Big Ag

Partisanship, Piffle, and Prattle

Some years ago, I wrote a column on how farm groups sternly preached the value of what they reverently called “sound science” but, in fact, usually endorsed only “science that sounds good” to the groups.

      Not coincidentally, I noted, most of that good-sounding science was “science” tied to research bought-and-paid-for by the groups themselves.

      Examples of this […]

Read More

The Plan is No Plan

      You know you’re deep in the rabbit hole when bad news—say, a government report that shows steep cuts in anticipated 2019 crop yields—is good news because it will hopefully boost prices. Conversely, when good news arrives, like an unexpected week of perfect September weather, it’s actually bad news because it just drags already low […]

Read More

Whipping the Soy-Boys is No Way to Win Customers

P.T. Barnum, the quintessential American showman, might have found today’s food carnival more interesting and far more profitable than his namesake circus of yore.

      For example, slow food is taking note of the fast rise of meatless, or plant-based, burgers this year. Veggie burgers, their previous incarnation, are not new; the lovely Catherine has been […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

“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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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, […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More