Finance

The ‘True Cost of Food’

Like any chain, today’s ubiquitous “supply chains” are only as strong as their weakest links. Americans again learned this elemental lesson a year ago when the rapidly exploding Covid-19 pandemic swept the nation’s streets, sidewalks, and pantries clean of cars, people, and groceries.

Less evident are today’s still-broken links in the global food supply chain.

For example, […]

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The Actual Costs of the ‘Industrial Mind’

In an essay in his new book, Hogs Are Up, Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute near Salina, KS, revisits a speech he gave in Coon Rapids, IA, in August 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of Nikita Khrushchev’s famous visit to the Roswell Garst farm.

During that cornfield summit, suggests Jackson, Garst and Khrushchev chatted about […]

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Everything–Corn, Soybeans, the Truth–Needs Sunshine

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A local grain company does well year-in, year-out buying, storing, and processing a few million bushels of soybeans. Nearby farmers love it; a strong local processor means strong local prices.

As the years pass, the plant ages and–too soon for local farmers–closes. A statewide farm group, knowing the plant’s importance […]

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This Time, The Scoreboard Tells the Whole Story

In farming, the late Farm Journal economist John Marten liked to say, we keep score with acres.

Right or wrong, acres–and the wealth they represent–have always been a measure of personal and professional success. The converse is true, too; the lack or loss of acres usually implies failure of sorts.

That critical measure is at the center […]

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Worker Wages are Not the Cause of Higher Food Prices

After my first year at the Big U, I returned to the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth for a summer of work. The first task, however, was to ask my father to double my hourly pay from 50-cents an hour, the amount I’d been paid through high school, to $1 per hour.

“Well,” Dad […]

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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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Global Meatpackers Filet U.S. Taxpayers Again and Again

Like many global meatpacking companies, JBS SA, the giant Brazilian meat and poultry packer with extensive operations in North and South America, Europe, and Australia, spent most of the last six months buying its way out of trouble with U.S. customers and the American government.

      Even a cursory examination shows JBS spent $221.5 million in […]

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Big Agbiz’s Big ‘Price Fixing’ Settlements Need Big Fix

In a now too-common story in U.S agriculture, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) last month agreed to pay farmers $45 million to settle what the March 13 Wall Street Journal described as “price-fixing allegations leveled at its peanut processing division.”

      While $45 million is, indeed, peanuts to ADM—its estimated 2020 revenue will top $65 billion—this isn’t the first […]

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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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