A recently retired agricultural professor from Iowa recently rattled the state’s political and agricultural leaders by questioning the environmental benefits of the ethanol industry. | Reuters/Jim Young photo

Ag politics of being agriculturally apolitical

The U.S. agriculture industry prides itself on staying out of the political arena — until it doesn’t

It’s a widely held belief that if you want to get ahead in farm group politics in the United States, you can’t be political. Well, not overtly political, anyway. Quietly, sure; loud and you’re “outta” here. For example, according to OpenSecrets.org, the best tracker of campaign cash in American politics, the U.S.’s largest, richest farm […] Read more

Changing faces in U.S. Congress present an opportunity for ag

While 2021 is not 2009, it’s easy to see how some Americans — and many farmers and ranchers — might get confused. After all, a quick look around Washington, D.C., this Jan. 20 will reveal several similarities to the same day 12 years earlier: Joe Biden is in the White House, Nancy Pelosi reigns as […] Read more

Corporatization of U.S. agriculture costs producers billions

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 […] Read more


Sailors treat a patient aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy, which was deployed to serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals in Los Angeles.  |  Reuters photo

COVID-19 pandemic is no hoax

Despite overwhelming evidence from every corner of the world, a farmer friend recently related to me that three rural acquaintances had assured him that “this whole virus thing is just a big hoax to bring down Trump.” If so, there’s now 37,000-plus graves, more than a half million hospital patients and trillions of dollars of […] Read more

Canada has become the top destination for U.S. ethanol exports. This Lincolnway Energy facility in Nevada, Iowa, uses corn. | File photo.

Ethanol markets will take a big hit

February was a paradox. Leap Year or not, it’s the shortest month of the year, yet it always feels like the longest month of winter. Endless grey skies bleed into endless grey days into an almost endless grey month. Then March appears with its light, colour and hope, and February’s dreariness is soon forgotten. Light, […] Read more


Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for “phase one” of the U.S.-China trade agreement Jan. 15. The response from many trade observers has been — “don’t hold your breath.”  |  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque photo

U.S. trade deals receive weak review

After the White House announced its twin trade triumphs, the 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 of them — the “absolutely amazing trade deals” “only President Trump” could have done. Before I pass judgment […] Read more

The American dairy industry is advised to brace for more tough times in the wake of bankruptcy at the country’s largest milk company.  | File photo

U.S. milk shakeup just the beginning

While many in the United States dairy sector focus on why the nation’s largest milk bottler, Dean Foods, filed for bankruptcy Nov. 12, the smart money — if there is any smart money left after four years of crushingly low milk prices — is focused on what’s next. What’s next is what’s always next when […] Read more

It’s estimated that 371 million acres of U.S. farm and ranchland will change hands in the next 15 years.  |  REUTERS/Dan Koeck photo

Agriculture faces a heart transplant

If government and private estimates are accurate, hundreds of millions of American farm acres will have new owners in the next 15 years. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s survey takers and record keepers predict that 100 million acres of today’s farmland will be sold by its current owners by 2023. The American Farmland […] Read more


I once wrote a column on how farm groups sternly preached the value of what they reverently called “sound science” but, in fact, usually endorsed only “science that sounds good” to the groups. | File photo

Farm groups often worry about science only when it suits

I once wrote a column on how farm groups sternly preached the value of what they reverently called “sound science” but, in fact, usually endorsed only “science that sounds good” to the groups. I noted most of that good-sounding science was “science” tied to research bought-and-paid-for by the groups themselves. This tactic continues to confuse, […] Read more

Some are arguing that the American government would have trouble defending the legal authority it assumes it has to spend $28 billion in taxpayer money on “the White House’s trade war with China.”  |  Getty Images

U.S. farm aid covers up policy failure

You know you’re deep in the rabbit hole when bad news — say, a government report that shows steep cuts in anticipated 2019 crop yields — is good news because it will hopefully boost prices. Conversely, when good news arrives, like an unexpected week of perfect September weather, it’s actually bad news because it just […] Read more