Special Interests

You’re in Charge of USDA; Where Do You Start?

The impossibly improbable has occurred and you’re now secretary of agriculture. What you think or say about farm and rural policy matters as much—and, often, more—than what other political and farm “leaders” think or say.

      So what do you think about U.S. agriculture today?

      You’re entering office with major grain markets on a bull run. Indeed, corn, soybeans, and wheat prices […]

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This Should be Obvious: It’s not 2009

While 2021 is not 2009, it’s easy to see how some Americans—and, in fact, many farmers and ranchers—might get confused.

      After all, a quick look around Washington, D.C. late this Jan. 20 will reveal several similarities to the same day 12 years earlier: Joe Biden is in the White House, Nancy Pelosi reigns as Speaker […]

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‘Why are you giving extreme voices so much attention?’

The last column of the year usually features comments from readers whose views differ from those found here the previous 50 or so weeks. Most point out, often in vivid language, the shortcomings of my ideas, opinions, and—increasingly—the “fake news” I peddle through both.

      At least that’s how it has been for at least 25 […]

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‘Political democracy can endure only as a guardian of economic democracy’

In early 1999, I wrote a column about lions and gazelles.

      More precisely, I wrote a column on how, in the 1990s, American livestock farmers had become “gazelles… in the brutal world of global agriculture.”

      What that meant was “Every morning the gazelle awakens knowing it must run faster than the fastest lion to live […]

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Gambling on the Future of Food and Rural America

     Three events on consecutive mid-November days show farmers, ranchers, and all Americans where U.S. agriculture now is.

      Event One: On Nov. 18, the Iowa Capital Dispatch, a not-for-profit news website, detailed allegations on how managers at Tyson Food’s hog-killing plant in Waterloo, IA, literally gambled on employee lives as the coronavirus took root last April.

      […]

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November Winds are Blowing Big Change

One of the perennial certainties of any election season is how pundits chew over the politics of losing campaigns rather than discuss the policy implications of winning campaigns.

      The biggest reason is the cleanliness of who’s-up and who’s-down as opposed to a messy dive into the greasy nuance of what victory means to legislative sausage […]

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What Exactly is China Buying on its U.S. Shopping Spree?

As political winners joust over election spoils, many Americans are tickled pink (or purple) to leave the costliest, most bitter campaign season behind and return to their lives of family, work, and dreams.

      For U.S. farmers and ranchers that means a return to three pre-election realities: a strong, export-led rise in grain prices; another winter […]

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Big Ag is Counting on a Purple Blue Dog

      If there is such a thing as a 76-year-old poster child, Collin Peterson, the chairman of the House Ag Committee, could be the weatherworn face of today’s red-and-blue political divide in rural America. His qualifications for the job are, well, colorful.

      For example, he’s a 15-term, incumbent Democrat in a rural Minnesota congressional district […]

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Now Would Be a Good Time for Honest Dishonesty

Somewhere in southern Illinois there’s a high school yearbook that contains a photo of me and another student leaning against a classroom wall on either side of a 1972 campaign poster of a smiling Richard Nixon. The caption writer, another student, notes that my buddy and I are “standing” with our man, the then-incumbent president.

      […]

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‘How Much Evidence Do You Need to Vaporize a Zombie?’

      While “zombie ideas” isn’t a phrase you often see in farm publications, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has popularized it to describe a uniquely American political condition.

      Zombie ideas, the 2008 Nobel winner in economics explained in a 2018 column, are “ideas that should have died long ago, yet still keep shambling along, eating politicians’ brains.”

      That […]

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