From the Column

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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Riding the Metal Wave Left by My Iron-Bending Uncle Honey

One job on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth was to walk just-cultivated corn or soybean fields to find the cultivator parts–disk blades, sweeps, even whole shanks–left broken and unseen by my quiet, iron-bending great Uncle Honey earlier in the day.

Honey was a skilled cultivator killer. The problem wasn’t the design of our Case cultivator. […]

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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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The Ag Politics of Being Agriculturally Apolitical

It’s a widely held belief that if you want to get ahead in farm group politics, you can’t be political. Well, not overtly political, anyway. Quietly, sure; loud and you’re outta’ here.

For example, according to OpenSecrets.org, the best tracker of campaign cash in American politics, the nation’s largest, richest farm group, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), contributed a stunningly puny […]

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This Time, The Scoreboard Tells the Whole Story

In farming, the late Farm Journal economist John Marten liked to say, we keep score with acres.

Right or wrong, acres–and the wealth they represent–have always been a measure of personal and professional success. The converse is true, too; the lack or loss of acres usually implies failure of sorts.

That critical measure is at the center […]

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Worker Wages are Not the Cause of Higher Food Prices

After my first year at the Big U, I returned to the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth for a summer of work. The first task, however, was to ask my father to double my hourly pay from 50-cents an hour, the amount I’d been paid through high school, to $1 per hour.

“Well,” Dad […]

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Truth in Labeling is the Opposite of Branding

If up is up and down is down, it makes sense then that organic food—especially food that carries the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s treasured “USDA Organic” label—is organic, right?

Not all the time, maintains Francis Thicke, an Iowa organic dairy farmer introduced here last month. In fact, Thicke and hundreds of other long-time organic farmers maintain […]

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Adventures in Ag Journalism: A Million Words Later, We’re Still Here

This week marks the 28th anniversary of this editorial effort. In round numbers that’s more than 1,430 columns, a million words, and who knows how many cold beverages.

      Its start came about like many efforts in journalism: I got fired. It’s a long story, so you might want to get comfortable—and even grab a cold beverage.

      […]

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Beware of Philosopher Kings and ‘Synthetic Alternatives’

Shortly after America’s largest private farmland owners, Microsoft billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, acknowledged their pending divorce, some wag on Twitter wondered what might be the appropriate time to wait before he approached the soon-to-be-former missus to ask about renting some of her farmland.

      While he was joking, it’s no joke that the about-to-split pair […]

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Ag Groups Make a United, Hollow Call on Meatpackers to Play Nice

On May 17, six farm groups joined voices to call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Congress, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure a “more financially sustainable situation for cattle feeders and cow-calf producers.”

      That’s make-nice farm talk for “Meatpackers are skinning U.S. cattlemen so badly now that we six, not-usually-friendly groups ask the federal government—swamp […]

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