From the Column

Happy Slow, Quiet, Dull New Year

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was wonderfully different than every other week of the year on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

      Overall, it was the slowest, quietest, and—especially for my hardworking parents—dullest week of the year.

      Most post-Christmas weeks, Mom and Dad napped longer than usual, actually had time to enjoy […]

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‘Why are you giving extreme voices so much attention?’

The last column of the year usually features comments from readers whose views differ from those found here the previous 50 or so weeks. Most point out, often in vivid language, the shortcomings of my ideas, opinions, and—increasingly—the “fake news” I peddle through both.

      At least that’s how it has been for at least 25 […]

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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 […]

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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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Choose an Ag Secretary with Experience, Expertise, and Boldness

      It’s a challenge to find one person with the combined skills of a farmer, rancher, forester, food aid administrator, tribal leader, attorney, economist, conservationist, miner, insurance expert, food scientist, and finance specialist to fill the about-to open job of the secretary of agriculture.

      In fact, that person—described, in part, by the titles of the […]

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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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A Challenging Year but an Unforgettable Thanksgiving

Rural people often reminisce by years. The general rule for any talk about “good” or “bad” years is that good years rarely merit as much mention as great years and great years usually play second fiddle to bad years.

      The reason that challenging or tough years like 2019 and 2020 leave an impression is not […]

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November Winds are Blowing Big Change

One of the perennial certainties of any election season is how pundits chew over the politics of losing campaigns rather than discuss the policy implications of winning campaigns.

      The biggest reason is the cleanliness of who’s-up and who’s-down as opposed to a messy dive into the greasy nuance of what victory means to legislative sausage […]

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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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Out of Many “Theys,” We

      Ten or so years ago a friend asked if I would help him move a gun safe from his garage to his basement. I agreed not knowing what I was in for.

      I had heard of gun safes; I just hadn’t ever seen one. My father’s “safe” was a corner living room closet where […]

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