FOOD & FUEL
Like Henny “Take my wife-please” Youngman, Steven Wright has built a comedy career on one-line jokes. A classic Wright one-liner unblinkingly and unsmilingly asks: “Twenty-four hours in a day, 24 beers in a case-coincidence?”
The question is clever and rhetorical; laughter is its only answer.
January seemed to brim with coincidences that, while perhaps not worthy of the full Wright deadpan treatment, somebody somewhere has to be laughing over these you’ve-got-to-be-kidding moments.
For example, at 10:28 a.m., on Jan. 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture e-mailed journalists a list of 70 U.S. trade organizations that would split $234.5 million under USDA’s Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program this year.
The two programs, noted USDA, “help promote American food and agricultural products overseas.”
One big winner of export cash was the U.S. Grains Council, a self-described “private, non-profit partnership of farmers and agribusinesses committed to building and expanding international markets, ” This year, according to USDA’s accounting, the Council will receive $4.03 million to do just that.
Well, one can hope anyway.
Exactly two hours after the USDA notice arrived that day, the Grain Council e-mailed a press release to announce the keynote speaker for its “7th International Marketing Conference and 50th Annual Membership Meeting, Feb. 12-17” in sunny, warm Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Or, as Steven Wright might say, $4 million in taxpayer money headed your way at 10:30 and by 12:30 you’re headed to a plush, Mexican beach playground for a five-day “marketing conference” in the middle of the Midwestern winter.
The White House has experienced many moments of comic coincidence in its first year of herding finicky, navel-gazing Democrats wandering around Capitol Hill. The latest is a presidential plan to tax “fat cat” bankers $9 billion a year for the next 10 years so taxpayers might get a spoonful of the bonus pudding the bankers enjoy every January.
Fat though they may be those city cats know how to the pluck D.C. canary. After giving the Prez’s friends on the Hill a week to pick apart the “bonus tax” idea, the bankers quietly noted in late January that industry-wide bonuses for 2009 would total $150 billion, or 16 times what the White House wanted to nick ’em for this year.
Definitely not. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, commercial banks, investment banks and Wall Street securities firms have, since 2008, paved Capitol Hill with $234.1 million in campaign cash. That, er, investment-$234 million to save $9 billion-now carries a 3,846 percent return for 2010 alone.
A bonus coincidence is that Congress has yet to pass meaningful banking reforms and likely won’t in an election year.
The triple-gainer with a half-twist coincidence award for January 2010, however, goes to our great friends in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Even before last week’s column-on the behind-the-scenes fight between NCBA and the beef checkoff over proposed NCBA rule changes to make off-limits checkoff cash more accessible while seeking to double the current $1 per head checkoff-saw print, NCBA officials were selling both ideas to West Coast cattlemen.
In a lengthy, Jan. 25 story published by the Baker City Herald, NCBA chief executive Forrest Roberts told a group of more than 400 Oregon cattlemen on Jan. 25, ” that ranchers attending the NCBA’s annual convention this week (Jan. 27-31 in San Antonio] may be asked to consider doubling the beef checkoff to $2 a head “
Even more incredible, the day before the cattlemen rode into that beautiful city a headline on page A3 of the Jan. 26 Wall Street Journal – cross my heart – announced: “Soil shifts beneath San Antonio.”
Guebert is a syndicated columnist from Delavan, Ill. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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