U.S. History

‘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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Choose an Ag Secretary with Experience, Expertise, and Boldness

      It’s a challenge to find one person with the combined skills of a farmer, rancher, forester, food aid administrator, tribal leader, attorney, economist, conservationist, miner, insurance expert, food scientist, and finance specialist to fill the about-to open job of the secretary of agriculture.

      In fact, that person—described, in part, by the titles of the […]

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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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Out of Many “Theys,” We

      Ten or so years ago a friend asked if I would help him move a gun safe from his garage to his basement. I agreed not knowing what I was in for.

      I had heard of gun safes; I just hadn’t ever seen one. My father’s “safe” was a corner living room closet where […]

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Big Ag is Counting on a Purple Blue Dog

      If there is such a thing as a 76-year-old poster child, Collin Peterson, the chairman of the House Ag Committee, could be the weatherworn face of today’s red-and-blue political divide in rural America. His qualifications for the job are, well, colorful.

      For example, he’s a 15-term, incumbent Democrat in a rural Minnesota congressional district […]

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Now Would Be a Good Time for Honest Dishonesty

Somewhere in southern Illinois there’s a high school yearbook that contains a photo of me and another student leaning against a classroom wall on either side of a 1972 campaign poster of a smiling Richard Nixon. The caption writer, another student, notes that my buddy and I are “standing” with our man, the then-incumbent president.

      […]

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Perilous Bounty is a Journey Well Worth Taking

      Some books are worth more in your hand and on your shelf than they are as electrons in your e-reader. These books, and their authors, are valued friends and you return to them often for information, advice, and comfort.

      Two downsizing moves in the last 15 years have pared my library to a few shelves […]

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Election Year Crazy, Sure, But This Is Way Beyond Crazy

Just when you think 2020 can’t possibly get any crazier, autumn arrives with a carload of crazy in tow.

For example, does any farmer or rancher really know what the White House’s recently announced additional $14 billion in ag bailout money is intended to address that the previous $37.2 billion didn’t address?

      That’s an honest question because we […]

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We’re Not Very Good Students Even When We’re Given the Answers

If experience is the best teacher, then surely we have learned a few important, unforgettable lessons in this otherwise forgettable year.

      If it isn’t a good teacher or we are uncaring students, then we’ve squandered most of the year, over $4 trillion, and almost 200,000 lives on lessons still needing to be learned.

      That’s not […]

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Sixty Days Until the Farm and Food World Shakes

In March 1919, John Reed, an American journalist, published Ten Days that Shook the World, his eyewitness book on one of the new century’s most defining events, the Russian Revolution.

      Eighty years later, Reed’s groundbreaking work was still shaking the world. New York University ranked it seventh on its list of the 20th century’s 100 most consequential works. […]

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