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Since March 2018, there have been more job openings in the U.S. economy than there are people searching for work. The limit on job growth is the availability of potential employees, not job opportunities.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting agricultural exports of $141.5 billion in fiscal year 2019, down from $143.4 billion in 2018. Much of the expected decline in total exports is attributable to soybeans and cotton.

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In this column we will discuss three items that will have an impact of farmers, either in the short-run or the long-run: the announced retirement of Sen. Pat Roberts, longtime chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee; the impact to agriculture of the government shutdown that is in its 15th day as we write this column; and some elements of the 2018 farm bill that we did not examine in our initial coverage of the legislation.

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Epistemology is what we on the farm called “a $10 word.” At $10, though, it’s underpriced because epistemology — the study of what we believe, what is true and the evidence we have to justify that truth and belief — covers a lot of ground.

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Several months ago, I boldly dubbed 2019 “annus mirabilis,” Latin for “wonderful year.” The first full week of trading for commodities this year just ended, and all in all, 2019 is off to a good start.

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I hope this finds all of you off to a good start in 2019. It has certainly given my New Year’s resolution a run for its money, as I resolved to count my blessings and be thankful consistently.

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Anyone who walked through the produce section of their local grocery in the week before Thanksgiving could not help but be aware that all romaine lettuce and salad mixes that contained romaine lettuce had been removed from the shelves.

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While looking for inspiration for writing today’s column, I read through some pieces I had written many years ago. Over the decade and a half I’ve written this column, the Constitution of the United States of America has been at the heart of my commentary many times.

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Happy New Year to you all! I love the optimism and hope the start of a year brings. It’s a chance to press forward with renewed resolve. And who knows the importance of renewed optimism better than farmers and ranchers?

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Man, that ended badly. December limped to an ugly conclusion as nearly everyone from Wall Street to Main Street took a year-end pounding not seen in three generations.

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The first column I posted in 2018 was entitled “Bubble of Historic Proportions,” regarding the bond market and the bearish impact higher interest rates could have on the Big Four — stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities — in the New Year.

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To say it has been a challenging year is putting it mildly. For those of us who started farming in the 70s, lived through the 80s, endured the 90s and are still in amazement of the glory days of 2007 through 2012, 2018 will be a history maker.

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Tweeter-in-Chief, President Donald Trump, has been quite clear in his opinion of CNN, the cable television news network. Indeed, Trump’s despise of the network — he thinks its initials stand for Certainly Not News — encourages supporters to use “CNN” as a slander.

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Value-added products — like seed treatments, foliar fungicides and specialty additives — may need careful evaluation, but they are a good way to help bring more income, especially with lower commodity prices.

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Historically, the week before Christmas is calm with little in the way of intense volatility for the Big Four — stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities. But this year was far different and more bearish than anything seen in history.

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One of our friends stopped by recently for a visit the day after his family Christmas get-together. He loves spending time with his nieces and nephews and is proud of all of them.

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In the pork industry, the breeding gilt plays a pivotal role in its future success. While valuable genes are incorporated into the offspring from superior sires using artificial insemination, new replacement gilts are the basis for enhanced performance of greater numbers of piglets.

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When it comes to making decisions for the 2019 growing season, there is a lot we can do with information we learned on farms in 2018.

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As we began reading details from the recently passed 2018 farm bill, it reminded us of the old 1960s Spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” except in this case no one is likely to end up with the gold.

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While hosting a group of young farmers at Brownfield’s broadcasting headquarters, I asked what issues were top of mind for them. The first farmer said United States-China trade relations is his greatest concern. Another farmer spoke about overregulation in agriculture and how thankful he is for the new clean water rule.

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As harvest 2018 goes into the books and fall fieldwork finishes up, it’s time to start moving into a different frame of mind, from operational to planning. I believe such a mental shift within the leader is critical for the farm’s success.

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The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered our farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby woodstove.

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The following is from “Haunted By Markets,” in a chapter entitled “A Happier Year Ahead,” that I penned for this newspaper on Dec. 21, 2012. I decided to reprint parts of that chapter this week because I was optimistic about the year 2013.

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One of the questions I ask farmers, ranchers, agronomists and others as the old year wanes and we pull out the long lens to look into the new one is “What lessons did you learn this year that you’ll take into next year?” Although there is often a slight pause before they answer, there’s almost always an answer.

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If the calendar were a baseball game, mid-December would be the bottom of the ninth. As such, and given 2018’s crazy weather, banner crops, sloppy harvest, muddled export future and skinny-to-no profit, mid-December finds farmers and ranchers now at bat with two outs and the opposing team’s smoke-throwing relief pitcher on the mound.

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The final quarter of this year has been brutally and surprisingly bearish for most all markets. The weakness was so pronounced and widespread that Bloomberg News described 2018 with a blaring headline that said it all: “It’s the Worst Time to Make Money in Markets Since 1972.”

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With farm net incomes forecast to be stagnant to lower for the upcoming year, I am being contacted by farmers looking for ways to add income to their farming operations. If you raise livestock, then one avenue to generate more profit may be to sell some of your livestock production locally as meat.

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If your home is anything like ours, I’ll bet it has already begun to look a lot like Christmas. There’s something truly special about the traditions that unite us as families and communities — from decorating the tree to baking cookies or sharing a meal.

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GIPSA, the badly named, hard-working mule inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is on the move again over objections that the Trump administration’s ongoing USDA reorganization will bury it — and other, less obscure parts of the department like the Economic Research Service — in new layers of bureaucracy so deep that none will ever be seen again.

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Of all the non-farm-bill issues affecting rural communities, access to health care is certain to be near the top, along with non-farm employment opportunities. Having grown up in or lived in rural communities, we understand the importance of hospital and health care access to rural residents.

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The word, discombobulation, when spoken, rolls off the tongue and past the lips with an air of elegance. The dictionary defines the word as disconcerting or confusing someone.

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It’s that time of year. It always seems that cold weather brings coughs, sniffles and sneezes. And when you or your family are the lucky recipients of such symptoms, what’s the first thing you do? For most, the first go-to is the thermometer.

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“An abundant, safe and affordable food supply” is the phrase I’ve heard many times over the years as it pertains to the hard work and productivity of America’s farmers. During the Thanksgiving and holiday season, we tell consumers they should be ever so thankful for an abundant and affordable food supply.

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The U.S. economy is strong. The Gross Domestic Product has grown more than 3 percent this year. The contrast between the agriculture economy, which is struggling, and the overall economy can make it seem they’re on opposite tracks. 

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“You know how to reach me.” This very phrase is said to me in most every interaction I have with James Shelby, the Mt. Vernon FFA Alumni president during my high school FFA career.

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Years ago, an enterprising neighbor operated a palm-reading business from her home with just a secretary, fax machine, and telephone. Her business model was simple: After clients faxed their photocopied handprint and sent some form of payment — rumor had it was $20 — our neighbor telephoned them with the results of the “reading.”

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While much of the debate over the farm bill is focused on commodity, environmental and nutrition policies, they are not the only issues that affect the quality of life in both rural and urban areas.

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While funding for agricultural commodity programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program captures most of the attention during the development of and wrangling over the budget for the farm bill, this column is focused on the funding for agricultural research that is primarily carried out through the Land-Grant University and College system.

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The Latin phrase “annus horribilis” means horrible year and was first used in 1891. In 1992, the expression was brought to modern prominence by Queen Elizabeth II in a speech marking the 40th anniversary of her accession to the throne.

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Uh-oh. The persimmons are forecasting a harsh winter — again. This time they could be right.

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Recently, the Federal Reserve decided to hold interest rates steady, but also stated it remained on track to gradually tighten rates moving forward. The Fed cited a strong economy as the reason to keep pushing rates higher in an attempt to fight inflation.

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America’s farmers and ranchers are counting on Congress to finish strong this year. Just because we call these final weeks a “lame-duck” session, that’s no excuse for members not to finish the job they started.

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It’s Thanksgiving week, so let’s be generous: The White House trade policy, marked by its heavy use of import tariffs and presidential tweets, continues to confound economists and trading partners alike.

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Each year around Thanksgiving time, I pen a column listing some of the things for which I am thankful. Some things, like deep and meaningful friendships, a loving family, a challenging and rewarding career and good health are always at the top of my list.

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Here are a few things for which I am thankful, also detailed in my book, “Haunted By Markets,” which is available at www.commodityinsite.com.

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The interest rates on your farm’s loans might not be top of mind during the growing season. If you typically meet with your banker in the winter, interest rates may have gone up several times already throughout the year before you ever see or talk to your lender. Often, farmers can feel caught off-guard in that situation.

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