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Dear readers, I am retiring. This is my last column for this wonderful publication. I am attempting to do this gracefully in anticipation of busy and productive years ahead, dedicated to the things I have yet to accomplish.

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On Jan. 20, 2017, there will be a presidential inauguration and a big party in Washington, D.C. It will be the most unlikely set of circumstances and characters since Teddy Roosevelt assumed the office at the beginning of the 20th century.

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This fall I had the opportunity to travel to St. George, Utah, to speak to the Utah Association of Conservation Districts. There was a High Plains Journal connection. Bob Barry is president of the UACD. He hails from the Four Corners region, which sits about 300 miles east of Salt Lake City.…

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I was fooled by the rhetoric and assumed Hillary Clinton would handily win the electoral votes to become president of the United States. I was wrong. My reaction is realization that committed voters make more difference than vocal influence groups.

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This is a time of great uncertainty in rural America as we assume the new administration will modify policies that impact people who live or work on farms or in rural communities. Polls show most rural people are unhappy with the current condition of the economy where they live.

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I want to propose a way to make businesses more competitive. I want to have more workers in private industry and less on the government payroll. I want start-up businesses encouraged, but I want companies to have a steeper hill to climb as they grow large and merge with competitors.

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Millennials love organic food. A study by the Organic Trade Association says 52 percent of household heads who buy organic food are millennials in the prized 18- to-34-year-old age group. That compares to 35 percent of GenX’ers and only 19 percent of baby boomers. I don’t dispute the numbers…

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It was 60 years ago when the interstate highway system was legislated by Congress. It was initially touted as a post-war defense system and a civilian jobs program, but the network of highways turned out to be a highly successful rewiring of America from coast to coast, border to border.

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The recent earthquakes in Oklahoma startled a lot of people in the state and the surrounding region that felt the 5.6 tremor on the morning of Sept. 3 and aftershocks later in the day. Deep earth events, either seismic or volcanic, are the least predictable of earth’s natural phenomenon, whi…

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Recently, Prestage Farms, Inc. was granted approval to develop a $240 million facility in rural Wright County by the board of supervisors. Iowa hog farms have 20 million animals in farrowing and finishing operations, so there is no doubt this high concentration area in the north central part…

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I’ve lived in many physical locations in my life and now, in my seventh decade on this earth, I wonder how much of who we are is based on our relationship with place. I think of place as the physical, emotional and spiritual coordinates that define our being.

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It has now been 17 years since Kelli and I decided we needed to be ambassadors for agriculture. Back in the day, we were really the only ones who would dedicate time each day to connect the dots between food producers and consumers.

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The first time I saw my mother cry, I was so young that only snippets remain in my brain. She was standing by the window with a dish towel in her hands and looking out into the yard. “They are selling the horses,” she said as I climbed onto a chair and gazed through.

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In the past 20 years, the population of the Monarch butterfly has dropped by almost 90 percent. Nothing farmers are doing is directly killing butterflies, but they are clearly being reduced in population. The question is whether the trend can be reversed without an intrusion from the Endange…

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Some of us hate sudden up or down movement of prices while others love it. Watching the market seek a new price in changing situations is both scary and exciting, be it grain, livestock, energy or currency. The challenge of hedging or speculating in a dynamic market is the risk associated wi…

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Hot days and humid nights are the wages of July and August in the Midwest. We are not getting scorched like states to the south but we are getting stewed, so the outcome is about the same. Our ancestors dealt with this without grumbling, but now we use every vehicle and building to create a …

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The irony of the recent vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is strong and sweet for many Americans. The British Empire that founded our colonies and tried to hold them in servitude, causing revolution, has now voted to rebel against the union that holds it in regulatory an…

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Where else but rural America would you find a wagon loaded with garden produce, parked alongside a roadway with no one around, a handpainted sign saying “Sweet Corn $3.50 per dozen” and a small can nailed to the frame with the words “honor box” stenciled on it?

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Every spring Mother Nature bursts forth with new life. It is my favorite season, as winter cold yields to a stronger sun and vibrant green replaces dingy brown.

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A job is a sacred thing to me. I grew up in a poor but proud rural household with parents who believed your character and honor were wrapped up in the job you did for yourself or others. Be it farm work or full time employment, the goal was to work honorably. A job was a moral and financial …

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Memorial weekend has a beautiful glow as I look back at the festivities of the past three days. I have a tradition of going to the Indianapolis 500 race that dates back to 1984 when a kind man from Eli Lilly Animal Health hosted a group of livestock producers and farm broadcasters. I was wor…

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Recently the most comprehensive report to date was released on genetically modified crops from the perspective of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report is over 400 pages in length from a team of 20 imminently qualified researchers. The conclusions are logic…

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Recently, I went home to Luther, Oklahoma, to attend an all-school reunion on the 49th anniversary of my graduation in 1967. I spent the first 18 years of my life on the family farm a couple of miles outside this little town. The community was already changing from a farming town to a bedroo…

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The north central Iowa town of Mason City sits far enough away from Des Moines and Minneapolis to create its own gravity. It is the hub for business and culture in the region and has a long history of both.

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Do you remember “Blue Dog Democrats”? At one time there were about 60 conservatives from that party who proudly belonged to a loosely formed caucus by that name. Now, there is just one: Colin Peterson, from Minnesota. He isn’t anyone’s favorite person as he won’t adhere to a philosophy that …

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When you have a child, I believe you are blessed by God. When your child has a child, you are doubly blessed. One is that the child you raised has entered society and hopefully accepted responsibility to carry on, and the other is that their child is the most beautiful little creature you ha…

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I have lately found that several people in my life, both friends and family, are having difficulty letting go of lifelong responsibilities even though their physical and emotional health is being debilitated by their actions. Neither of them thinks this has happened to anyone before and they…

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I believe if you stand in one place long enough, everything will come back by again. I cite one-room schools as historic examples of modern homeschooling. But my focus today is the ancient barnyard chicken being romanticized and converted to 21st century organic production.

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Most of us would say we learned more about our current profession on the job than we learned in the classroom. Simon and Garfunkel wrote their “Kodachrome” song with the lyrics: “When I think of all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” I’m not trying to disre…

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I once made the argument we need to do away with county government. That drew wrath from those who believe the only people who know them and care about them are the elected officials and staff at their county level. I could make the same argument about doing away with state government and yo…

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The commodity checkoff programs for beef, pork and soybeans were designed to serve the entire grower community. Over the years there has been great controversy as to whether they have done so. Small pork producers went out of business while mega-farms flourished, and small-scale cattle produ…

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I helped a man get up off the floor of his home after falling. He seemed to be fine once we got him back in his chair but he was taken to the doctor and told that his medicine was causing his blood pressure to drop when he stood up.

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In the course of my lifetime, I can say, unequivocally, that our demeanor toward each other has declined in politeness and respect. Each time I see a public display of rude behavior and disparaging remarks, it makes me want to go back to a time when words and emotions were kept in check.

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We are moving toward Washington, D.C.’s version of a dam breech if federal law does not supersede a Vermont law requiring all foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be divulged on the label.

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That’s what Lewis and Clark said when they headed up the Missouri River in 1804, and had their first look at the Great Plains. It was a summer landscape, void of trees, which allowed the grass covered rolling hills to be seen all the way to the horizon. Their daily journals observed beautifu…

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The oil and gas industry is on the rocks. The Exxon Valdez has nothing on this wreck, brought on by large oil producers inflicting pain on their economic and political adversaries. This time, the users of petroleum products, from aviation to agriculture and manufacturers to motorists, are re…

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That is the title of a book by a friend who is a political reporter in Des Moines, Iowa. The full contact voting the evening of Feb. 1 was just that—chaos—but it had a purpose and, like democracy, the outcome was far more satisfying than the process. Keep in mind Iowa is a rural state compri…

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In five decades of reporting on agriculture and rural America, I have seen farmers ride the escalator of optimism and then plunge into the abyss, time after time. It is a herd mentality that apparently still exists even though the herd is much smaller.

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We missed an opportunity to move our primary system of measurement to the metric system back in the late 1970s. People rose up against changing from miles to meters and from quarts to liters for what good outcome? Metric measurements didn’t go away and the United States has incurred more con…

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Meat is still on the menu! The feared dietary guidelines were released recently and “sustainability” was left out of the equation as to what foods are healthy for Americans to consume. The conflict goes a lot deeper than meat and potatoes; it goes to the question of whether we can pick our d…

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I am concerned about a standoff now underway (as of this writing) between U.S. citizens in Oregon and the federal government at a remote wildlife refuge. It seems to be a long way away but so was Ruby Ridge, Idaho, where Randy Weaver and his family were confronted by federal agents who kille…

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I announced this headline at Thanksgiving while visiting my daughter and her family in the Washington, D.C. area. “Duh” was her response, which made me think I was behind in my Middle America view of the world. She is right.

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We could be planting genetically enhanced varieties of wheat by now and been through the complaining and gnashing of teeth from food companies and importers. Monsanto’s decision to stop almost 10 years ago was driven by pushback from U.S. producers fearing domestic and foreign buyers would n…

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As I get older, I am amazed how many items in my daily life disappear and then re-appear in an unlikely place. Joe Kreger, the cowboy poet, wrote about “Gremlins in My Shed” and assigned blame to unknown beings that hid his tools and then started sneaking into the house to hide his glasses. …

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On Dec. 23, 1985, President Ronald Reagan signed into law what can be argued to be the greatest long-term soil, water and wildlife conservation program in American history. It came at a time of economic depression on the farm and a time of public discontent with agricultural policy. Through …

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On the day following the EPA ruling on biofuel volume for 2016, no one seems happy. That may be the best sign that the agency’s tortured two-year delay, in setting the volume required to be blended with gasoline, was fair to all parties. If either the oil industry or ethanol producers had be…

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The Sub-Saharan country of Ghana was my location recently. I travelled there with a USDA Trade Mission led by Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. The goal of the group, of business and government leaders, was to strengthen relationships with an emerging nation and to evaluate potential business …

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As I entered Beckman Catholic High School, in Dyersville, Iowa, I felt like I was transported to the Lilliputian landscape described in “Gulliver’s Travels.” It was a world where I was as tall as the largest silo, gazing down on the rooftops of barns and able to pick up tractors with one han…

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The drought in California has placed meteorologists in the spotlight and made the El Nino weather pattern very important news. I know of no other profession where we applaud a success rate of 50 percent and soon forget the shortcomings of the forecasters.

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Agricultural and business interests got a jolt recently as the Budget Reconciliation Deal of 2015 cut $3 billion out of crop insurance. The drama was short-lived as leaders promised to reinstate the reduction in payments to crop insurance companies, but $3 billion in spending reductions is g…

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