Farm Policy

Coming war for U.S. crop acres renews food-versus-fuel fight

American farmers are long familiar with acre wars. This regional, late winter scrum is a showdown over how many acres of corn, soybeans, cotton, and wheat acres farmers will plant mainly in the Midwest, Great Plains, and South.

Most years these fights are decided by a variable–and oftentimes volatile–combination of three elements: what market prices are […]

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Making Pork Chops Flow Uphill

For more than 40 years my father farmed within a mile of where the Kaskaskia River met the Mississippi deep in southern Illinois. That meant he had two, lifetime partners: the river and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, landlords of the levees that guarded our wedge of the Great American Bottoms.

Dad never argued with […]

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Getting MAD, Mutually Assured Digesters, is Always a Bad Idea

If today’s California is what the rest of America will look like tomorrow, you might want to brace yourself for too little water, too much animal manure, and $4.65-per-gallon gasoline.

And, weird, too, because in California these too-little, too-much, and too-expensive elements have been combined to create what was thought to be a partial cure for […]

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Keep Moving, Nothing to See Here

No one was shocked recently when the General Accountability Office (GAO) announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had overpaid farmers billions of dollars during the slapdash tariff-mitigation scheme ordered by the Trump White House in 2018 and 2019.

A couple of billion bucks in government waste is, evidently, chump change when–as in the case of […]

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Goodbye 2021’s High Profits, Hello 2022’s High Costs

It always seems odd to use the final week or two of the current year as a platform to view the coming year. How does looking in the rearview mirror give anyone a clear sense of what’s ahead?

That certainly was the case for most ag markets a year ago. For example, almost no one last […]

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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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