Rural America

“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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Before Silage Season, The Hand-Me-Down Season

      Sometime in mid-August, well after fair season and just before corn silage season, my brothers and I endured the hand-me-down season on the southern Illinois dairy farm of our youth.

      It was just as you suspect. One morning some weeks before school began, my mother watched as we tried on our next older brother’s clothes to […]

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Summer Fun with August Numbers

      Ag Twitter had a big sandbox to play in after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) clobbered the agricultural futures markets Aug. 12 with its number-filled Crop Report and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, or WASDE.

      The updated numbers—planted acreage, estimated production, and projected usage—hit the market like a hailstorm. Corn futures snapped […]

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Down the Primrose Path

The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the yellow roses along the primrose path are dazzling distractions from what, in a matter of days, has already been a long month for farmers and ranchers.

      Worse, a long harvest and bitter winter also loom as President Donald J. Trump threatens even tougher trade sanctions […]

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