It seems like it was just yesterday we were constantly told (by the now-defunct Pryor campaign) about how dangerous and subversive Tom Cotton was for voting against the farm bill.
Crops will start to rot! You’ll be paying $8 a gallon for milk! At least that’s what the farm bill advocates said.
With the farm bill’s passage earlier this year, many observers are taking a closer look at the program’s extraordinary wastefulness.
Indeed, as Dustin Hurst at IdahoReporter mentioned in a post last week, outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn, in his annual WasteBook, highlighted a taxpayer-funded marketing program that private industries can apply for to improve their bottom line.
In the Gem State, Reed’s Dairy, an ice cream and milk producer that ships its products across the country, received $199,921 from taxpayers. Documents show the dairy, based in Idaho Falls, planned to use the cash to increase production levels of “various cheeses, curds, cream, ice cream and non-homogenized milk.”
The dairy also planned to use dollars for marketing to increase sales.
At least one critic took notice of the program and tabbed it as an example of government waste. Outgoing Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican, knocked the program in his most recent waste report, a document detailing some of the worst examples of federal misspending each year.
“Some in the dairy industry are milking the federal government,” Coburn’s report read.
“While some grants are being used to develop products like cheese, cream or butter, other dairy farmers have been more creative in their efforts to acquire taxpayer money.”
But it’s not just the dairy industry in Idaho that’s lining its pockets with taxpayer dollars. One business in Warren, Arkansas got approximately $30,000 for marketing its products too.
From the United States Department of Agriculture, explaining the $30,000 approved for Deepwoods Farm in Warren:
Rural Development funds will be used to provide working capital funds for labor, packaging, delivery, and promotional expenses for the recipient’s Heirloom Tomato business so that the tomatoes can be marketed to local and regional farmers markets, salsa companies, juice companies, and grocery stores.
I wasn’t sure I knew the difference between an “heirloom” tomato and a regular tomato, so I googled Deepwoods Farms and found this article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
The farm’s heirloom tomatoes are what most Americans would have been eating about 70 years ago, Julie Donnelly said. They’re sweeter and come in purple, orange, red and yellow. They lack the genetic mutation found in most tomatoes that trade uniform color for sweeter taste.
“I just love them. They’re beautiful. They’re exotic to me,” she said. “We want people to know that tomatoes come in many different sizes and shapes and colors.”
The tomatoes are not disease resistant and are prone to cracking, but Donnelly said they haven’t been problematic since they started growing them about five years ago.
The price they command makes them worthwhile, she said. The heirloom tomatoes go for four times the price of the average tomato.
“Heirlooms just are bringing so much more money right now,” she said. “They’re delicate. They’re harder to grow, but we’re willing to put in the time and effort and see how that goes.”
I’m happy for the Deepwoods Farm’s owners that they’ve found a market for some type of tomato that I didn’t even know existed until recently. I’m also glad the heirloom tomatoes are bringing in “so much more money” for the farm right now. But I don’t know why I, or any other taxpayer, should be forced to subsidize an activity that would most likely be performed with the farm’s own money — if we lived in world where the farm bill didn’t exist.
One of the strongest arguments against the farm bill is that it benefits wealthy farmers by giving them taxpayer dollars (which bureaucrats call “free” money) for projects that should be undertaken with private funds. Government shouldn’t be in the business of paying businesses to market their own products.
Also, according to Hurst, more taxpayer dollars will likely be funded through this program in the future. As part of the Farm Bill’s re-authorization, yearly spending will increase from $15 million to $63 million. Hold on to your wallets, taxpayers!