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October 03, 2012

But what about the children? Of Agriculture Department Grant Officials, We Mean.

We’re likely to hear a lot about cutting the deficit in tonight’s debate, but do the candidates really understand the hard truths they are about to face when it comes to reducing federal spending?

Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack understands. He understands all too well the pain that will be caused by looming cuts to his department, lamenting that:

“October 1st is the start of a new fiscal year, but it also is the end of many of the programs authorized under the 2008 farm bill.”

What programs, you ask? Programs that touch people’s lives. Programs that provide people the quiet dignity and  opportunity to share in the bounty of our nation that is their right as citizens.

Programs that finance appearances by the Alabama Watermelon Queen:

“Partner with the Alabama Watermelon Association, Inc. (AWA) to promote the consumption of Alabama’s watermelon through appearances of the Alabama Watermelon Queen at various events and location.”

These programs are part of the 100% essential Agricultural Marketing Service’s Fruit and Vegetable Programs, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (pdf).

But it’s not all about watermelon queens. Secretary Vilsack knows we are running unsustainable deficits and has cut all the fat out of his programs leaving only the bone. Such as:

“Explore and develop markets for vegetables that are popular in Hispanic culture but are not available locally for the minority populations in Houston and Henry counties in southeast Alabama.”

For the record, if you don’t think this is an essential expenditure, then you’re a racist.

“Partner with Jeff Smeenk to determine the optimum rhubarb for a juicing product and present the project results to other specialty crop producers in Alaska.”

Look, if we don’t do it, the Russians will.

Also, you should never pass up an opportunity to say "Jeff Smeenk."

“Partner with the Arizona Farm Bureau in collaboration with Arizona fruit and vegetable farmers to educate and inform consumers about the nutritious nature of Arizona’s top specialty crops by creating and disseminating a video series about Arizona’s ‘Top Ten’ specialty crops.”

You just heard about the next YouTube viral sensation before everyone else.

“Partner with the California Olive Oil Council to expand opportunities for California olive oil by executing a marketing campaign that focuses on two key high-end food markets: California and the region between the District of Columbia and New York City.”

You might wonder why you’re paying to help market expensive olive oil to affluent coastal residents.

Shut up, that’s why.

There are also a number of programs to help strawberry growers:

“Enhance the managerial skills and competitiveness of Virginia strawberry growers.”

“Partner with the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System to develop a producer-led strawberry sustainability assessment program.”

“Partner with the University of Minnesota to provide information to Minnesota strawberry growers on new production methods using low tunnels.”

“Partner with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln to conduct a replicated experiment with four different strawberry cultivars including cultivars specifically developed for the short day photoperiods.”

“Partner with the North Carolina Strawberry Association to implement a two pronged campaign that will focus efforts to market the nutritional benefits of strawberries.”

Sadly, it will all be for naught as they are also proving funding to:

“...Position the Florida strawberry industry with a dominant quality advantage in the marketplace.”

Boy, are those other guys going to be ticked off.

“Partner with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Seattle Wholesale Growers Market Cooperative to develop and deliver resources to train a minimum of industry stakeholders in methods for achieving high quality cut flower production.”

Do you have any idea what this country loses each year in low-quality cut flower production? We don’t either, but we bet it’s a lot.

“Partner with the California Avocado Society to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of California avocado producers through the creation of an agricultural outreach program that provides technical education for critical job skills.”

 Not many people realize this, but avocado jobs are the 137,865th fastest growing occupation in the country.

 “Cooperate with the Oregon State Department of Agriculture to increase awareness of Northwest fresh and processed specialty crop products and build trade relationships between buyers and sellers—targeting importers, wholesalers, and retailers—in order to increase sales in three market areas in Southeast Asia.”

What about simply letting private businesses take on the task of marketing their own products and building trade relationships between buyers and sellers?

What are you? Some kind of extreme right-wing free-market absolutist?!

“Partner with the Arizona Nursery Association to expand the successful Plant Something promotion with the goal of increasing the sale and use of Arizona grown landscape plants and trees and to develop the campaign into a national nursery campaign.”

You know what, the “Plant something” program kind of sums up the general philosophical approach the Agriculture Department takes on handing out these grants, so we’ll just wrap it up here. Just keep in mind that:

“Since 2006, the program administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has awarded $240 million.”

That’s not something we had to dig up through a FOIA request.

They’re proud of it!


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October 3, 2012 at 06:51 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Do you know how to bankrupt a farmer? Give him an extra hundred acres, then run down his mailbox, so his government checks are not delivered by the government postal system.

Posted by: John Illinois | Oct 3, 2012 7:34:56 PM

I was getting really depressed about all this stupidity and waste until I got down the page and saw the babe on the left in the MyHabit ad. Now I forgot what the article was about and just have a silly grin.

Posted by: TheOldMan | Oct 4, 2012 2:45:13 PM

Who was it that said "The closest thing to eternal life here on earth is a government program"?
Whenever I hear the term "partner with", I know somebody is going to get screwed.

Posted by: barryjo | Oct 5, 2012 9:03:49 AM

I believe it was Reagan.

Posted by: TheOldMan | Oct 5, 2012 12:53:35 PM

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