Farm Policy

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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The Enemy of My Enemy Remains an Enemy

Most rural Americans are old enough to remember when their president noted  that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

      That was, after all, several tariff hikes, dozens of trade meetings, and more than 15,000 presidential tweets ago. It may seem like a lifetime but it was just 19 months ago, on March 2, […]

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Summer Fun with August Numbers

      Ag Twitter had a big sandbox to play in after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) clobbered the agricultural futures markets Aug. 12 with its number-filled Crop Report and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, or WASDE.

      The updated numbers—planted acreage, estimated production, and projected usage—hit the market like a hailstorm. Corn futures snapped […]

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Down the Primrose Path

The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the yellow roses along the primrose path are dazzling distractions from what, in a matter of days, has already been a long month for farmers and ranchers.

      Worse, a long harvest and bitter winter also loom as President Donald J. Trump threatens even tougher trade sanctions […]

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Dog Days Mean Letting it Lie

      On the farms of our youths, the dog days of August featured actual dogs and not a whole lot of anything else.

      Given the unsettled state of today’s growing season, commodity markets, and politics, maybe the best way to get through this August is to slide back to that era and just not say […]

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You Know It’s Going to Be a Long, Hot Summer if…

      You know it’s going to be a long, hot summer if, on the day before you assume the political leadership of the United Kingdom—as Boris Johnson did on July 23—one of the world’s most authoritative newspapers, the New York Times, prints a column that begins with the phrase, “Boris Johnson, to whom lying comes as […]

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