It is no secret that agriculture in general, and dairy in particular, has been going through some very challenging times. In Wisconsin, agriculture is about a $100 billion industry, with roughly half of that attributed to dairy alone. Southwest Wisconsin is home to much of this economic activity and family dairy farms of all sizes. Sadly, Wisconsin lost about 800 dairy farms in 2019. If nothing changes, the writing is on the wall, and I don’t want to read it. I want the rural parts of our state to thrive and that means we need to have a healthy agricultural economy. ... Read more

Over the holidays, I was visiting with my godson and his family at my mother’s home when the topic of children — the number a family has, to be precise — came up. I noted that many farm families years ago had a large number of children who came in handy at chore time. More children meant mor…

For the first time in history five generations coexist at work. From the breakroom to the boardroom the silent generation (now in their mid-70s to 80s), baby boomers (60s to early 70s), Generation X (early 40s to 50s), millennials (late 20s to 30s) and Generation Z (just entering their 20s) …

The sophomores sat stiffly in backless wooden benches as a storm raged just beyond the barracks walls. Thirty-year-old Clarice Chase stood at the front of the class, peering out at her 50 Japanese American students. It was Oct. 5, 1942 — the first day of school at Heart Mountain Relocation C…

The best way to begin a new year without feeling overwhelmed by what we don’t know is to start with what we do know.

When readers of this weekly effort take the time to write me a letter or email, it’s a safe bet they want to have the final word on whatever riled them to write. I’m fine with that.

Christmas season started last year with an ache in my heart and the same question I’d had on my mind for the past several years — would it finally be the Christmas that a patient, loving newspaper reporter would receive a sparkly ring from her significant other?

Coming back from college to celebrate holidays can be such an awkward endeavor. In every legal sense, you are a bona fide adult. And yet, there you are, sleeping in a childhood bed, laundering a mountain of dirty clothes in your parents’ basement, and attempting to dodge earnest family inter…

Every Dec. 5, the United States Department of Agriculture joins partners around the globe to celebrate World Soil Day, an annual event to bring attention to the importance of healthy soil and to advocate for sustainable management of soil resources.

After months of work, the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico is finally making its way across the finish line — turning what was once a hastily negotiated agreement into a trade deal that is more pro-dairy, more pro-worker, and more pro-enforcement. I have worked with my colleagues on bo…

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed bran…

Last summer I passed a billboard on Hastings Way each day on my way to work: Mary seeking a kidney. I called the local number and left a message explaining my experiences with donation and requesting an interview. I knew this column could help get the word out, but Mary didn’t respond. That …

After 38 years in journalism, some events still cause shock. Many center on public officials holding private meetings where a “just-us-insiders” intimacy affords all a “better understanding” — read total control — of their policy initiatives.

I struck out in search of silence, and I found it a quarter mile deep in the woods. It wasn’t easy getting there, but it was a whole lot easier with the skis. Not that I’m a skier. But after a month spent on the receiving end of our baby’s caterwauling, I figured I’d give it a try. By that p…

No major American daily newspaper features sharper, more poisonous pens than the market-focused writers at the Wall Street Journal. When these opinion peddlers go after you in print, they hit hard, fast, and — most of the time — with inarguable fact.

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…

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.