From the Column

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 […]

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Drainers versus Sustainers

      Not two miles from my central Illinois home, a farmer’s next crop—a dozen rolls of eight-inch, black plastic drainage pipe—wait to be planted several feet deep in this year’s browning corn stubble.

      It’s tiling season in much of the Midwest, that post-harvest period when earth-chewing machines fight weather, mud, and daylight to bury thousands […]

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Ag’s Coming Heart Transplant

If government and private estimates are accurate, hundreds of millions of American farm acres will have new owners in the next 15 years.

      For example, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) survey takers and record keepers, predicts that 100 million acres of today’s farmland will be sold by its current owners by 2023.

      […]

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There’s Always Kansas City

      The internal memo only confirmed what unofficial Washington had been saying for more than a year and what official Washington had been downplaying for even longer: The White House plan to move two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies to Kansas City will severely cripple USDA data collection, handcuff policymakers who depend on the […]

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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 […]

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It Takes a Carpenter

      In the early morning fog the other day, I heard a claw hammer’s tap, tap, bam, bam, bam, boom drive a nail into its place for who knows how many years. A moment later, another six, clear, sharp notes cut through the fog and another nail was set for, maybe, a century or more.

      […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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The Enemy of My Enemy Remains an Enemy

Most rural Americans are old enough to remember when their president noted  that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

      That was, after all, several tariff hikes, dozens of trade meetings, and more than 15,000 presidential tweets ago. It may seem like a lifetime but it was just 19 months ago, on March 2, […]

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Before Silage Season, The Hand-Me-Down Season

      Sometime in mid-August, well after fair season and just before corn silage season, my brothers and I endured the hand-me-down season on the southern Illinois dairy farm of our youth.

      It was just as you suspect. One morning some weeks before school began, my mother watched as we tried on our next older brother’s clothes to […]

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