Farm Policy

Now is Not the Time to Make Old Friends Into New Enemies

As if 20 percent unemployment, wretchedly weak commodity markets, shuttered ethanol and meatpacking plants, and a coronavirus pandemic aren’t bad enough, the White House chose mid-May to, literally, go viral with China, one of American agriculture’s best cash-and-carry customers.

      This fight, however, isn’t over steel, aluminum or soybeans. It’s about spilled milk: How much responsibility […]

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“Feeding You Like Family” Often Requires a Family

While Tyson Foods says it’s “feeding you like family,” we recently learned that it and the rest of America’s Big Meat members sometimes need a war-like White House declaration just to cut a fat hog.

      More striking than the order itself was its effect: it didn’t work.

      A week after President Donald J. Trump ordered […]

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Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Chains

      For over a month now, nearly anyone who can lift a fork has asked what the “new normal” in American agriculture will be after Covid-19 loosens its terrible grip.

      Six weeks later, we now have a pretty good idea that ag’s new normal will look like ag’s old normal even if it takes a […]

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We Have to Start Somewhere

      Before we take the next unsteady step into a very different future, let’s make sure it’s a step up the ladder and not a step off the plank.

      How? We can start with disciplined decision making: Use proven facts, lean on practical experience, and focus like a laser on what is safe and smart.

      […]

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The World is Changing, Why Haven’t We?

Coronavirus, a farmer in a recent news story noted, “is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

      It may feel that way now but, honestly, that back-breaking straw hit the camel decades ago when the nation’s top agricultural, academic, and political leaders embraced dollar-driven efficiency over safety-centered resiliency as the overarching goal of American farm policy.

      We […]

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Prepare for the Worst, Pray for the Best

      Despite overwhelming evidence from literally every corner of the world, a farmer friend recently related to me that three—not one, not two, but three—rural acquaintances had assured him that “this whole virus thing is just a big hoax to bring down Trump.”

      If so, worldwide there’s more than 25,000 graves, over a half million […]

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February’s Paradox, March’s Struggles

February is a paradox. Leap Year or not, it’s the shortest month of the year yet it always feels like the longest month of winter. Endless gray skies bleed into endless gray days into an almost endless gray month.

      Then March appears with its light, color, and hope and February’s dreariness is soon forgotten.

      Light, […]

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The Long and Short of It

If you’re a farmer or rancher, you might be in for a bad day when you open your Monday morning email and five of the six headlines sent by an ag news service read:

      –“USDA declares Brazilian beef safe, lifts [U.S. import] ban;”

      –“GAO launches investigation into Trump aid to farmers;”

      –“China could purchase much […]

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The Changing Geography of U.S. Farming and Food

    Geography isn’t static. Rivers change course, mountains erode, and islands disappear under rising seas.

      The geography of farming and food changes, too. For example, 180 years ago my home county was the castor bean and castor oil capital of the U.S. Both titles, however, slipped into irrelevance as a new resource, crude oil, rose […]

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How Rural America Can Avoid “Another Century of Degraded Water”

      Despite the presidential caucus debacle Iowa hosted Monday, Feb. 3, the too old, too-white, and too-rural (at least to pundits who drop by every Leap Year) Hawkeye State still finished its awful week with an act of political courage rarely seen in U.S. agriculture today.

      On Feb. 7, the Des Moines Register published a clear, sharp […]

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