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 acti…

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.

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…

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.

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.”

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…

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.

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.

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…

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.

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…

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.

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…

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…

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…

Back to school ads are everywhere and it seems the last few weeks of summer are quickly passing us by. Before we know it, Labor Day will have come and gone and teachers and students will be back in their classrooms, kicking off a new school year.

Sometime in mid-August, well after fair season and just before corn silage season, my brothers and I endured the hand-me-down season on the southern Illinois dairy farm of our youth.

Ag Twitter had a big sandbox to play in after the U.S. Department of Agriculture clobbered the agricultural futures markets Aug. 12 with its number-filled Crop Report and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, or WASDE.

I have a favor to ask you. Of course, the favor depends somewhat on whether or not what I’m writing resonates with you, and there is always the chance it won’t, or that, you’ll simply discard this column when you’re finished reading it, and we will go our separate ways, like two people on an…

The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the yellow roses along the primrose path are dazzling distractions from what, in a matter of days, has already been a long month for farmers and ranchers.

In just a few short months, hunters will return to the woods in pursuit of the whitetail deer. In the communities of southwest Wisconsin, the deer hunting season is our opportunity to thin the herd, fill our freezers and continue the tradition of deer hunting with family and friends.

Farmers in the United States are confronted by an economic crisis that is more severe than any since the 1980s. Now the weather and continuing trade wars are causing even more concern as we look toward another distressing year in farm country. As readers know, Wisconsin Farmers Union is doin…

On the farms of our youths, the dog days of August featured actual dogs and not a whole lot of anything else.

You know it’s going to be a long, hot summer if, on the day before you assume the political leadership of the United Kingdom — as Boris Johnson did on July 23 — one of the world’s most authoritative newspapers, the New York Times, prints a column that begins with the phrase, “Boris Johnson, …

As we enter mid-summer, many of our favorite foods are ripe and ready for harvest. There’s fresh corn, fruits and vegetables, peas and beans, and more — all ready to be picked and enjoyed now or preserved for later.