Rural America

‘Why are you giving extreme voices so much attention?’

The last column of the year usually features comments from readers whose views differ from those found here the previous 50 or so weeks. Most point out, often in vivid language, the shortcomings of my ideas, opinions, and—increasingly—the “fake news” I peddle through both.

      At least that’s how it has been for at least 25 […]

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Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.

      “I believe this […]

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‘Political democracy can endure only as a guardian of economic democracy’

In early 1999, I wrote a column about lions and gazelles.

      More precisely, I wrote a column on how, in the 1990s, American livestock farmers had become “gazelles… in the brutal world of global agriculture.”

      What that meant was “Every morning the gazelle awakens knowing it must run faster than the fastest lion to live […]

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Gambling on the Future of Food and Rural America

     Three events on consecutive mid-November days show farmers, ranchers, and all Americans where U.S. agriculture now is.

      Event One: On Nov. 18, the Iowa Capital Dispatch, a not-for-profit news website, detailed allegations on how managers at Tyson Food’s hog-killing plant in Waterloo, IA, literally gambled on employee lives as the coronavirus took root last April.

      […]

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A Challenging Year but an Unforgettable Thanksgiving

Rural people often reminisce by years. The general rule for any talk about “good” or “bad” years is that good years rarely merit as much mention as great years and great years usually play second fiddle to bad years.

      The reason that challenging or tough years like 2019 and 2020 leave an impression is not […]

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Out of Many “Theys,” We

      Ten or so years ago a friend asked if I would help him move a gun safe from his garage to his basement. I agreed not knowing what I was in for.

      I had heard of gun safes; I just hadn’t ever seen one. My father’s “safe” was a corner living room closet where […]

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Big Ag is Counting on a Purple Blue Dog

      If there is such a thing as a 76-year-old poster child, Collin Peterson, the chairman of the House Ag Committee, could be the weatherworn face of today’s red-and-blue political divide in rural America. His qualifications for the job are, well, colorful.

      For example, he’s a 15-term, incumbent Democrat in a rural Minnesota congressional district […]

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Now Would Be a Good Time for Honest Dishonesty

Somewhere in southern Illinois there’s a high school yearbook that contains a photo of me and another student leaning against a classroom wall on either side of a 1972 campaign poster of a smiling Richard Nixon. The caption writer, another student, notes that my buddy and I are “standing” with our man, the then-incumbent president.

      […]

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Perilous Bounty is a Journey Well Worth Taking

      Some books are worth more in your hand and on your shelf than they are as electrons in your e-reader. These books, and their authors, are valued friends and you return to them often for information, advice, and comfort.

      Two downsizing moves in the last 15 years have pared my library to a few shelves […]

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We’re Not Very Good Students Even When We’re Given the Answers

If experience is the best teacher, then surely we have learned a few important, unforgettable lessons in this otherwise forgettable year.

      If it isn’t a good teacher or we are uncaring students, then we’ve squandered most of the year, over $4 trillion, and almost 200,000 lives on lessons still needing to be learned.

      That’s not […]

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