Shutdown? Not on the dairy farm of my youth.

There was no “shutdown”—not in the U.S. government sense, anyway—on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

Come to think of it, there was never a showdown, hoedown, lockdown, or shakedown either. There were, however, machinery breakdowns, endless sundowns and, every now and then, a letdown.

But shutdowns? Not one, not even a “partial” one.

In fact, if anyone […]

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Let Us Pray

Man, that ended badly.
December limped to an ugly conclusion as nearly everyone from Wall Street to Main Street took a year-end pounding not seen in three generations. Pick an investment sector (stocks, bonds, commodities); a nation state (the U.S., China, or the European Union); or a political system (a democratic republic, parliamentary, or single-party rule), […]

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No More Wild Swings, Eh?

If the calendar was a baseball game, mid-December would be the bottom of the ninth.
As such, and given 2018’s crazy weather, banner crops, sloppy harvest, muddled export future, and skinny-to-no profit, mid-December finds farmers and ranchers now at bat with two outs and the opposing team’s smoke-throwing relief pitcher on the mound.
Yeah, it’s been a […]

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High Stakes and Bad Bets

On Oct. 1, U.S. farmers and ranchers joined President Donald J. Trump to praise one of his Administration’s biggest international achievements, a reworked trade deal between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
Ironically, however, Oct. 1 also brought a massive domestic failure: the expiration of the 2014 Farm Bill. The president and his revelers, however, never mentioned […]

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Tell Me If You’ve Heard This Before

Truisms don’t need to be completely true to be a truism. For example, “If you live long enough, you’ll see everything” doesn’t mean you will see everything if you live a long life. You may see a great deal, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll see “everything.”
Simone de Beauvoir, a French novelist and existentialist, turned that […]

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September Slips Away and So Do Solutions

There are never enough days in September for farmers, ranchers, and pennant-chasing baseball teams. Every day, whether spent in a combine, pasture or batter’s box, brings change to what’s real today and what’s possible tomorrow.
And it happens fast; September days don’t pass, they evaporate.
Congress, however, seems not to notice days, months or even possibilities. It […]

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‘A Fool’s Errand for U.S. Policymakers’

While U.S. farmers and ranchers spent August fretting over escalating tariffs and retreating markets, two ag policy experts used the month to publish a series of five columns that artfully—and courageously—skinned most of agriculture’s sacred cows even as they planted new policy ideas for farm and ranch success.
(All five columns are posted at under […]

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Meet Your New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

The only Washington, D.C. area team having a worse year than the Baltimore Orioles, an awful 34-78 on Aug. 6, is big food’s biggest, richest lobbying arm, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, or the GMA.
Most American farmers and ranchers don’t know GMA by its acronym; they do, however, know its work: it was the organizer and […]

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Checkbooks, Guns, and Baloney

The day U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the White House plan to spread $12 billion of taxpayer salve on its festering tariff wound, November soybean futures ended their day completely unimpressed—down a sleepy 2.5 cents.
Farmers echoed the market reaction; they, too, were unimpressed with the bailout. “Trade, not aid,” was their polite, but […]

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America’s Farming Soul

Sometimes it’s even hard for me to believe what I read in the newspaper. The latest “someone-really-said-that?” moment arrived courtesy of The Milkweed, the sharp-penned, monthly dairy newspaper owned and edited by Peter Hardin in Brooklyn, WI.
In its July 2018 edition, Milkweed writer Jan Shepel highlighted the controversy fueled by Marin Bozic, a dairy foods […]

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