U.S. History

The Simple Answer to the Simple Question

Oftentimes the simple answer to a simple question is the simple truth.

Some people, however, don’t want the simple truth, so they bend facts or shave figures so their square pegs replace roundly accepted reality. It’s commonplace in ag.

For example, on April 12, President Joe Biden traveled to Iowa to announce an expansion of the ethanol […]

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It’s a Big Country and It Floats on Less and Less Water

From 35,000 feet, the white ring that marks the high level of Lake Powell looks just like the ring of an emptying bathtub. The only difference is the chalky top mark on this big tub, once the second largest freshwater reservoir in the U.S., is an unscrubble 1,900 miles around.

And Lake Powell, the upper reservoir […]

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Don’t Be a Chicken–Literally

Caution: This is a chicken-and-egg story.

Late this winter, as our Covid pandemic was waning, many bird species–and especially chickens–were suffering their own terrible pandemic, the spread of “highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI),” noted, FERN, the Food & Environmental Reporting Network May 31.

How terrible? Since January, 38 million chickens have died in the U.S. either because […]

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New Signs of Apocalypse: War, Famine, and Davos Man

On the very week the United States marked its one millionth Covid death and anxious American parents awaited a military airlift for baby formula, Davos Man, he of the pinstriped master-of-the-universe class, emerged from his bulletproof, bombproof office to report all was well in the world of intergalactic finance and handmade shoes.

Well, kinda’ sorta’ well.

There […]

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A Kiss and a Prayer for Our Benefit

This year Memorial Day falls on its traditional day, May 30, the day set aside–originally as “Decoration Day”– to honor the nation’s military dead after the Civil War. In 1971, however, Congressional fussbudgets unhooked the solemn day from tradition and now it floats to whatever day follows the last Sunday in May.

That was a mistake […]

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‘I have said we have to see some results!’

It’s no surprise that the nation’s five largest meatpackers, according to a May 12 government report, “engaged in a concerted effort with Trump Administration political officials to insulate themselves from coronavirus-related oversight.”

After all, the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis (the Committee), the body charged with oversight of government’s response to the pandemic, released […]

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Harvested Cattle, Slaughtered Markets

You don’t need to be a vegan to know that livestock and poultry aren’t “harvested,” the squeaky clean verb that’s become fashionable among farm and ranch groups to minimize the end–as in The End–of most animals their members grow.

Soybeans are harvested; pigs are slaughtered. Wheat is harvested; cattle are slaughtered.

It’s not a minor point, insists […]

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‘I used to say FDA stood for foot-dragging artists”

FDA is, of course, government shorthand for the Food and Drug Administration or, as Helena Bottemiller Evich makes crystal clear in a deeply-sourced, richly detailed April 8 exposé, the Food and Drug Administration.

The emphasis is required, explains Bottemiller Evich, a senior editor and ag reporter at Politico, because “a monthslong… investigation” found “that regulating food […]

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Twenty-five hundred gallons of water per bushel of irrigated corn is ‘too much’

In a recent telephone conversation, a southwest Kansas farmer casually noted that he had stopped growing irrigated corn some years back because “it cost too much.” Curious, I asked what it cost to irrigate an acre of corn in his arid, cattle-feeding-and-corn-hungry corner of the state.

“It wasn’t the money,” he quickly explained, “it was the […]

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Big Food Makes Big Ag Look Like a Piker

If you think Big Ag has too few suppliers, too few buyers, and too few farmers and ranchers, you need to meet Big Food. It is big-time big.

Who is Big Food?

That straightforward question was tackled by academics, journalists, and legal professionals in a day-long conference on March 12, titled “Reforming America’s Retail Food Markets,” at […]

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