Archives

Now is Not the Time to Make Old Friends Into New Enemies

As if 20 percent unemployment, wretchedly weak commodity markets, shuttered ethanol and meatpacking plants, and a coronavirus pandemic aren’t bad enough, the White House chose mid-May to, literally, go viral with China, one of American agriculture’s best cash-and-carry customers.

      This fight, however, isn’t over steel, aluminum or soybeans. It’s about spilled milk: How much responsibility […]

Read More

February’s Paradox, March’s Struggles

February is a paradox. Leap Year or not, it’s the shortest month of the year yet it always feels like the longest month of winter. Endless gray skies bleed into endless gray days into an almost endless gray month.

      Then March appears with its light, color, and hope and February’s dreariness is soon forgotten.

      Light, […]

Read More

The End is Nowhere in Sight

In just one, unwelcome week in America, the coronavirus drained $3.6 trillion from the stock market, clipped Apple shareholders for $220 billion, and sent millions of Americans to stores to buy every facemask, surgical glove, and gallon of bleach they could get their now-sanitized hands on.

      It’s what we do; we panic first and ask […]

Read More

The Long and Short of It

If you’re a farmer or rancher, you might be in for a bad day when you open your Monday morning email and five of the six headlines sent by an ag news service read:

      –“USDA declares Brazilian beef safe, lifts [U.S. import] ban;”

      –“GAO launches investigation into Trump aid to farmers;”

      –“China could purchase much […]

Read More

The Changing Geography of U.S. Farming and Food

    Geography isn’t static. Rivers change course, mountains erode, and islands disappear under rising seas.

      The geography of farming and food changes, too. For example, 180 years ago my home county was the castor bean and castor oil capital of the U.S. Both titles, however, slipped into irrelevance as a new resource, crude oil, rose […]

Read More

When It Comes to Trade, Lucky It’s an Election Year

      After the White House announced its twin trade triumphs, passage of NAFTA 2.0 and phase one of a multi-phase deal with China, readers emailed to suggest I should write a column on—to quote two—the “absolutely amazing trade deals” “only President Trump” could have done.

      Before I pass judgment on so humble a request, it […]

Read More

More Fallout from “Mt. Tariff”

      No major American daily newspaper features sharper, more poisonous pens than the market-focused writers at the Wall Street Journal. When these opinion peddlers go after you in print, they hit hard, fast, and—most of the time—with inarguable fact.

      Witness the Journal’s lead editorial Dec. 3, titled “Mount Tariff Erupts Again,” a full-frontal assault on President Donald J. […]

Read More

China Plays the Long Game; U.S. Keeps Getting Played

Several years ago, when Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Tom Friedman was asked to choose which rising Asian nation, China or India, he’d bet the farm on, Friedman didn’t hesitate to pick India.

      The reason, he explained, was that while both nations were on an expressway to the future, India, the world’s largest democracy, had an open road in […]

Read More

End of Trade War Looks Like Beginning of Cold War

If China agreed to purchase “$40 to $50 billion” of U.S. farm goods in “the next two years,” as President Donald J. Trump announced Oct. 11, the futures market—where market reality is quickly sorted from political talk—literally wasn’t buying it.

      In fact, November soybean futures, the nearby contract, opened Monday, Oct. 14 at $9.405 per bu. and […]

Read More

The Plan is No Plan

      You know you’re deep in the rabbit hole when bad news—say, a government report that shows steep cuts in anticipated 2019 crop yields—is good news because it will hopefully boost prices. Conversely, when good news arrives, like an unexpected week of perfect September weather, it’s actually bad news because it just drags already low […]

Read More