moment arrived with […]

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Ethanol’s Tightening Tough Spot

      If you want to anger almost any American farmer, write something less than flattering about the declining use of biofuels—especially ethanol—in the U.S. today.

      If you want to really anger almost any American farmer, write something unflattering about biofuels—especially ethanol—that includes the sentence, “U.S. farmers, particularly cornbelt farmers, have gotten a really bad deal from the […]

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“No problem, I’ll just stop eating pork.”

      One tried-and-true tool politicians use to deflect public criticism is as old as politics itself: beat up the press.

      Someone in Secretary Sonny Perdue’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thought it was time to do just that April 8 as the “FSIS Office of Congressional and Public Affairs”—USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service—issued a blistering […]

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Unlocking the Rural Economy Requires Different Keys

Of all the places you’d expect to see a fight between the cold, hard face of ag economics and the warm, tender heart of rural America, that place would not be the corner of West 41st St. and Eighth Avenue in New York City, the home of the New York Times.

      And yet there it was in […]

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Corporations Have Rights; Why Not a Lake?

If the ballot box is the ultimate source of power in the United States, then voters in Toledo, Ohio, used that power Feb. 26 to create what’s now being called a “Bill of Rights” for their wide, blue neighbor, Lake Erie.

      That vote, if it withstands court challenges (one was filed immediately after the referendum […]

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Brother, Can You Spare a Cup of Water?

Humanity depends on three critical threes: Without oxygen, most humans will die within three minutes; without water, life expectancy is three days; without food, we’ve got three weeks.
Few Americans give three seconds of thought to any of these life-ensuring elements because, here, food is safe and plentiful, air quality laws are in place and enforced, […]

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Meet Your New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

The only Washington, D.C. area team having a worse year than the Baltimore Orioles, an awful 34-78 on Aug. 6, is big food’s biggest, richest lobbying arm, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, or the GMA.
Most American farmers and ranchers don’t know GMA by its acronym; they do, however, know its work: it was the organizer and […]

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Might Over Right

One of the clearest memories I have as a second grade student is looking north from my classroom windows nearly everyday to see fellow second graders, Ricky W. and his sister, Regina, running to school, late as usual, with their arms, feet, and homework flying.
I also remember the two were usually met at the classroom […]

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Wisdom Should Come with Age

In May 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus, a Pole living in Prussia, published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, a book that used mathematics and astronomy to postulate how the earth and the then-known planets rotated on their own axes as they orbited a stationary sun. Within days of its printing, however, Copernicus died.
His theory of […]

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The Long, Sustainable View

Who knew that the best view of 21st century agriculture would be from Darrin Qualman’s farm office near Dundurn, Saskatchewan? And yet, there it is, charted by Qualman, a data bloodhound who thinks graphically but writes plainly.
The long-time researcher for Canada’s National Farmers Union appeared on my radar in Feb. 2017 with a blog post […]

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