Earlier this year, in the midst of a trade war with China, President Donald Trump announced a $16 billion agriculture bailout, telling Americans, via Twitter, the biggest beneficiaries would be “our great Patriot Farmers.”

I did most of my growing up in the Putnam Heights neighborhood or off Grover Road. Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, those streets teemed with kids, and my friends and I almost always had at least one, but probably two weekend pickup football games. When we weren’t playing football, we liked to to…

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To make our newspaper pages accessible to more letter writers, The Country Today has a policy of publishing one letter per writer per month.

While many in the U.S. 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.

For a few days, Lafayette County pulled off a media miracle by stealing headlines from national politics and directing a spotlight on local government. News about an emergency county meeting called to consider an unconstitutional resolution went viral and brought television cameras, Wisconsi…

The day after Thanksgiving crowds of deal seekers camped out for the busiest shopping day of the year. The name “Black Friday” refers to retailers turning a profit, from “in the red” to “in the black.” Since 1997, that day is also celebrated as “Buy Nothing Day,” a 24-hour opt out of consumi…

Standing in the driveway on that crisp November morning, as my nine-month-plus-five-day pregnant wife, Meredith, and I prepare for our trip to the hospital, I turn to her, straight-faced, and say:

Thanksgiving was the kickoff to a month of bookkeeping, depreciation schedules and checkbook balancing for my parents on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. It culminated in an afternoon meeting, usually the week after Christmas, where my father would detail the farm’s annual perfo…

Mother Nature turned a colorful, late fall into a bitterly cold, early winter as if to prove — after a planting, growing, and harvest season marked by floods, drought, and mud — that she’s still in charge and still not happy.

I was just a kid. Maybe 12 or 13. Freshly graduated from Hunter’s Safety and so excited to be in the Northwoods with my Dad, on my first official whitetail-deer hunt, license pinned to the back of a blaze orange jacket.

Several years ago, when Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Tom Friedman was asked to choose which rising Asian nation, China or India, he’d bet the farm on, Friedman didn’t hesitate to pick India.

Take a moment to imagine living on a small family farm. Waking at dawn to a rooster crowing and cows mooing. You head down to the barn to get the cows milked, collect chicken eggs, clean out stalls and feed all the animals before going back into the kitchen to grab breakfast for yourself.

Like many Chippewa Falls kids, I perfected my counting skills playing cribbage: “15-2, 15-4, 15-6, and six more is a doz.” As the youngest of eight, games like 500 Rummy, Sheepshead and cribbage were the only way to compete with siblings two or three times my age. We sometimes saw black and …

If China agreed to purchase “$40 to $50 billion” of U.S. farm goods in “the next two years,” as President Donald J. Trump announced Oct. 11, the futures market — where market reality is quickly sorted from political talk — literally wasn’t buying it.

Every week when I go to the grocery store, I pay close attention to the labels on the food products I purchase. It can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know what you need or want. I consider myself lucky to be a farmer because I am intimately connected to the food I eat and the milk I drin…

The first obvious sign of the season-long flood is a perfectly level, three-foot high ring of dried mud on the machine shed’s siding. Nature put it there and, in time, will likely wash it away.

It’s altogether fitting that the recent Cap Times article penned by Bill Berry appeared two weeks prior to Halloween. In his story Berry paints farmers who own large livestock operations and the organizations that support them as villains who prey on unsuspecting Wisconsin citizens by forcin…

I won’t bore you with the details, but for purposes of this column you need to know basically three things: 1. I very recently turned 40 years old, 2. I just finished writing my fifth book under a rather aggressive deadline, 3. I spend a lot of my time hunched over a keyboard filled with exi…

Not two miles from my central Illinois home, a farmer’s next crop — a dozen rolls of eight-inch, black plastic drainage pipe — wait to be planted several feet deep in this year’s browning corn stubble.

There has been some anger and confusion in farm country regarding Secretary Perdue’s comments, during World Dairy Expo.

This is not meant to be a complaint, but a reflection of the reality facing our dairy sector. “We” means all of us.

Retired stone-engraver Billy Krause’s past reads like the wayfaring musician he is. He bought his first guitar the summer of 1962 — heading into seventh grade — with $15 in lawn mowing earnings. At 16, one Friday night a month for a year he performed with Regis High School friends in their g…

In an Oct. 1 meeting with reporters at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue tied the current dairy crisis to economies of scales, telling reporters, “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out.”

The internal memo only confirmed what unofficial Washington had been saying for more than a year and what official Washington had been downplaying for even longer: The White House plan to move two U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies to Kansas City will severely cripple USDA data collecti…

Two longtime Iowa politicians, Sen. Charles Grassley and now dairy industry lobbyist Tom Vilsack, held a press conference recently touting the gains for farmers from President Donald Trump’s newly negotiated NAFTA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. We’re family farmers and we’ve hea…

The sky can’t make up its mind, and all morning, John Hildebrand and I peel off our rain gear only to put it all back on 10 minutes later. The Chippewa River is ripping after several inches of recent rain and the 17-foot Alumnacraft canoe we’re paddling is flying downriver, stymied only by a…

Some years ago, I 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’ve spent a good amount of time on the road during my last six years as President of Wisconsin Farm Bureau. I feel like I have spent equally as long talking about transportation issues in our state.

I’m standing outside of Lake Hallie Golf with my clamshell of leftover fried walleye when an older gentleman shows me a 16x20 photo in a plastic sleeve. The two eagles are nearly life size.

In the early morning fog the other day, I heard a claw hammer’s tap, tap, bam, bam, bam, boom drive a nail into its place for who knows how many years. A moment later, another six, clear, sharp notes cut through the fog and another nail was set for, maybe, a century or more.

My family and I recently returned from our annual week at Peninsula State Park in Door County. It was a wonderful trip. The weather was nice, the food was delicious and the campground was in good shape.

In the early morning fog the other day, I heard a claw hammer’s tap, tap, bam, bam, bam, boom drive a nail into its place for who knows how many years. A moment later, another six, clear, sharp notes cut through the fog and another nail was set for, maybe, a century or more.

Growth in export markets has long been lauded as the measure of success in American agriculture. Last year U.S Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue credited exports for being a “major driver of the rural economy, generating 20 percent of U.S. farm income and supporting more than a million U…

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 actuall…

My wife had done her research, and that research led us to an enchanted property outside of Iron River where a celebrated chicken-breeder preserves the genetic integrity of Icelandic landrace chickens (once almost extinct). Why my wife pined for Icelandic chickens with such intensity, I coul…

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has opened a comment period on proposed changes to the Livestock Facility Siting Law (ATCP 51). As an agricultural engineer, I see many red flags with the proposed changes that Wisconsin farmers should be aware of. One of…

The first rule of road trips is to never embark upon a road trip. At least not one like ours: 10 days and 2,500 miles of tent camping in the near triple digit heat.

About four years ago, with my notebook and camera in tow, I pulled into the parking lot of Dodger Bowl in my hometown of Dodgeville. It was packed — there were so many cars there you’d think there was a community event or fundraiser of some sort going on. But this was something different.

Farming in Wisconsin is under attack. As the farm economy sputters, many families have sought to expand their businesses in hopes that they can achieve the margins they need to stay afloat. As these farms grow larger, anti-farming environmental activists throughout Wisconsin have put them in…