Rural America

Pod Save the American Farm

It’s an ever more uncomfortable fact for journalists like me that 67 percent of today’s media-consuming Americans do not have one paid-for subscription to anything.

Even more striking, 87 percent of the Baby Boomer generation–we of gray hair and paid subscriptions–use free, electronic media like Facebook, Twitter, and podcasts everyday. Only Gen Z, the 18-to-25 year-old youngsters who actually remember […]

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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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Too Much Money, Too Much Drift, Too Much Grift

The federal government can spend more money in 10 minutes than Congress, its watchdog, can track in 10 years. Still, Congressional oversight–as late and limited as it often is–remains a vital element of government.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis proved just how vital in two reports released in October: Tens of millions in […]

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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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Friday Night Lights

Every farm kid who grew up before the change-everything 1970s changed almost everything will recall Friday evenings meant quick chores, a quick supper, and a family night in town.

Back then, nearly every store in nearly every rural community remained open for business until 9 p.m. on Fridays so everyone–but mostly farm families–could shop, stroll the storefronts, or just visit […]

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Hey, Genius, Mind Your Own Business

It’s a rare honor to be named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. In fact, in 40 years, only 1,061 Americans have been awarded the title and the no-strings-attached stipend, this year a plush $625,000, commonly referred to as a “genius grant.”

Even more rare are MacArthur Fellows with ties to farming and food. Before this year, only […]

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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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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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