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Forecast for Trump Trade Talks: More Snow, Maybe Ice

      If what we’re seeing now is the Trump trade “strategy”—cram trade talks between the U.S. and China, the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S. and European Union (E.U.) into an ever-tightening window—export-dependent American farmers and ranchers are in serious trouble for several reasons.

      The first reason is the relentless calendar. Trade talks require years […]

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Checkbooks, Guns, and Baloney

The day U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the White House plan to spread $12 billion of taxpayer salve on its festering tariff wound, November soybean futures ended their day completely unimpressed—down a sleepy 2.5 cents.
Farmers echoed the market reaction; they, too, were unimpressed with the bailout. “Trade, not aid,” was their polite, but […]

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The Terrible What Ifs

Spring arrived slowly this year. Then, late last week, its welcome warmth and longer light slipped in and winter’s bony fingers loosened their grip.
In farm and ranch country, however, spring brings tough questions and even tougher choices. Both could have been softened if our farm and political leaders sought compromise, not confrontation. Alas, they didn’t […]

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Promises Made, Promises Kept

Of all the words used to describe President Donald J. Trump during his first days in office—bold, boastful, alternative facts—here are two that almost no person or pundit uttered: promise keeper.
Love him or loathe him, Trump took no time in checking off key items from his unconventional campaign’s list of unconventional promises.
Toss out the Trans-Pacific […]

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No Trade? No Kidding.

You know it’s a presidential election year when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issues late summer press releases where nearly half the ink touts the Obama’s Administration’s past ag successes even as it announces actual news.
On Aug. 1 USDA issued just such a press release; 315 of its 635 words bragged about the White […]

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The “Con” in Econometric

While American farmers and ranchers were eyeball-deep in spring planting and first-hay cutting, their commodity groups and federal government were knee-deep in narrowly-focused studies filled with meaningless numbers and unchallenged econometric puffery.
For example, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and U.S. Grains Council (USGC) released a privately “commissioned” report May 24 that proclaimed the 2014 […]

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Trade Deals Going Nowhere

As the politics of this election year heat up, the chances of Congress debating—let alone passing—either of the White House’s marque trade deals continue to melt away.
Oh, there’s plenty of talk about the westward-looking Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Euro-centered Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TPP and TTIP, respectively. Most of the yakking, however, flows […]

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For Sale: Cheap Bull

Despite the bile pouring out the nation’s capital, there still are three daily events in Washington, D.C. that every American can count on: sunrise, sunset, and U.S. farm groups’ unwavering support for “free” trade.
In fact, most U.S. farm and commodity groups support free trade so reflexively that nearly every one gave the just-completed Trans-Pacific Partnership […]

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Free Trade! Free Lunch!

We in agriculture talk about free trade agreements as if they are the international equivalent of a free lunch. All we need is a trade deal, we preach, and a full belly—easy profit—is an almost certainty.
This lovely belief, of course, overlooks the absolute certainty that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone […]

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Free Trade’s Cheap Talk

Most U.S. farm and commodity groups aren’t clear on the exact elements of the just agreed-upon Trans-Pacific Partnership. That lack of understanding, though, hasn’t stopped any from praising this “new, high-standard trade agreement that levels the playing field for American workers and American businesses.”
For example, our good friends at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association say […]

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