U.S. History

Coming war for U.S. crop acres renews food-versus-fuel fight

American farmers are long familiar with acre wars. This regional, late winter scrum is a showdown over how many acres of corn, soybeans, cotton, and wheat acres farmers will plant mainly in the Midwest, Great Plains, and South.

Most years these fights are decided by a variable–and oftentimes volatile–combination of three elements: what market prices are […]

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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 […]

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“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 […]

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Land Values Face Trouble in Coming Decade

It’s the choices we make in the good times, the grandson of a Kansas homesteader once told me, that determine our farming successes, not the choices we make in the bad times.

Why? Because, he explained, in the good times we have the money to make big mistakes and in the bad times we’re too poor […]

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Big Ethanol Sees Electric Cars as a Market Maker, Not Market Taker

One of modern agriculture’s most beloved offspring, ethanol, received a sharp reprimand Feb. 13 from Iowa’s largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register.

In an editorial titled “Ethanol has been a boon for Iowa’s economy. But it’s time to pivot and figure out what’s next,” The Register chided Iowa Republicans and Democrats alike for supporting ethanol-pushing programs […]

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Making Pork Chops Flow Uphill

For more than 40 years my father farmed within a mile of where the Kaskaskia River met the Mississippi deep in southern Illinois. That meant he had two, lifetime partners: the river and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, landlords of the levees that guarded our wedge of the Great American Bottoms.

Dad never argued with […]

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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 […]

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Keep Moving, Nothing to See Here

No one was shocked recently when the General Accountability Office (GAO) announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had overpaid farmers billions of dollars during the slapdash tariff-mitigation scheme ordered by the Trump White House in 2018 and 2019.

A couple of billion bucks in government waste is, evidently, chump change when–as in the case of […]

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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 […]

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Goodbye 2021’s High Profits, Hello 2022’s High Costs

It always seems odd to use the final week or two of the current year as a platform to view the coming year. How does looking in the rearview mirror give anyone a clear sense of what’s ahead?

That certainly was the case for most ag markets a year ago. For example, almost no one last […]

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