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Ken Root has been a farm broadcaster for 39 years with time spent in Oklahoma, Kansas, Washington, D.C., Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. He has also been a columnist for the past seventeen years. Ken's opinions are his own, his memories are of an Oklahoma childhood and his wit is sometimes so sharp that some folks don't know they've been cut.

You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you wish to encourage more columns or criticize his latest attempt to get to "The Root of the Problem"


Build The Pipeline!
By Ken Root

Idealism must painfully give way to pragmatism. Fantasy has yield to reality. There has to be realization that we must utilize our logic and ability to survive and thrive. Proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Canada to Cushing, Oklahoma, has become another of the political, emotional and environmental separations that gridlock our country and impact our economy. It is time to lay down our differences and pick up our shovels.

The Bakkan region of North Dakota and Canada is being developed. The technology to produce oil from the shale formations has been propelled by one hundred dollar per barrel oil. Putting it in volumetric and energy terminology, here are 42 gallons in one barrel of oil, which is approximately 5.8 million British Thermal Units (MBtus) or 1,700 kilowatt hours (kWh). That means every gallon of oil is worth about $2.38 at the wellhead. Once you have that price level, it is just a matter of transporting it out that comes into play. This situation is not unlike the fur trappers who went into the frontier to trap beaver or the miners who went after gold. The value was too great to leave it alone and their impact was already made before society started to react to the consequences of their actions. Fur trading and gold mining opened up the continent and accelerated settlement. If there is no pipeline, the oil will still come out whether by truck, train or pack mule.

We built the Alaskan pipeline in the 1970's in one of the greatest technological feats in the history of the world. Can't we build another one forty years later that would be even better? The Alaskan pipeline runs over mountain ranges and across earthquake zones and the biggest spill was on a ship after it had sailed.

Nebraska has put up some big roadblocks to the Keystone XL line and continues to fight internally over the route. This is the modern day challenge of rights of the minority to prevail over the common good for the majority. If we had faced today's sensitivity in the past, there would be no railroads, no dams, no interstate highways and no transmission lines. Visual pollution, as it is called, has stopped many projects just because activists could get the public to side with their view and tie the project up in the court system or get a government agency to deny a permit.

This brings up condemnation of land under Eminent Domain. It is sometimes defined as: "What is good for the country as a whole is constitutional." The spirit of that concept has been abused by government, business and the court system but a narrowly defined version should still remain in effect for this type of project. Proper damages for construction and remediation payment for future liability should be enforced by the government but an individual or a state should not be able to block the path of this pipeline.

It is so hard to be fat, happy and realistic. We have gone to war to keep our foreign oil supply and killed thousands of our military and civilians. We would not have entered the first Gulf War nor would we have invaded Iraq if it had not been for our addiction to oil. Note the atrocities in Africa that we verbally condemned but watched from afar because they didn't have oil so our national interest was not at stake.

For those who want renewable energy, the Bakken region may be the pathway. As we build infrastructure in North Dakota, we open up one of the largest potential wind energy states in the nation. This oil is not going to be cheap, nor last forever, so we can use it to bridge from low mileage vehicles to higher mileage and to hydrogen fuel cells and other technologies because we keep or money and our troops at home while drawing oil from a friendly nation next door.

Projections for the field show that it will produce a million barrels per day through the end of 2029. Part of the field is in the United States and part in Canada. They have the opportunity to sell their oil anywhere they want. Wouldn't it be a sad statement if Canadian oil was shipped east and west for export and not pipelined south to us?

Finally, the political aspect of this controversy is thick as molasses. The Democratic President doesn't want to alienate his environmental constituents or play into the hands of Republicans so he won't endorse the project. The Republicans want to make sure they don't lose their chance at taking over the Senate and the Presidency in 2016 so they will do whatever is required to keep the President from raising his favorable ratings. We need to get beyond politics on this issue because it will bring enough economic good that everyone can share in it.

If we would honestly look back to September 11, 2001, and ask what brought that terrorist attack, it would all come down to our thirst for foreign oil. We spent so much on high tech military dominance that we made ourselves vulnerable to suicide attacks. We are now spending millions of dollars every day to protect oil interests in the Middle East and we are alienating the world by hitting terrorists with drone strikes because we can't lose dominance in oil producing countries. It's time to let Arabs keep their oil and stuff their animosity. Let's shift our supply line straight north. I don't fear attack from Canadians or North Dakotans for buying theirs.


Chinese Corn Espionage Case

Spy thriller in the corn!  Robert MO, a Chinese National, has been charged.  The FBI has stopped him and partners from getting out of the country with a large number of corn seed samples that they stole.  Read the 20+ page document link below.






Ken Root

Ken Root

  • Parent Category: Blog

The Last Slice of Americana?

Root of the Problem
By WGFA National Farm Broadcaster, Ken Root

Rural communities are shrinking in size and the traditions and values of the past are not guaranteed in the future. Ken Root attended the funeral of a lady who was part of the structure of a church and farming community that, like her, is passing away.

Family members walked down the center aisle of the small Catholic Church, each carrying a rose that they placed in a vase below the cremains of "Granny Franny" whose life was being celebrated on this clear summer day. Her family, from husband, James, to great grandchildren, were all tucked into the first five rows. The priests, one retired and one active, came in to perform the Mass as the community compressed themselves into every pew to show their respect for this lady who had served food and provided support and comfort for baptisms and weddings as well as the many wakes and funerals that are part of an aging community.

What we have experienced for over a century, from the dry plains to the lush hills along the rivers, is disappearing. We have been served a rich slice of a unique culture that is fading away with the death of each resident of our small towns. The ritual of community service, life-long dedication to friends and quiet respect for those who pass, is a hallmark of rural existence. I saw it first hand in this small town as I mourned with family and felt their strength and unity.

In a broader view, the town of Glen Haven sits below the bluffs of the Mississippi River in Southwest Wisconsin. There is one main street reaching from the old river port up the hill. The single white spire on the church is the high point in town. A stream tumbles along Main Street, inviting children to play in the clear water.

Nestled in a notch in the hills on a long slope running down to water's edge, the town no longer has any river business except the boaters who come over for Taco Wednesday at a local bar. A railway main line runs close to the shore. Frequent whistles are heard as millions of tons of freight zoom by but the trains never stop in what would otherwise be a very quiet little town.

Glen Haven's population has declined for a long time. The 2000 census showed fewer than five hundred, probably half the number who lived there at the beginning of the last century. Today, the town folks say you can cut that in half again, even if you count all the dogs and cats.

Longevity is hallmark of rural people. The tough survive and the length of life of our seniors of the northern states is the highest in the nation. Franny and James lived on a farm for their fifty four years of marriage. He has lived near this town, on this Century Farm, his whole life and farmed until he crossed into his seventies. He possesses many pioneer skills and still tinkers in his shop, entertaining visitors who want to learn some of what he knows.

In this German and Irish Catholic region, the tribute to a departed soul begins with a wake and ends with a funeral dinner. The small church basement serves as a kitchen and the word goes out that desserts are needed and cooks and servers should congregate to stage the meal. On the afternoon of the visitation, or wake, the line of friends stretches from the front sidewalk through the entryway and down the right hand side of the pews. It then curls around to where the family greets each person. They stand for hours to receive condolences and support. Handshakes, hugs and heartfelt thanks abound.

On the day of the funeral, the church was adorned with flowers and pews were marked to accommodate family. The meal preparation began early with some dishes prepared in the church and some brought in and kept warm in big ovens. Simple, tasty and hearty; the same as a Sunday dinner or harvest fare for past generations. It was comfort food to farm folks before the terminology was popularized.

The church bell tolled at 10:30 am. The service opened with a eulogy given by the oldest grandson; the reason why she became known as Granny Franny. His voice was sad but strong as he talked about his memories of his grandmother with nods of agreement and encouragement by all who knew her. He sat down quietly as the service began and moved through a ritualistic Mass that most knew by heart. When it concluded, the priests invited everyone to lunch and they were given the opportunity to go directly to the basement or to the cemetery with assurance there would be food left when they returned.

The service at the graveside was short. It was the final Christian good-bye that tries to bring closure to death and celebration of life. Respect, even relief, is expressed with reverence and hope of salvation.

The family walked into the church basement filled with conversation and bustling as meat, potatoes, vegetables, salads, milk, lemonade and many other small plates of specialty items were laid out for two lines to pass through. Old tables and flimsy folding chairs rattled as each place was filled. A young woman did double duty. She had been a Mass server in a white robe, now, in summer attire, she carries tea pitchers and goes from guest to guest.

Finally, attention focuses on the two dessert tables. They so full it is hard to choose just one piece of cake or pie. A lady cuts angel food cake and eats a bit of the leftovers from each slice. Others are recommending a certain peach, apple or blueberry pie. There is one server gone from their midst, the little woman that this day is about, but they don't outwardly show their sadness. They turn to joy of friendship and fellowship as a meal is shared.

The funeral goers spilled out onto the lawn where large maples and oaks shade the warm summer afternoon. Picnic tables allowed fellowship and a cool breeze to flow by. The widower farmer shows more comfort here and he is surrounded by sisters, daughters, sons and a swarm of grandchildren.

On the trip back from the cemetery, riding with his two sisters and niece, we drove by the family farm and noted the sweet corn was ready. Later the family picked it and we spent a couple of hours that night in boiling, blanching, cutting and freezing the crop. Some will go back to the farm as they visit in weeks to come and some will go with the relatives who live in distant cities to remind them of the life of Granny Franny.

When will the last of this generation be gone? Will the next have any similarity to their ancestors? We cannot go back to live in our past. Most of us would not do so but to experience this culture, even in decline, creates a memory that can be extended for one more lifetime even if the town cannot.