Rural America

All Hats, No Cattle, and Little Chance

Two groups–one of South Dakota investors, the other tied to Texas cattle ranchers and feeders–are preparing to spend a collective $1.8 billion on two meatpacking plants that they say will be so innovative each will pay cattle suppliers more for their cattle and bison than any of today’s Big Four packers.

Most meatpacker pros, however, think […]

Read More

‘Funeral by Funeral, Theory Advances’

In 1970, Paul Samuelson became the first American awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.  The honor came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist because he had “simply rewritten considerable parts of economic theory.”

True that. Samuelson had already written what would become the best-selling college textbook on the subject, Economics, (now translated into […]

Read More

Outside the Fence One Time Too Many

Contrary to folklore, three times is rarely a charm. The number three, in fact, often carries woe: “Three strikes and you’re out,” for example or “Bad news usually comes in threes.”

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors rediscovered these portentous axioms July 7 when, for the third time in less than a year, a jury in […]

Read More

Market Forecast for Summer: Cloudy with a Chance of Hardheadedness

A veteran commodity trader once urged me to remember that “People who say the market is wrong are usually on the wrong side of the market.”

That insight, he added, had been learned the hard way, “…as in hardheaded.”

His advice came to mind as the futures market carried its June swoon into the U.S. Department of […]

Read More

It’s a Big Country and It Floats on Less and Less Water

From 35,000 feet, the white ring that marks the high level of Lake Powell looks just like the ring of an emptying bathtub. The only difference is the chalky top mark on this big tub, once the second largest freshwater reservoir in the U.S., is an unscrubble 1,900 miles around.

And Lake Powell, the upper reservoir […]

Read More

Don’t Be a Chicken–Literally

Caution: This is a chicken-and-egg story.

Late this winter, as our Covid pandemic was waning, many bird species–and especially chickens–were suffering their own terrible pandemic, the spread of “highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI),” noted, FERN, the Food & Environmental Reporting Network May 31.

How terrible? Since January, 38 million chickens have died in the U.S. either because […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More