Rural America

Harvested Cattle, Slaughtered Markets

You don’t need to be a vegan to know that livestock and poultry aren’t “harvested,” the squeaky clean verb that’s become fashionable among farm and ranch groups to minimize the end–as in The End–of most animals their members grow.

Soybeans are harvested; pigs are slaughtered. Wheat is harvested; cattle are slaughtered.

It’s not a minor point, insists […]

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Cattle Never Judged Me, So I Never Judged Cattle

Despite spending every day of my southern Illinois youth on what at the time was a very large dairy farm, I never really had a clue of what made one Holstein cow or calf better or worse than the next Holstein cow or calf.

Most of that inability lay in my complete disinterest to show any […]

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First steps in ag climate fight are honesty and courage, not offsets and credits

Last May, the Canadian farm group National Farmers Union (NFU), submitted a detailed response to the Canadian government’s earlier “Draft Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System Regulations.” The response, like the government request, went relatively unnoticed in U.S. ag circles.

It shouldn’t have because the 23-page reply by the 200,000-member NFU was as shocking in its brevity […]

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Twenty-five hundred gallons of water per bushel of irrigated corn is ‘too much’

In a recent telephone conversation, a southwest Kansas farmer casually noted that he had stopped growing irrigated corn some years back because “it cost too much.” Curious, I asked what it cost to irrigate an acre of corn in his arid, cattle-feeding-and-corn-hungry corner of the state.

“It wasn’t the money,” he quickly explained, “it was the […]

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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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“Broken Systems Raise Costs Far Faster Than Resilient Ones”

One of the most beautiful–and inexplicable–aspects of economics is how its practitioners never seem to be wrong.

Indeed, almost every school of economic thought, from John Maynard Keynes’ demand-driven economics on the left to Arthur Laffer’s supply-side economics on the right, is crowded with disciples defending their leader’s theories and just often, if subtly, attacking their […]

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Land Values Face Trouble in Coming Decade

It’s the choices we make in the good times, the grandson of a Kansas homesteader once told me, that determine our farming successes, not the choices we make in the bad times.

Why? Because, he explained, in the good times we have the money to make big mistakes and in the bad times we’re too poor […]

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Big Ethanol Sees Electric Cars as a Market Maker, Not Market Taker

One of modern agriculture’s most beloved offspring, ethanol, received a sharp reprimand Feb. 13 from Iowa’s largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register.

In an editorial titled “Ethanol has been a boon for Iowa’s economy. But it’s time to pivot and figure out what’s next,” The Register chided Iowa Republicans and Democrats alike for supporting ethanol-pushing programs […]

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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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The New Ag Alchemy: Gold from Gas

The biggest gold rush in U.S. history is about to hit rural America and it won’t involve corn or cattle or even gold. Instead, the big money will be in pipelines.

That’s right, pipelines; pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) pipelines designed to carry CO2 from Midwestern ethanol plants to “sequestration” sites in either North Dakota or Illinois.

Itchy […]

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