Special Interests

Ethanol’s Future is Running Out of Gas

The key ingredients for a looming crack-up in ethanol–the fast rise of electric vehicles, lukewarm politics, and more evidence of catastrophic climate change–are in place and few in U.S. ag policy circles are prepared to face that reality.

In fact, none of those woes are new; they’ve been building for years.

For example, the Trump Administration’s almost carte […]

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Bigger Means Bitter, Not Better

In a sweeping, 72-point executive order on competition, the Biden Administration announced it was taking dead aim at the heavily concentrated “multinational companies (that) increasingly dominate markets for crops, chemicals, seeds, and meat,” reported Bloomberg.

The competition order–that “reach(es) from the FDA to the Pentagon”–includes “directives… such as rules that would help chicken farmers and ranchers… […]

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Everything–Corn, Soybeans, the Truth–Needs Sunshine

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A local grain company does well year-in, year-out buying, storing, and processing a few million bushels of soybeans. Nearby farmers love it; a strong local processor means strong local prices.

As the years pass, the plant ages and–too soon for local farmers–closes. A statewide farm group, knowing the plant’s importance […]

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The Ag Politics of Being Agriculturally Apolitical

It’s a widely held belief that if you want to get ahead in farm group politics, you can’t be political. Well, not overtly political, anyway. Quietly, sure; loud and you’re outta’ here.

For example, according to OpenSecrets.org, the best tracker of campaign cash in American politics, the nation’s largest, richest farm group, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), contributed a stunningly puny […]

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Beware of Philosopher Kings and ‘Synthetic Alternatives’

Shortly after America’s largest private farmland owners, Microsoft billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, acknowledged their pending divorce, some wag on Twitter wondered what might be the appropriate time to wait before he approached the soon-to-be-former missus to ask about renting some of her farmland.

      While he was joking, it’s no joke that the about-to-split pair […]

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More Greenhouse Gas Comes from Rural Leaders Than Rural America

While everyone uses water, Americans use it up, noted Wallace Stegner, the preeminent writer of the West, in his 1992 book of essays Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs.

      That shrewd observation is even more accurate today.

      In fact, even though we’ve dammed every river west of—and including—the Missouri, pumped most underground aquifers to […]

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Big Agbiz’s Big ‘Price Fixing’ Settlements Need Big Fix

In a now too-common story in U.S agriculture, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) last month agreed to pay farmers $45 million to settle what the March 13 Wall Street Journal described as “price-fixing allegations leveled at its peanut processing division.”

      While $45 million is, indeed, peanuts to ADM—its estimated 2020 revenue will top $65 billion—this isn’t the first […]

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AltEn: The Mess Gets Even Messier

On March 1, Nebraska’s attorney general threw the book at AltEn, alleging the 24-million-gallon-per year ethanol maker near Mead spent most of the last five years making an environmental mess of its biofuels plant and the surrounding rural community.

      In a 97-page civil complaint, the state detailed 18 “causes of action” against AltEn ranging from […]

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Figuring the Odds

If you’re a corn and soybean farmer or an ag commodity futures trader, one of the biggest make-or-break days of the year looms: On March 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will issue its Prospective Plantings report.

      The much-anticipated report is the world’s first look at USDA’s best estimates for the upcoming year’s planted acreage of […]

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Rural America Shouldn’t Be a Dump Site for Corporate America

There’s a clear lesson in the chemical and ethical cloud now shrouding AltEn, a 25-million-gallon per year ethanol plant just south of Mead, NE.

      In fact, there’s more than one lesson but the big one—how rural America is becoming a legal dumping ground for wastes created by corporate America—may be AltEn’s enduring legacy.

      The plant, […]

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