U.S. History

Partisanship, Piffle, and Prattle

Some years ago, I wrote a column on how farm groups sternly preached the value of what they reverently called “sound science” but, in fact, usually endorsed only “science that sounds good” to the groups.

      Not coincidentally, I noted, most of that good-sounding science was “science” tied to research bought-and-paid-for by the groups themselves.

      Examples of this […]

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Dog Days Mean Letting it Lie

      On the farms of our youths, the dog days of August featured actual dogs and not a whole lot of anything else.

      Given the unsettled state of today’s growing season, commodity markets, and politics, maybe the best way to get through this August is to slide back to that era and just not say […]

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Doing Your Civic Duty. Or not.

      Look out, rural America, Congress is headed your way during its annual month-long break in August and its members want to talk trade, trade, and trade.

      They don’t, however, want to talk about America’s flagging 2019 ag exports or the still-in-place, retaliatory tariffs that are clipping U.S. exports.

      No, rural America’s almost entirely Republican […]

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Talkin’ About My Generation

      It’s a truism in American agriculture that food-growing technology undergoes an industry-shaking metamorphosis every generation.

      When Grandpa (both yours and mine) farmed, hybrid seed corn came in and oat-eating horsepower went out. His sons, our fathers, were early adopters of anhydrous ammonia, 2,4-D, and, whoa, combines.

      Twenty-five years later, our generational farm-changing moment arrived with […]

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Paying Taxes Like a General, or, Better Yet, Amazon

      Decades ago, when discussing the complexity of U.S. tax code, an ag lobbyist friend noted that all he wanted in any tax reform “was to pay the same taxes the generals paid: General Mills, General Motors, General Dynamics…”

      He’d still take that deal. In 2018, General Dynamics had an effective tax rate of 17.8 […]

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Forecast for Trump Trade Talks: More Snow, Maybe Ice

      If what we’re seeing now is the Trump trade “strategy”—cram trade talks between the U.S. and China, the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S. and European Union (E.U.) into an ever-tightening window—export-dependent American farmers and ranchers are in serious trouble for several reasons.

      The first reason is the relentless calendar. Trade talks require years […]

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If You Want to See the Future, You Need to Look Ahead

To most farmers and ranchers, “sustainable” is a word that, like exercise or vacation, has a dictionary definition and a personal definition. The difference between the two, however, often is the difference between the county fair and the World’s Fair.

      These folks aren’t alone. Almost everyone and everything from commodity groups to coal companies make […]

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In the Long Run It’s, Well, a Long Run

One of the oldest theoretical constructions in economics declares that in a perfect market, short term profits and losses eventually even out so that, in the long term, all profits are zero.

      Famed 20th century English economist John Maynard Keynes gets credit for restating this jargon-rich theory into clear, concise language when, in 1923, he wrote, […]

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Knives, Forks, and Farmers Favor Immigration Reform

When Internal Revenue Service (IRS) workers returned to their jobs Jan. 28 after the recent, 35-day government shutdown, an estimated five million pieces of unopened mail awaited.

      Equally daunting, the shutdown coincided with the IRS’s hiring of its annual army of temporary workers to process the impending tax season’s mail. The delay now leaves the […]

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“You Better Believe It”

      Epistemology is what we on the farm called “a $10 word.”
      At $10, though, it’s underpriced because epistemology—the study of what we believe, what is true, and the evidence we have to justify that truth and belief—covers a lot of ground.
      In short, epistemology is the study of knowledge.
      That topic sounds drier than last summer’s […]

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