From the Column

Sixty Days Until the Farm and Food World Shakes

In March 1919, John Reed, an American journalist, published Ten Days that Shook the World, his eyewitness book on one of the new century’s most defining events, the Russian Revolution.

      Eighty years later, Reed’s groundbreaking work was still shaking the world. New York University ranked it seventh on its list of the 20th century’s 100 most consequential works. […]

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‘How Much Evidence Do You Need to Vaporize a Zombie?’

      While “zombie ideas” isn’t a phrase you often see in farm publications, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has popularized it to describe a uniquely American political condition.

      Zombie ideas, the 2008 Nobel winner in economics explained in a 2018 column, are “ideas that should have died long ago, yet still keep shambling along, eating politicians’ brains.”

      That […]

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Ahead of Her–And Our–Times a Century Ago

My grandmother was both a woman of her times and a woman far ahead of even our times. For example, today’s electric cars would be a yawn for her; she rode in them “before the war.”

      World War I, that is. Grandma (her given name was Ruth) was born in 1902 and lived 86 active […]

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The Silence of the Lambs

      There are many reasons to dislike JBS USA, the world’s—and America’s—largest meatpacker.

      In 2017, for example, JBS heirs and bosses, Joesely and Wesley Batista, cut a plea deal to escape prosecution in a bribery scandal that involved an incredible 1,829 politicians in their native Brazil. Both, however, later served six months in jail on […]

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The Third Time Might Not Be the Charm

It turns out that the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” is neither Chinese nor a curse.

      According to multiple sources, the adage’s roots reach back to a late-19th century member of Parliament commenting on how Great Britain’s expanding empire had made for “interesting times.”

      True enough for the empire’s builders; not so […]

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Twenty-Four Miles of Bad Spending, Bad Policy, Bad Ideas

      One trillion is one thousand billion or one million million. In money terms, $1 trillion is a stack of $100 bills 631 miles high.

      Now consider that the three coronavirus relief bills already approved by Congress will collectively spend about $3 trillion, or a $100-bill stack 1,893 miles high.

      But wait, Congress isn’t done. Its […]

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We Don’t Even Choose ‘Herd Immunity’ for Livestock

Two generations ago, no one in the cattle business ever thought “herd immunity” was a solution to bovine brucellosis. Instead, farmers and ranchers, often with the help of U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarians, blood-tested every animal they could find to discover, trace, and isolate the disease’s source and spread.

      It was hard, dirty work but […]

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The “Chinese Century” Looks Like the “Chinese Decade”

      While most county and state fairs are Covid casualties this year, a giant, buzzing Ferris wheel—America’s relationship with China—continues to spin at such a dizzying pace that, sooner or later, it will break to harm riders and bystanders alike.

      While that idea may fly in the face of current beliefs, it doesn’t fly in […]

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Sometimes the Hardest Thing to Do is Nothing; Let’s Do it

Mid-July was always summer’s sweet spot on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

      With June’s rush of sweaty work—wheat harvest, straw baling, laying corn by, cultivating soybeans, and weed spraying—finally complete and before another cutting of alfalfa was ready, mid-July slipped in with treats like fresh peaches, sweet corn, and juicy garden tomatoes.

      Mid-July also […]

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Public Investment Needs to Return Public Good

      If the ill-tempered and deadly first half of 2020 had been a first-calf heifer on the dairy farm of my youth, my father would have ticketed it for the freezer a month ago.

      His yardstick of heifer potential was short: If she lived up to her breeding, she was a “keeper;” if she “put more on […]

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