Technology

Global Food Chains Face More Uncertainty, More Instability

For the second time in two years, a history-making calamity has shown just how fragile the world’s efficiency-driven, deeply interdependent food system is.

Two years ago, a rampaging pandemic threatened America’s pantries. Today, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens supplies of key ag inputs like fuel and fertilizer while causing deep disruptions to global wheat, corn, and […]

Read More

“Broken Systems Raise Costs Far Faster Than Resilient Ones”

One of the most beautiful–and inexplicable–aspects of economics is how its practitioners never seem to be wrong.

Indeed, almost every school of economic thought, from John Maynard Keynes’ demand-driven economics on the left to Arthur Laffer’s supply-side economics on the right, is crowded with disciples defending their leader’s theories and just often, if subtly, attacking their […]

Read More

Getting MAD, Mutually Assured Digesters, is Always a Bad Idea

If today’s California is what the rest of America will look like tomorrow, you might want to brace yourself for too little water, too much animal manure, and $4.65-per-gallon gasoline.

And, weird, too, because in California these too-little, too-much, and too-expensive elements have been combined to create what was thought to be a partial cure for […]

Read More

The New Ag Alchemy: Gold from Gas

The biggest gold rush in U.S. history is about to hit rural America and it won’t involve corn or cattle or even gold. Instead, the big money will be in pipelines.

That’s right, pipelines; pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) pipelines designed to carry CO2 from Midwestern ethanol plants to “sequestration” sites in either North Dakota or Illinois.

Itchy […]

Read More

You Can Only Postpone Reality for So Long

Despite an honest-to-goodness flood of evidence to the contrary, more than 100 million American adults continue to deny the existence of climate change. That’s roughly one third of the country. 

Congress is little better. Currently, 109 House members and 30 senators, or about 26 percent of all members, have cast “doubt on the clear, established scientific […]

Read More

Mother Nature Doesn’t Do ‘Net Zero’

One rainy November day 20 or so years ago, the lovely Catherine and I were hopelessly lost in the streets and lanes of Glasgow, Scotland while searching for an art museum. By the time we finally conceded defeat and hailed a taxi to take us there, we were soaked, shivering, and couldn’t have cared less […]

Read More

Running with the Big Deere

In an effort to maintain its enviable, 34-year run of labor peace, Deere & Co. and the United Auto Workers recently announced a deal to boost worker pay–by 20 percent over five and six years, Deere said–to keep the iconic green-and-yellow machines rolling off its 11 assembly lines and through its three distribution centers.

The manufacturing […]

Read More

Hey, Genius, Mind Your Own Business

It’s a rare honor to be named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. In fact, in 40 years, only 1,061 Americans have been awarded the title and the no-strings-attached stipend, this year a plush $625,000, commonly referred to as a “genius grant.”

Even more rare are MacArthur Fellows with ties to farming and food. Before this year, only […]

Read More

The Old Economics of New Agriculture: Drive or Be Driven

A recent, number-laden bulletin posted on the University of Illinois website farmdoc daily caught my attention for two reasons.

First, its data, drawn mostly from several U.S. Census of Agriculture, paints a troubling picture of U.S. agriculture today. More importantly, that picture suggests American ag policy needs to make “strategic” changes to meet new challenges–climate change and new […]

Read More

Threading Needles with Camels

Twenty-five years ago, when almost every American farm and ranch organization was denying the existence of climate change, William E. Rees and a colleague developed a method to measure how much “nature” was required to support a people or an economy. They called that measurement an “ecological footprint.”

That science–ecological economics, Rees’s career specialty at the […]

Read More