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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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Questions Surround Carbon Sequestration; USDA Needs to Find Answers

One topic most red, blue, and green politicians—and, even more strikingly, farmers—agree on is climate change; it’s real.

      In fact, notes the Dec. 2020 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, 58 percent of Iowa farmers and landowners now agree that climate change is both occurring and is caused by either human activity or nature.

      Moreover, if you add […]

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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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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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Finding New Ground

      Some observers see the Black Lives Matter movement as a tidal wave washing away America’s original sin, slavery, and the systemic racism it fostered for more than 400 years.

      Maybe, but as the last 75 years of the American civil rights movement has proven time and again—and often in blood—rooting out hatred requires more […]

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“Feeding You Like Family” Often Requires a Family

While Tyson Foods says it’s “feeding you like family,” we recently learned that it and the rest of America’s Big Meat members sometimes need a war-like White House declaration just to cut a fat hog.

      More striking than the order itself was its effect: it didn’t work.

      A week after President Donald J. Trump ordered […]

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We Have to Start Somewhere

      Before we take the next unsteady step into a very different future, let’s make sure it’s a step up the ladder and not a step off the plank.

      How? We can start with disciplined decision making: Use proven facts, lean on practical experience, and focus like a laser on what is safe and smart.

      […]

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Hey, Didn’t Rural America Invent ‘Social Distancing’?

There’s a brittle beauty to this year’s spring. Amid the swaying daffodils, cotton clouds, and already roaring tractors and dust-shaking planters hides a deadly virus with a special fondness for those of us in rural America.

      In fact, rural America is perfectly primed for Covid-19, according to any epidemiologist worth their student loans. The virus […]

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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 […]

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Welcome to the Fight; Now Get in Line

      After 38 years in journalism, some events still cause shock. Many center on public officials holding private meetings where a “just-us-insiders” intimacy affords all a “better understanding”—read total control—of their policy initiatives.

      Sorry (not sorry), but public policy doesn’t work that way. There’s no room for secrecy when public officials spend public money to […]

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