Big Ag

Rural America Shouldn’t Be a Dump Site for Corporate America

There’s a clear lesson in the chemical and ethical cloud now shrouding AltEn, a 25-million-gallon per year ethanol plant just south of Mead, NE.

      In fact, there’s more than one lesson but the big one—how rural America is becoming a legal dumping ground for wastes created by corporate America—may be AltEn’s enduring legacy.

      The plant, […]

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The Best Way to Start is to Start

Forty years ago, two editors at Successful Farming magazine, Gene Johnston and Dean Houghton, won most major ag journalism awards with a story titled “Who will kill the hogs?”

       The piece (not available online) tracked a new, potent shift just beginning to hit the 600,000 hog farmers in the U.S.: Local meatpackers were being squeezed for hogs […]

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You’re in Charge of USDA; Where Do You Start?

The impossibly improbable has occurred and you’re now secretary of agriculture. What you think or say about farm and rural policy matters as much—and, often, more—than what other political and farm “leaders” think or say.

      So what do you think about U.S. agriculture today?

      You’re entering office with major grain markets on a bull run. Indeed, corn, soybeans, and wheat prices […]

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‘Political democracy can endure only as a guardian of economic democracy’

In early 1999, I wrote a column about lions and gazelles.

      More precisely, I wrote a column on how, in the 1990s, American livestock farmers had become “gazelles… in the brutal world of global agriculture.”

      What that meant was “Every morning the gazelle awakens knowing it must run faster than the fastest lion to live […]

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Gambling on the Future of Food and Rural America

     Three events on consecutive mid-November days show farmers, ranchers, and all Americans where U.S. agriculture now is.

      Event One: On Nov. 18, the Iowa Capital Dispatch, a not-for-profit news website, detailed allegations on how managers at Tyson Food’s hog-killing plant in Waterloo, IA, literally gambled on employee lives as the coronavirus took root last April.

      […]

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What Exactly is China Buying on its U.S. Shopping Spree?

As political winners joust over election spoils, many Americans are tickled pink (or purple) to leave the costliest, most bitter campaign season behind and return to their lives of family, work, and dreams.

      For U.S. farmers and ranchers that means a return to three pre-election realities: a strong, export-led rise in grain prices; another winter […]

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Big Ag is Counting on a Purple Blue Dog

      If there is such a thing as a 76-year-old poster child, Collin Peterson, the chairman of the House Ag Committee, could be the weatherworn face of today’s red-and-blue political divide in rural America. His qualifications for the job are, well, colorful.

      For example, he’s a 15-term, incumbent Democrat in a rural Minnesota congressional district […]

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Perilous Bounty is a Journey Well Worth Taking

      Some books are worth more in your hand and on your shelf than they are as electrons in your e-reader. These books, and their authors, are valued friends and you return to them often for information, advice, and comfort.

      Two downsizing moves in the last 15 years have pared my library to a few shelves […]

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Election Year Crazy, Sure, But This Is Way Beyond Crazy

Just when you think 2020 can’t possibly get any crazier, autumn arrives with a carload of crazy in tow.

For example, does any farmer or rancher really know what the White House’s recently announced additional $14 billion in ag bailout money is intended to address that the previous $37.2 billion didn’t address?

      That’s an honest question because we […]

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The Big Meat Gang is Getting Awfully Smelly

In a year of too many dark days, Monday, Sept. 14 was a particularly dark day for every American for two reasons.

      First, on Sept. 14, ProPublica, the non-profit, investigatory news group, published a 3,100-word expose’ on how global meatpackers used their clout this spring to get a White House order to keep workers on […]

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