Farm Policy

Tyson Foods: Meatpacking Isn’t For Chickens

People have strange hobbies.

For example, a Great Plains friend of mine once trained a chicken to play dead. Remarkably, on command, his chicken would take a whole-body flop that could have taught Steve Martin a thing or two about physical comedy.

Another friend, a retired professor, is (unsurprisingly, really) even more iconoclastic: he reads Securities and Exchange Commission […]

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The Smartest Person in the Room

We all know a few people who think of themselves as the smartest person in the room. We also know a handful of people who actually are the smartest person in the room.

Neil Harl was the latter; he was the smartest person in the room wherever he went and everyone either already knew it or quickly discovered […]

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Cresting the Wave, Looking Into Next Year’s Trough

There’s no good time for bad news. Most farmers and ranchers, however, prefer to hear it sooner than later to factor it into the day or season’s plan.

Maybe that’s why our good friends at farmdocDaily, the online consortium of Land Grant extension specialists hosted by the University of Illinois, released a “Stress Test of 2022 Crop […]

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Death Taxes: Only for the One Percenters

Most Americans know there are three, unalterable facts of life: death, taxes, and farmers howling about “death taxes.”

And just between you and me, there’s an-oft whispered, rarely acknowledged fourth fact of life: Nearly every farm leader knows there’s no such thing as a “death tax”–federal taxes due upon death–for 99 percent of all farmers.

That’s not an opinion; […]

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The Old Economics of New Agriculture: Drive or Be Driven

A recent, number-laden bulletin posted on the University of Illinois website farmdoc daily caught my attention for two reasons.

First, its data, drawn mostly from several U.S. Census of Agriculture, paints a troubling picture of U.S. agriculture today. More importantly, that picture suggests American ag policy needs to make “strategic” changes to meet new challenges–climate change and new […]

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Four Books That Reach for the Heart, Mind, and Immortality

Writers write, according to some poet, to make themselves immortal. True or not, it was true for that writer because that’s an unforgettable, maybe even immortal, line.

Most times, however, writers write out of compulsion; they see a story that needs to be told and they grab some paper and verbs to tell it. Below are […]

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Hold the Sickle, CRP Needs a New, Bigger Hammer

To say the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) biggest environmental program, the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, is at a crossroads is like saying climate change might be a problem.

After all, the phrase “climate change” understates today’s dilemma until, for example, you learn that 47 percent of the continental U.S. is now in drought, 2.7 […]

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Ethanol’s Future is Running Out of Gas

The key ingredients for a looming crack-up in ethanol–the fast rise of electric vehicles, lukewarm politics, and more evidence of catastrophic climate change–are in place and few in U.S. ag policy circles are prepared to face that reality.

In fact, none of those woes are new; they’ve been building for years.

For example, the Trump Administration’s almost carte […]

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China Remains Our Biggest Export Market and Biggest Troublemaker

Talk about mixed messaging.

Two homemade campaign signs from last fall’s presidential election remain on the edge of a sprawling, well-kept dairy farm I recently passed. One, large and white against a green backdrop of tasseled corn, touts Donald Trump; the other, smaller and more wordy, declares that if Biden wins, all Americans soon will be “working for […]

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Threading Needles with Camels

Twenty-five years ago, when almost every American farm and ranch organization was denying the existence of climate change, William E. Rees and a colleague developed a method to measure how much “nature” was required to support a people or an economy. They called that measurement an “ecological footprint.”

That science–ecological economics, Rees’s career specialty at the […]

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