Farm Policy

‘Who do we blame for not farming the way we now know we should?’

The tree-lined streets of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) and hallowed hallways of Yale University are two places most farmers would not expect to find a hot debate over soil erosion.

      And, yet, late this winter, staff at both campuses attacked agriculture’s ongoing failure to protect farmland. Don’t worry, no ivory tower was toppled. The […]

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Local Growers and Rural Grocers Should be Allies

If you think growing food in rural America is a tough business, you should trying selling food—groceries—in rural America.

      Just how tough is it?

      The 2019/20 Minnesota Rural Grocery Survey Report that found 77 percent of the state’s rural grocery stores make “an average or lower than average net profit of 1.1% after taxes.”

      As […]

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Letting Go Now That We’re Gone

After Collin Peterson, the former chairman of the House Ag Committee, lost his Nov. 2020 reelection bid to Republican challenger Michelle Fischbach, the 15-term congressman packed 194 boxes with office material and Capitol Hill memories and returned to his native Minnesota.

      The memorabilia included stacks of paper, piles of walnut plaques, one well-used office desk, […]

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The Best Way to Start is to Start

Forty years ago, two editors at Successful Farming magazine, Gene Johnston and Dean Houghton, won most major ag journalism awards with a story titled “Who will kill the hogs?”

       The piece (not available online) tracked a new, potent shift just beginning to hit the 600,000 hog farmers in the U.S.: Local meatpackers were being squeezed for hogs […]

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You’re in Charge of USDA; Where Do You Start?

The impossibly improbable has occurred and you’re now secretary of agriculture. What you think or say about farm and rural policy matters as much—and, often, more—than what other political and farm “leaders” think or say.

      So what do you think about U.S. agriculture today?

      You’re entering office with major grain markets on a bull run. Indeed, corn, soybeans, and wheat prices […]

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Questions Surround Carbon Sequestration; USDA Needs to Find Answers

One topic most red, blue, and green politicians—and, even more strikingly, farmers—agree on is climate change; it’s real.

      In fact, notes the Dec. 2020 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, 58 percent of Iowa farmers and landowners now agree that climate change is both occurring and is caused by either human activity or nature.

      Moreover, if you add […]

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First USDA Quick Fix: CRP Expansion and Reform

On his way out the door last month, former House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, just off a hammering reelection defeat, offered the nation one final idea: the incoming secretary of agriculture should be empowered to enroll up to 50 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) over the next five years.

      Yes, 50—as […]

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This Should be Obvious: It’s not 2009

While 2021 is not 2009, it’s easy to see how some Americans—and, in fact, many farmers and ranchers—might get confused.

      After all, a quick look around Washington, D.C. late this Jan. 20 will reveal several similarities to the same day 12 years earlier: Joe Biden is in the White House, Nancy Pelosi reigns as Speaker […]

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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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