U.S. History

Letting Go Now That We’re Gone

After Collin Peterson, the former chairman of the House Ag Committee, lost his Nov. 2020 reelection bid to Republican challenger Michelle Fischbach, the 15-term congressman packed 194 boxes with office material and Capitol Hill memories and returned to his native Minnesota.

      The memorabilia included stacks of paper, piles of walnut plaques, one well-used office desk, […]

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The Best Way to Start is to Start

Forty years ago, two editors at Successful Farming magazine, Gene Johnston and Dean Houghton, won most major ag journalism awards with a story titled “Who will kill the hogs?”

       The piece (not available online) tracked a new, potent shift just beginning to hit the 600,000 hog farmers in the U.S.: Local meatpackers were being squeezed for hogs […]

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You’re in Charge of USDA; Where Do You Start?

The impossibly improbable has occurred and you’re now secretary of agriculture. What you think or say about farm and rural policy matters as much—and, often, more—than what other political and farm “leaders” think or say.

      So what do you think about U.S. agriculture today?

      You’re entering office with major grain markets on a bull run. Indeed, corn, soybeans, and wheat prices […]

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First USDA Quick Fix: CRP Expansion and Reform

On his way out the door last month, former House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, just off a hammering reelection defeat, offered the nation one final idea: the incoming secretary of agriculture should be empowered to enroll up to 50 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) over the next five years.

      Yes, 50—as […]

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Blood Washes Away, Lies Will be Remembered

Like any schoolboy, I was both giddy and awed when I walked into the U.S. Capitol for the first time. Here Abraham Lincoln walked and John Kennedy laid. This is where Henry Clay and Daniel Webster debated, where wars were declared, peace was cherished, and democracy watered.

      Only I wasn’t a schoolboy; I was nearly […]

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This Should be Obvious: It’s not 2009

While 2021 is not 2009, it’s easy to see how some Americans—and, in fact, many farmers and ranchers—might get confused.

      After all, a quick look around Washington, D.C. late this Jan. 20 will reveal several similarities to the same day 12 years earlier: Joe Biden is in the White House, Nancy Pelosi reigns as Speaker […]

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‘Why are you giving extreme voices so much attention?’

The last column of the year usually features comments from readers whose views differ from those found here the previous 50 or so weeks. Most point out, often in vivid language, the shortcomings of my ideas, opinions, and—increasingly—the “fake news” I peddle through both.

      At least that’s how it has been for at least 25 […]

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‘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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