Rural America

The Changing Geography of U.S. Farming and Food

    Geography isn’t static. Rivers change course, mountains erode, and islands disappear under rising seas.

      The geography of farming and food changes, too. For example, 180 years ago my home county was the castor bean and castor oil capital of the U.S. Both titles, however, slipped into irrelevance as a new resource, crude oil, rose […]

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How Rural America Can Avoid “Another Century of Degraded Water”

      Despite the presidential caucus debacle Iowa hosted Monday, Feb. 3, the too old, too-white, and too-rural (at least to pundits who drop by every Leap Year) Hawkeye State still finished its awful week with an act of political courage rarely seen in U.S. agriculture today.

      On Feb. 7, the Des Moines Register published a clear, sharp […]

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Home Sick? Try Mom or Grandma’s Cure-All

      The onset of a deep chest cold recently pushed me to wander the aisles of rural America’s drug store, Dollar General, for any cure that might halt the hacking. Three days and three placebos later, my hack weakened to a wheeze. Time, and the lovely Catherine’s chicken soup, did the trick.

      Had I been […]

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Common Sense Rarely is the Common Denominator

Before the year loses its fresh, youthful promise, let’s look at some recent research to, hopefully, address a nagging problem carried over from 2019.

      For months last year, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue defended three proposed rule changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that will remove an estimated 3.7 million recipients from […]

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What We Know

The best way to begin a new year without feeling overwhelmed by what we don’t know is to start with what we do know.

      For example, we know the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) December World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimate shows that about 14 percent, or one in seven bushels (bu.), of the 2019 […]

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Milk Shake-Up Just Beginning with Dean’s Downfall

While many in the U.S. dairy sector focus on why the nation’s largest milk bottler, Dean Foods, filed for bankruptcy Nov. 12, the smart money—if there is any smart money left after four years of crushingly low milk prices—is focused on what’s next.

      What’s next is what’s always next when your business is built on […]

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We’re Not Crazy, The Times Are

      Thanksgiving was the kickoff to a month of bookkeeping, depreciation schedules, and checkbook balancing for my parents on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. It culminated in an afternoon meeting, usually the week after Christmas, where my father would detail the farm’s annual performance to his three, city-dwelling partners and lay out his plans for […]

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“It’s Going to be a Long Winter”

Mother Nature turned a colorful, late fall into a bitterly cold, early winter as if to prove—after a planting, growing, and harvest season marked by floods, drought, and mud—that she’s still in charge and still not happy.

      Not happy about what? No one can say but almost every American from Montana’s Western Slope to Maryland’s […]

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Walking in the Shadow of Hope

      The first obvious sign of the season-long flood is a perfectly level, three-foot high ring of dried mud on the machine shed’s siding. Nature put it there and, in time, will likely wash it away.

      Across the road, 100 feet behind a noticeably tilting mailbox, stands the empty, sagging farmhouse of my youth. It […]

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Drainers versus Sustainers

      Not two miles from my central Illinois home, a farmer’s next crop—a dozen rolls of eight-inch, black plastic drainage pipe—wait to be planted several feet deep in this year’s browning corn stubble.

      It’s tiling season in much of the Midwest, that post-harvest period when earth-chewing machines fight weather, mud, and daylight to bury thousands […]

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