Farm Policy

Organic Farm Rules Need to be Quickly Reviewed, Not Slowly Rewritten

Nearly everything about Francis and Susan Thicke’s southeastern Iowa, organic dairy farm whispers bucolic: a herd of Jersey cows and calves graze on rolling acres of green pastures amid fenced farm fields and acres and acres of tree-thick woods.

      Even the farm’s name, Radiance Dairy, relays an easy calm.

      But there’s nothing calm about the food fight the Thickes (pronounced […]

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More Greenhouse Gas Comes from Rural Leaders Than Rural America

While everyone uses water, Americans use it up, noted Wallace Stegner, the preeminent writer of the West, in his 1992 book of essays Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs.

      That shrewd observation is even more accurate today.

      In fact, even though we’ve dammed every river west of—and including—the Missouri, pumped most underground aquifers to […]

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Managing Climate Risk is Good for Business and Good for the Future

With the wave of a wand, you’re the boss of the Farm Credit System (FCS). You manage a portfolio of 592,000 ag-related customers holding 946,119 loans totaling $315 billion—$113 billion in real estate debt alone—according to Dec. 2020 FCS data.

      Those numbers keep most people up at night but you sleep like a baby because your staff […]

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AltEn: The Mess Gets Even Messier

On March 1, Nebraska’s attorney general threw the book at AltEn, alleging the 24-million-gallon-per year ethanol maker near Mead spent most of the last five years making an environmental mess of its biofuels plant and the surrounding rural community.

      In a 97-page civil complaint, the state detailed 18 “causes of action” against AltEn ranging from […]

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Figuring the Odds

If you’re a corn and soybean farmer or an ag commodity futures trader, one of the biggest make-or-break days of the year looms: On March 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will issue its Prospective Plantings report.

      The much-anticipated report is the world’s first look at USDA’s best estimates for the upcoming year’s planted acreage of […]

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‘Who do we blame for not farming the way we now know we should?’

The tree-lined streets of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) and hallowed hallways of Yale University are two places most farmers would not expect to find a hot debate over soil erosion.

      And, yet, late this winter, staff at both campuses attacked agriculture’s ongoing failure to protect farmland. Don’t worry, no ivory tower was toppled. The […]

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Local Growers and Rural Grocers Should be Allies

If you think growing food in rural America is a tough business, you should trying selling food—groceries—in rural America.

      Just how tough is it?

      The 2019/20 Minnesota Rural Grocery Survey Report that found 77 percent of the state’s rural grocery stores make “an average or lower than average net profit of 1.1% after taxes.”

      As […]

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Letting Go Now That We’re Gone

After Collin Peterson, the former chairman of the House Ag Committee, lost his Nov. 2020 reelection bid to Republican challenger Michelle Fischbach, the 15-term congressman packed 194 boxes with office material and Capitol Hill memories and returned to his native Minnesota.

      The memorabilia included stacks of paper, piles of walnut plaques, one well-used office desk, […]

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The Best Way to Start is to Start

Forty years ago, two editors at Successful Farming magazine, Gene Johnston and Dean Houghton, won most major ag journalism awards with a story titled “Who will kill the hogs?”

       The piece (not available online) tracked a new, potent shift just beginning to hit the 600,000 hog farmers in the U.S.: Local meatpackers were being squeezed for hogs […]

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You’re in Charge of USDA; Where Do You Start?

The impossibly improbable has occurred and you’re now secretary of agriculture. What you think or say about farm and rural policy matters as much—and, often, more—than what other political and farm “leaders” think or say.

      So what do you think about U.S. agriculture today?

      You’re entering office with major grain markets on a bull run. Indeed, corn, soybeans, and wheat prices […]

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