Big Ag

Tyson Foods: Meatpacking Isn’t For Chickens

People have strange hobbies.

For example, a Great Plains friend of mine once trained a chicken to play dead. Remarkably, on command, his chicken would take a whole-body flop that could have taught Steve Martin a thing or two about physical comedy.

Another friend, a retired professor, is (unsurprisingly, really) even more iconoclastic: he reads Securities and Exchange Commission […]

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Too Much Money, Too Much Drift, Too Much Grift

The federal government can spend more money in 10 minutes than Congress, its watchdog, can track in 10 years. Still, Congressional oversight–as late and limited as it often is–remains a vital element of government.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis proved just how vital in two reports released in October: Tens of millions in […]

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Running with the Big Deere

In an effort to maintain its enviable, 34-year run of labor peace, Deere & Co. and the United Auto Workers recently announced a deal to boost worker pay–by 20 percent over five and six years, Deere said–to keep the iconic green-and-yellow machines rolling off its 11 assembly lines and through its three distribution centers.

The manufacturing […]

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Hey, Genius, Mind Your Own Business

It’s a rare honor to be named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. In fact, in 40 years, only 1,061 Americans have been awarded the title and the no-strings-attached stipend, this year a plush $625,000, commonly referred to as a “genius grant.”

Even more rare are MacArthur Fellows with ties to farming and food. Before this year, only […]

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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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