Special Interests

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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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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