Farm Policy

Welcome to the Fight; Now Get in Line

      After 38 years in journalism, some events still cause shock. Many center on public officials holding private meetings where a “just-us-insiders” intimacy affords all a “better understanding”—read total control—of their policy initiatives.

      Sorry (not sorry), but public policy doesn’t work that way. There’s no room for secrecy when public officials spend public money to […]

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More Fallout from “Mt. Tariff”

      No major American daily newspaper features sharper, more poisonous pens than the market-focused writers at the Wall Street Journal. When these opinion peddlers go after you in print, they hit hard, fast, and—most of the time—with inarguable fact.

      Witness the Journal’s lead editorial Dec. 3, titled “Mount Tariff Erupts Again,” a full-frontal assault on President Donald J. […]

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Milk Shake-Up Just Beginning with Dean’s Downfall

While many in the U.S. dairy sector focus on why the nation’s largest milk bottler, Dean Foods, filed for bankruptcy Nov. 12, the smart money—if there is any smart money left after four years of crushingly low milk prices—is focused on what’s next.

      What’s next is what’s always next when your business is built on […]

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“It’s Going to be a Long Winter”

Mother Nature turned a colorful, late fall into a bitterly cold, early winter as if to prove—after a planting, growing, and harvest season marked by floods, drought, and mud—that she’s still in charge and still not happy.

      Not happy about what? No one can say but almost every American from Montana’s Western Slope to Maryland’s […]

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China Plays the Long Game; U.S. Keeps Getting Played

Several years ago, when Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Tom Friedman was asked to choose which rising Asian nation, China or India, he’d bet the farm on, Friedman didn’t hesitate to pick India.

      The reason, he explained, was that while both nations were on an expressway to the future, India, the world’s largest democracy, had an open road in […]

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Drainers versus Sustainers

      Not two miles from my central Illinois home, a farmer’s next crop—a dozen rolls of eight-inch, black plastic drainage pipe—wait to be planted several feet deep in this year’s browning corn stubble.

      It’s tiling season in much of the Midwest, that post-harvest period when earth-chewing machines fight weather, mud, and daylight to bury thousands […]

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Ag’s Coming Heart Transplant

If government and private estimates are accurate, hundreds of millions of American farm acres will have new owners in the next 15 years.

      For example, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) survey takers and record keepers, predicts that 100 million acres of today’s farmland will be sold by its current owners by 2023.

      […]

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There’s Always Kansas City

      The internal memo only confirmed what unofficial Washington had been saying for more than a year and what official Washington had been downplaying for even longer: The White House plan to move two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies to Kansas City will severely cripple USDA data collection, handcuff policymakers who depend on the […]

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Partisanship, Piffle, and Prattle

Some years ago, I wrote a column on how farm groups sternly preached the value of what they reverently called “sound science” but, in fact, usually endorsed only “science that sounds good” to the groups.

      Not coincidentally, I noted, most of that good-sounding science was “science” tied to research bought-and-paid-for by the groups themselves.

      Examples of this […]

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The Plan is No Plan

      You know you’re deep in the rabbit hole when bad news—say, a government report that shows steep cuts in anticipated 2019 crop yields—is good news because it will hopefully boost prices. Conversely, when good news arrives, like an unexpected week of perfect September weather, it’s actually bad news because it just drags already low […]

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