Farm and Food File: Coincidence?


Bloggers might do coincidence; journalists don’t. We do irony, maybe even allegory. Sometimes we stray into ennui and pathos.

Coincidence, however, features facts that aren’t tied as tightly together as we like. My Oxford Desk Dictionary agrees.

Coincidence, it explains, is “a remarkable occurrence of events or circumstances, apparently by chance.”

Does that mean, for example, it’s pure coincidence that Oklahoma recorded its hottest July ever and its senior U.S. senator, James Inhofe, is Congress’s most outspoken critic of global warming?

Probably, but I don’t know because I don’t do coincidence.

Maybe coincidence leans more on quantifiable events like, say, the same equities rating company, Standard & Poor’s, that gave its stamp of approval to Enron just days before that firm’s spectacular crash, downgraded U.S. debt Friday, Aug. 5, or just three days before the world rushed to buy U.S. bonds.

On second thought, that’s irony because, well, I know irony and, helpfully, the journalists at the Wall Street said it was.

“Investors [on Mon., Aug. 8] fled to the traditional refuges: gold, currencies… and, ironically, the very securities that Standard and Poor’s downgraded on Friday, U.S. Treasury Bonds.”

Confused? If so, maybe you took a wrong turn at the old coincidence-irony fork in the road. Let see if we can get you back on track.

First, ironic is not a word you’d use to describe what the budget whackers in either the House or the Senate have in store for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the 2012 Farm Bill.

Already the Senate wants $11 billion cut from farm programs while the House has approved $48 billion in cuts.

What is far more likely–maybe even coincidental–is that you, me and the ag committees will play no role in determining that final number because the just-created, not-nationally-elected Gang of 12, those Congressional members charged with lopping $1.5 trillion from spending in the next decade by Nov. 23 (coincidentally, the day before Thanksgiving) will do all the cutting.

Is it just a coincidence that this Designated Dozen is, by varying counts, either the 16th or 17th “joint committee,” “bipartisan commission,” “blue ribbon panel” or “gang” of whatever formed to deal with Washington’s overspending since the midyears of the Reagan Administration?

No, the fact that no president or Congress, be they or it Republican or Democratic, in the past decade or the coming one, possesses the will to limit spending is testament to cowardice, not an example of coincidence.

‘Course it could be coincidence that many Americans–especially those involved in farming and ranching–have grown to see government as the foe when our (here comes more irony) government leaders use government money to underwrite public attacks against, yes, government.

Yet, I will concede it may be pure coincidence that the House Ag Committee’s website features no fewer than 13 YouTube videos, 26 audio clips and 18 radio interviews of Frank Lucas, R-OK, the chairman of the committee, opposing almost everything in the world except babies and the flag.

And, yes, it may be an even bigger coincidence that all the pictures and words of the arm-waving, leather-lung Lucas are taken from 2009 and 2010 when he was the committee’s ranking member, not its chairman. (To see and hear what could be actual coincidence, go to and click on, well, anything.)

I can’t really say if all of this sound and fury, posted and maintained at taxpayer expense, is somehow linked to what the Committee actually does or actually will do. If any of it did, I guess, it would be “a remarkable occurrence of events or circumstances, apparently by chance.”

Then again, I don’t do coincidence so I can’t say.

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The Farm and Food File is published weekly in more than 70 newspapers in North America. Contact Alan Guebert at


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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children.



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