Rural America

Unfinished Business: Immigration Reform

Like the weather, everyone talks about immigration reform but few do much about it.

In fact, do-nothingness is the dominant trait of immigration lawmaking. A Google search of the phrase “ag immigration stalemate” delivers “about 621,000 results in 0.61 seconds” dating back to at least the mid-1990s.

There was, however, a moment of movement last summer when […]

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Don’t Bet Against the Latest Supermarket Super Merger

Late on Friday, May 7, the day before the running of the 2022 Kentucky Derby, a chestnut-colored colt named Rich Strike made the race’s lineup after, literally, another horse withdrew from the competition at the last minute.

The next day, May 8, Rich Strike struck it rich: The ridiculously long, 80-1 longshot won the Derby, the […]

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USDA’s ‘Deeply Flawed’ $3 Billion ‘Climate Smart Commodities’ Program

Even at first glance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recently announced $3-billion-dollar “Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities” sounds like doublespeak, an Orwellian invention that reverses the meaning of words.

Or, more plainly, how can today’s commodity-centered, industrialized agriculture be remotely “climate-smart” when everyone in the food business readily acknowledges it’s an oil-gulping, climate-changing juggernaut?

The short, truthful […]

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Drought, War, Inflation, and Consumer Disconnect

By almost any measure, 2022 has been a tough year for most. Inflation, war, the growing consequences of climate change, and widening political divide are just a few of the compounding woes we continue to deal with as harvest and U.S. midterm elections loom.

In the middle of this chaos, however, U.S. farmers received remarkably good […]

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All Hats, No Cattle, and Little Chance

Two groups–one of South Dakota investors, the other tied to Texas cattle ranchers and feeders–are preparing to spend a collective $1.8 billion on two meatpacking plants that they say will be so innovative each will pay cattle suppliers more for their cattle and bison than any of today’s Big Four packers.

Most meatpacker pros, however, think […]

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‘Funeral by Funeral, Theory Advances’

In 1970, Paul Samuelson became the first American awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.  The honor came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist because he had “simply rewritten considerable parts of economic theory.”

True that. Samuelson had already written what would become the best-selling college textbook on the subject, Economics, (now translated into […]

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Outside the Fence One Time Too Many

Contrary to folklore, three times is rarely a charm. The number three, in fact, often carries woe: “Three strikes and you’re out,” for example or “Bad news usually comes in threes.”

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors rediscovered these portentous axioms July 7 when, for the third time in less than a year, a jury in […]

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Market Forecast for Summer: Cloudy with a Chance of Hardheadedness

A veteran commodity trader once urged me to remember that “People who say the market is wrong are usually on the wrong side of the market.”

That insight, he added, had been learned the hard way, “…as in hardheaded.”

His advice came to mind as the futures market carried its June swoon into the U.S. Department of […]

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It’s a Big Country and It Floats on Less and Less Water

From 35,000 feet, the white ring that marks the high level of Lake Powell looks just like the ring of an emptying bathtub. The only difference is the chalky top mark on this big tub, once the second largest freshwater reservoir in the U.S., is an unscrubble 1,900 miles around.

And Lake Powell, the upper reservoir […]

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Don’t Be a Chicken–Literally

Caution: This is a chicken-and-egg story.

Late this winter, as our Covid pandemic was waning, many bird species–and especially chickens–were suffering their own terrible pandemic, the spread of “highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI),” noted, FERN, the Food & Environmental Reporting Network May 31.

How terrible? Since January, 38 million chickens have died in the U.S. either because […]

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