Rural America

The Bum’s Rush, USDA Style

      U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue doesn’t need to hit the road this summer to find more than enough messy problems to keep him busy through harvest.

      There’s the Chinese trade mess, the NAFTA 2.0 trade mess, the European Union trade mess, and the Japanese trade mess.

      Also, there’s the mess Mother Nature made […]

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Welcome to Paradise, er, Paradox

      There’s an interesting paradox occurring in today’s commodity and financial markets. Maybe you’ve noticed it; market watchers certainly have. Here’s what they’ve seen:

      Every time President Donald J. Trump takes to Twitter to threaten a nation with import tariffs—most recently, Mexico—the U.S. stock market shoots higher.

      Paradoxically, however, every time U.S. Secretary of Agriculture […]

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“A Lick and a Promise” Aren’t Enough

      Most American farmers spent the last week of May and the first week of June either driving through mud or stuck in it. Their two farming partners, Mother Nature and Uncle Sam, were little help; one brought threats of more rain and mud, the other threats of more tariffs and bailouts.

      Farmers in my […]

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Mitigation Money Should Fuel the Market; Not the Trade War

      The month of May left as it arrived: riding in a rowboat from flooded farm field to flooded farm field across the Midwest. Worse, June is sloshing in with more rain, more mud, and more worry.

      Complicating an already complicated spring, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a broad, new scheme that could pay U.S. farmers up […]

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Talkin’ About My Generation

      It’s a truism in American agriculture that food-growing technology undergoes an industry-shaking metamorphosis every generation.

      When Grandpa (both yours and mine) farmed, hybrid seed corn came in and oat-eating horsepower went out. His sons, our fathers, were early adopters of anhydrous ammonia, 2,4-D, and, whoa, combines.

      Twenty-five years later, our generational farm-changing moment arrived with […]

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“It Was Like Watching a Train Wreck Happen”

No one I know has ever witnessed a train wreck as it happened. As such, when a friend or colleague says or writes that an event “was like watching a train wreck happen,” I’m pretty sure it wasn’t like watching a train wreck happen.

      Until Sunday, May 5, that is, when President Donald J. Twitter […]

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Stand Up or Step Aside

      Sanford Bishop and Sonny Perdue go way back.

      So far back that Bishop, now a 14-term, Democratic congressman from south Georgia, remembers when Perdue, now the Secretary of Agriculture under President Donald J. Trump, was a Democrat.

      Their friendship, however, was tested April 9 when Perdue appeared before the House Appropriations ag subcommittee to […]

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Ethanol’s Tightening Tough Spot

      If you want to anger almost any American farmer, write something less than flattering about the declining use of biofuels—especially ethanol—in the U.S. today.

      If you want to really anger almost any American farmer, write something unflattering about biofuels—especially ethanol—that includes the sentence, “U.S. farmers, particularly cornbelt farmers, have gotten a really bad deal from the […]

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Forecast for Trump Trade Talks: More Snow, Maybe Ice

      If what we’re seeing now is the Trump trade “strategy”—cram trade talks between the U.S. and China, the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S. and European Union (E.U.) into an ever-tightening window—export-dependent American farmers and ranchers are in serious trouble for several reasons.

      The first reason is the relentless calendar. Trade talks require years […]

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Time’s Reluctant Elders

      On an April Sunday afternoon a year ago, the last ancestral connection to the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth was severed when my mother died quietly and peacefully.

      Her passing, quickly followed by her sister’s death, means that this Easter will be the first Easter in the last 64 that I will not be […]

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