Latest articles

Carrot hanging on the end of angled stick

The carrot, the stick, and U.S. farmers

Trade turmoil has the White House picking winners and losers in the U.S. farm sector

The Trump administration’s good cop/bad cop approach to U.S. trade policy was on full display Aug. 27 when President Donald J. Trump, the bad cop that day, announced a very incomplete NAFTA trade deal — fuelled by his heavy use of tariffs — that pointedly excluded Canada. That day’s good cop was U.S. Secretary of […] Read more

Meet your new boss, same as the old boss

Your key customers are reacting to the shifting demands of their key customers

The only Washington, D.C.-area team having a worse year than the Baltimore Orioles is big food’s biggest, richest lobbying arm, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, or the GMA. Most American farmers and ranchers don’t know GMA by its acronym; they do, however, know its work: it was the organizer and chequebook behind the defeat of several […] Read more

Readers can write, too

Reader feedback is always interesting for a column writer

There’s an art and elegance to letter writing that electronic communication — email, texting, direct messaging, Twitter, and other ethereal forms — simply can’t capture. The biggest difference is also its most ironic: paperless communication encourages brevity and emphasizes urgency. Why, I wonder, is there a weight restriction on email? NNTR. (No need to reply.) […] Read more

Opinion: On the road – Ireland’s farms, food and future

Dublin, even in summer sunshine, can’t entirely shake its smoky, troubled past. Bullet holes the size of grapes still pockmark the pillars and walls of the General Post Office. Still, Dublin’s streets are packed. The lovely Catherine and I are there, too, walking along its central artery, the River Liffey. We’re in Ireland to visit […] Read more

Comment: When Trump starts tweeting, Sonny starts packing

The U.S. ag secretary has lately been America’s apologist-in-chief

Prince Edward Island, caressed in the arms of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, is a lovely place to visit in June. Its sparkling red sand beaches, miles of white-blossomed potato fields, and rolling carpets of lush pasture form a colour-soaked postcard for tourists and locals alike. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue caught a glimpse […] Read more

Opinion: Age no guarantee of wisdom

We’re apparently no smarter than the ancient critics of what we now accept as established science

In May 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, a book that used mathematics and astronomy to postulate how the earth and the then-known planets rotated on their own axis as they orbited a stationary sun. Within days of its printing, however, Copernicus died. His theory of “heliocentrism,” the first scientific […] Read more

Opinion: The winning losers

The U.S. Farm Bill has kicked off a new spirit of bipartisanship — everyone hates it

There’s something fundamentally wrong with a legislative process that delivers a Farm Bill so deeply flawed that groups as politically diverse as the ruby red Heritage Foundation and the ocean blue Environmental Working Group (EWG) join forces to publicly condemn it. And yet on May 8, EWG’s senior vice-president of government affairs Scott Faber moderated […] Read more

Comment: What’s the matter with rural Kansas?

Mostly the current model for agriculture, according to one writer

For over 100 years, some Kansans have either built or added to their journalism reputation by asking this simple question: What’s the matter with Kansas? The answer, however, is far from simple. The first to ask was William Allen White, the publisher and editor of the Emporia Gazette. White, a mainstream Republican, posed the question […] Read more

Comment: Rest in peace

Hard work and life’s trials left little time for happiness

By default, obituary writers get the last official word on everyone. They tell the deceased person’s story through births, marriages, and deaths; add to it with names of parents, siblings, and children; and round it out with an anecdote or two about hobbies and professional achievements. Maybe that’s why my father had a hand in […] Read more

Opinion: The long, sustainable view

High inputs (and high costs) have passed most of the value of farm production back to input companies

Who knew that the best view of 21st-century agriculture would be from Darrin Qualman’s farm office near Dundurn, Saskatchewan? And yet, there it is, charted by Qualman, a data bloodhound who thinks graphically but writes plainly. The longtime researcher for Canada’s National Farmers Union appeared on my radar in Feb. 2017 with a blog post […] Read more