From the Column

Adventures in Ag Journalism: A Million Words Later, We’re Still Here

This week marks the 28th anniversary of this editorial effort. In round numbers that’s more than 1,430 columns, a million words, and who knows how many cold beverages.

      Its start came about like many efforts in journalism: I got fired. It’s a long story, so you might want to get comfortable—and even grab a cold beverage.

      […]

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Beware of Philosopher Kings and ‘Synthetic Alternatives’

Shortly after America’s largest private farmland owners, Microsoft billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, acknowledged their pending divorce, some wag on Twitter wondered what might be the appropriate time to wait before he approached the soon-to-be-former missus to ask about renting some of her farmland.

      While he was joking, it’s no joke that the about-to-split pair […]

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Ag Groups Make a United, Hollow Call on Meatpackers to Play Nice

On May 17, six farm groups joined voices to call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Congress, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure a “more financially sustainable situation for cattle feeders and cow-calf producers.”

      That’s make-nice farm talk for “Meatpackers are skinning U.S. cattlemen so badly now that we six, not-usually-friendly groups ask the federal government—swamp […]

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China’s Buying Binge Continues… Until It Doesn’t

China is even hungrier, richer, and—to the delight of almost every American farmer—more impatient in today’s global food market than anyone thought possible even a decade ago.

      In fact, according to the data crunchers at Agricultural Economic Insights (aei), China now imports “about 100 million acres worth of crop production, or roughly 25% of total […]

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Organic Farm Rules Need to be Quickly Reviewed, Not Slowly Rewritten

Nearly everything about Francis and Susan Thicke’s southeastern Iowa, organic dairy farm whispers bucolic: a herd of Jersey cows and calves graze on rolling acres of green pastures amid fenced farm fields and acres and acres of tree-thick woods.

      Even the farm’s name, Radiance Dairy, relays an easy calm.

      But there’s nothing calm about the food fight the Thickes (pronounced […]

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More Greenhouse Gas Comes from Rural Leaders Than Rural America

While everyone uses water, Americans use it up, noted Wallace Stegner, the preeminent writer of the West, in his 1992 book of essays Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs.

      That shrewd observation is even more accurate today.

      In fact, even though we’ve dammed every river west of—and including—the Missouri, pumped most underground aquifers to […]

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Managing Climate Risk is Good for Business and Good for the Future

With the wave of a wand, you’re the boss of the Farm Credit System (FCS). You manage a portfolio of 592,000 ag-related customers holding 946,119 loans totaling $315 billion—$113 billion in real estate debt alone—according to Dec. 2020 FCS data.

      Those numbers keep most people up at night but you sleep like a baby because your staff […]

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The Boys of My Summer Arrive Every April

 I was very young—I had just turned eight—to begin a torrid love affair but the St. Louis Cardinals made it easy. It was 1963, Stan Musial’s last year in baseball, and the young team began the season hot and stayed hot through July.

      So hot, in fact, that the starting infield for the National League’s […]

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Global Meatpackers Filet U.S. Taxpayers Again and Again

Like many global meatpacking companies, JBS SA, the giant Brazilian meat and poultry packer with extensive operations in North and South America, Europe, and Australia, spent most of the last six months buying its way out of trouble with U.S. customers and the American government.

      Even a cursory examination shows JBS spent $221.5 million in […]

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Big Agbiz’s Big ‘Price Fixing’ Settlements Need Big Fix

In a now too-common story in U.S agriculture, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) last month agreed to pay farmers $45 million to settle what the March 13 Wall Street Journal described as “price-fixing allegations leveled at its peanut processing division.”

      While $45 million is, indeed, peanuts to ADM—its estimated 2020 revenue will top $65 billion—this isn’t the first […]

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