Rural America

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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Ag’s Coming Heart Transplant

If government and private estimates are accurate, hundreds of millions of American farm acres will have new owners in the next 15 years.

      For example, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) survey takers and record keepers, predicts that 100 million acres of today’s farmland will be sold by its current owners by 2023.

      […]

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It Takes a Carpenter

      In the early morning fog the other day, I heard a claw hammer’s tap, tap, bam, bam, bam, boom drive a nail into its place for who knows how many years. A moment later, another six, clear, sharp notes cut through the fog and another nail was set for, maybe, a century or more.

      […]

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The Plan is No Plan

      You know you’re deep in the rabbit hole when bad news—say, a government report that shows steep cuts in anticipated 2019 crop yields—is good news because it will hopefully boost prices. Conversely, when good news arrives, like an unexpected week of perfect September weather, it’s actually bad news because it just drags already low […]

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The Enemy of My Enemy Remains an Enemy

Most rural Americans are old enough to remember when their president noted  that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

      That was, after all, several tariff hikes, dozens of trade meetings, and more than 15,000 presidential tweets ago. It may seem like a lifetime but it was just 19 months ago, on March 2, […]

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