Special Interests

Big Ag’s Weak Hand in Nitrate Fight

For over a year the Des Moines Water Works has been warning every private farmer and public official in Iowa that it would sue anyone or any entity it deemed responsible for the dangerously high nitrate levels in the Raccoon River, a key source of the water it delivers to 500,000 people in and around […]

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The COOL Facts

Country of origin labeling, or COOL, for meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts sold in the U.S. has been kicked around by the courts, politicians, international trade panels and special interest farm groups since it became law in 2008.
The only people who haven’t kicked it are American consumers. Polls consistently report that at least 85 percent […]

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Welcome Back, Foodie

We didn’t know it back then but everyone on the big southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth was a foodie.
Of course there was no one named Bittman or Pollan or Waters to tell us we were foodies but there were people named Mom and Grandma and Aunt Nina whose food knocked your socks off […]

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Insuring Elephants

Federally subsidized crop insurance is the elephant in the Farm Bill pantry and anyone who had any role in pushing the law through the zoo called Congress knows it. What most didn’t know, however, was when Big Ag would finally acknowledge its huge appetite and suffocating presence.
Enter Mary Kay Thatcher, a long-time, well-respected Washington, D.C. […]

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Groundhog Day, Again and Again

Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, Christmas in the windshield, and given the glacial pace of key policy decisions awaiting resolution in Washington, D.C., it’s just another Groundhog Day out here in rural America.
Those decisions, after two years of heavy duty do-nothingness, are coming slower than the deadlines faced by this Congress and the new […]

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All Right Already, Fix It

If you ran your farm or ranch like the White House and Congress run the federal government, your corn would never get planted and your cows would be long gone.
Of course, if you ran your farm or ranch anywhere near the level of—what?— the scornful divisiveness and almost pure reactionary politics that now guide Congress […]

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Quantitative Spinning

Against all odds, economics, the dismal science, has become even more dismal. Since the Great Recession of 2008, what once was equal parts science and art is now equal parts politics and disdain.
What I mean is that nearly every economic report and analysis now comes freighted with political spin and partisan derision. Economic numbers—jobs, exports, […]

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Roberts Reboots and Other Coincidences

While Republicans, Democrats and Independents voted nationwide Nov. 4, coincidence, irony and “Huh?” were the big winners Nov. 5.
For example, nationally, according to early numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, candidates spent $3.7 billion on 2014 elections, the most in U.S. history, to get Americans to vote for them. (Links to source material […]

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The Endless Politics of GMOs

It’s tough being a genetically modified organism in election season because no election passes without someone or some state slamming you for being, well, you.
This election is no different. Voters in Oregon and Colorado are in the home stretch of multi-million-dollar ballot fights to decide if you will be identified and labeled in and on […]

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2014 Farm Bill: “Immense Bundle of Subsidies”

In a series of toughly-worded articles published in Choices, the quarterly journal of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA), nearly every major element of the 2014 Farm Bill—from its expanded crop insurance program to its impact on global trade negotiations—comes under fire as either “perverse,” “false,” “vacuous,” “absurd,” “failing,” or “wasteful.”
The seven articles, overseen […]

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