From the Column

“Get Rid of This Guy”

      When readers of this weekly effort take the time to write me a letter or email, it’s a safe bet they want to have the final word on whatever riled them to write. I’m fine with that.

      In fact, because of their remarkable diligence, I turn this space over to reading writers every June […]

Read More

Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.

      “I believe this […]

Read More

Welcome to the Fight; Now Get in Line

      After 38 years in journalism, some events still cause shock. Many center on public officials holding private meetings where a “just-us-insiders” intimacy affords all a “better understanding”—read total control—of their policy initiatives.

      Sorry (not sorry), but public policy doesn’t work that way. There’s no room for secrecy when public officials spend public money to […]

Read More

More Fallout from “Mt. Tariff”

      No major American daily newspaper features sharper, more poisonous pens than the market-focused writers at the Wall Street Journal. When these opinion peddlers go after you in print, they hit hard, fast, and—most of the time—with inarguable fact.

      Witness the Journal’s lead editorial Dec. 3, titled “Mount Tariff Erupts Again,” a full-frontal assault on President Donald J. […]

Read More

Milk Shake-Up Just Beginning with Dean’s Downfall

While many in the U.S. dairy sector focus on why the nation’s largest milk bottler, Dean Foods, filed for bankruptcy Nov. 12, the smart money—if there is any smart money left after four years of crushingly low milk prices—is focused on what’s next.

      What’s next is what’s always next when your business is built on […]

Read More

We’re Not Crazy, The Times Are

      Thanksgiving was the kickoff to a month of bookkeeping, depreciation schedules, and checkbook balancing for my parents on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. It culminated in an afternoon meeting, usually the week after Christmas, where my father would detail the farm’s annual performance to his three, city-dwelling partners and lay out his plans for […]

Read More

“It’s Going to be a Long Winter”

Mother Nature turned a colorful, late fall into a bitterly cold, early winter as if to prove—after a planting, growing, and harvest season marked by floods, drought, and mud—that she’s still in charge and still not happy.

      Not happy about what? No one can say but almost every American from Montana’s Western Slope to Maryland’s […]

Read More

China Plays the Long Game; U.S. Keeps Getting Played

Several years ago, when Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Tom Friedman was asked to choose which rising Asian nation, China or India, he’d bet the farm on, Friedman didn’t hesitate to pick India.

      The reason, he explained, was that while both nations were on an expressway to the future, India, the world’s largest democracy, had an open road in […]

Read More

End of Trade War Looks Like Beginning of Cold War

If China agreed to purchase “$40 to $50 billion” of U.S. farm goods in “the next two years,” as President Donald J. Trump announced Oct. 11, the futures market—where market reality is quickly sorted from political talk—literally wasn’t buying it.

      In fact, November soybean futures, the nearby contract, opened Monday, Oct. 14 at $9.405 per bu. and […]

Read More

Walking in the Shadow of Hope

      The first obvious sign of the season-long flood is a perfectly level, three-foot high ring of dried mud on the machine shed’s siding. Nature put it there and, in time, will likely wash it away.

      Across the road, 100 feet behind a noticeably tilting mailbox, stands the empty, sagging farmhouse of my youth. It […]

Read More