Farmers and ranchers live in an ocean of numbers. And like the tide, the numbers – pigs-per-litter, gain-per-pound, bushels-per-acre, dollars-per-bushel – can’t be held back; they keep coming and keep adding to our nation’s food story.
The glowing orange tops of two nearby maples are the first clear announcement that change, despite the day’s drilling heat and shirt-soaking humidity, is coming.
August is the month public officials traditionally use your tax dollars to travel to gather information, ideas and frequent flier miles they claim will help them serve you better.
Do you know where your thousands – and on a national scale, hundreds of millions – of federally-mandated, non-refundable checkoff dollars go? It’s a question Bobby King, policy director of Minnesota’s Land Stewardship Project, asked when he viewed advertisements that attacked “anti-livestock activist groups” in the state on Minneapolis’ powerhouse WCCO television station earlier this year.
While American taxpayers await an accounting on the billions sent to the Gulf Coast to clean up Katrina’s devastation, USDA already knows the tab for four emergency programs hastily designed “to further reduce stress on the grain transportation system” caused by the storm.
Unlike Mark Twain’s quip upon reading his obituary, my early July “RIP Doha” column was neither premature nor exaggerated.
July has been a tough month for farmers and ranchers in The Washington Post. On July 2 and again July 18, The Post published lengthy investigative pieces on the enormous cost, wanton waste, and built-in silliness of today’s federal farm programs.
The biggest non-news news of the yet-young summer arrived July 1 when the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization talks melted into a muddy puddle of recriminations as the trade yakkers in Geneva failed to even begin their “last ditch” effort to save the troubled talks.
Outside of accuracy, honesty and tight prose, the rules established (way back in May 1993) for these 700-word weekly adventures were few.
A month ago, Fred Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, preached to the preachers of the Northern Plains Conference of the United Church of Christ in Bismarck.