Finance

China Sees Woe, U.S. Ag Sees Red

The fireworks-filled, holiday celebration that is the Chinese New Year doesn’t begin until Feb. 8. Three weeks into calendar year 2016, however, key elements in China’s economy—its wildly speculative stock markets, less-than-transparent currency, sagging heavy industries—have gone boom.
That weakness is already being felt in U.S. farm and ranch country. Rural America, after all, is China’s […]

Read More

Who’s The Boss?

In the world of agricultural cooperatives there’s none bigger than Minnesota-based CHS Inc. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, the energy, grain, food, and farm supply giant did $42.9 billion in business in its fiscal year 2014.
That makes the mighty CHS bigger than Deere & Co., DuPont, and Tyson Foods, and far bigger than […]

Read More

Tweet, Tweet

The tweeting heard by U.S. farmers and ranchers this fall isn’t that loquacious social media birdie Twitter. Instead, it’s canaries—coal mine canaries, to be exact—and their song is neither short nor sweet.
In fact, it’s downright dour. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, this year’s 36 percent fall in net farm income is the biggest […]

Read More

The Chicago Way

It’s an almost poetic coincidence that the day after Greek voters loudly told European technocrats in Brussels and German bankers in Berlin to stuff it, the futures trading CME Group quietly moved its last, open-outcry commodity trading pit from Chicago’s Loop to the perfectly technocratic, globally homeless electronic market.
The Greek “No!” vote, like the Greek-European […]

Read More

Storm Brewing

As daylight faded, the growing, mid-August thunderstorm chased us eastward across the Kansas plains. In the rearview mirror, it looked like something out of the Wizard of Oz, a rolling mass of perfect fury.
Finally, just as we parked under the covered driveway of chain hotel in Russell about 9 pm, the storm caught us in […]

Read More

OK, When?

Spring is warmer days, blooming daffodils, and blue horizons. It’s also a good time to tap the season’s new energy and fresh hope to honestly discuss some of farming and food’s most pressing issues.
For example, global energy companies now spend more than $500 billion a year exploring for new oil, natural gas, and coal. At […]

Read More

Who Wrote This Mess?

The low whimpering and muffled whining heard in farm country this month are not the gripes and grunts of corn and soybean growers trudging through 2015’s purgatory of under-$4 corn and less-than-$10 beans.
Instead, it’s the rising complaints of cranky farmers as they trudge out of dull meetings where Land Grant experts and Farm Service Agency […]

Read More

Groundhog Day, Again and Again

Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, Christmas in the windshield, and given the glacial pace of key policy decisions awaiting resolution in Washington, D.C., it’s just another Groundhog Day out here in rural America.
Those decisions, after two years of heavy duty do-nothingness, are coming slower than the deadlines faced by this Congress and the new […]

Read More

Quantitative Spinning

Against all odds, economics, the dismal science, has become even more dismal. Since the Great Recession of 2008, what once was equal parts science and art is now equal parts politics and disdain.
What I mean is that nearly every economic report and analysis now comes freighted with political spin and partisan derision. Economic numbers—jobs, exports, […]

Read More

Want Reform? First, Audit.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stunned the cowboy crowd Tues., Sept. 30, when, in a one-sided meeting in his office, he told seven members of the nearly three-years-old beef checkoff reform effort that if they didn’t find common ground soon he might impose a second beef checkoff that would double the annual, non-refundable collections of […]

Read More