The USDA doesn’t seem to be grasping this “trillion-dollar deficits” concept too well

posted at 4:01 pm on October 3, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

I’ve often wondered how it is that, whenever we get to talking about ways to downsize the federal bureaucracy and balance the national budget, the Department of Agriculture always seems to escape any major scrutiny. I suppose that, in the grand scheme of things, their many meddlesome programs don’t run up nearly the same tab as some of the larger federal departments, but seeing as how some of their primary functions are divided between willfully distorting market signals and catering to special interests, you’d think they’d be a prime candidate for cutting out waste, fraud, and abuse.

Alas, the reality is quite the contrary: The USDA has too many politically unassailable, feel-good claims in its self-justification repertoire to mention, claims like “helping out the small family farmer” and “protecting the environment,” ostensibly with programs like these (via CNSNews):

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it spent $55 million in fiscal 2012 to support 748 “specialty crops” across the country – benefiting everything from fruit and nuts in California to an “interactive wine trail” in Massachusetts to the promotion of Michigan-grown Christmas trees and poinsettias.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack lamented that such support programs will not be funded in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 unless Congress passes the pending farm bill…

…Thirty percent of the grants went for “marketing and promotion” of specialty crops, which are defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).”

“These investments will support local and regional markets, and improve access to healthy food for millions of children and supply thousands of farmers markets, restaurants and other businesses with fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables. The grants also help growers solve technology needs or make better informed decisions on profitability and sustainability, leading to stronger rural American communities and businesses,” Vilsack added.

No, Secretary Vilsack — a thousand times, no. The federal government does not make wise or profitable “investments” that strengthen economies, the federal government doles out special treatment that picks economic winners and losers based on political preferences and lobbying clout. The agriculture sector neither needs nor deserves special treatment just by virtue of it producing food, and yet no other economic sector has been so relentlessly coddled and convoluted by subsidies, protectionism, and red tape.

Funny how the very people that the USDA’s many billion-dollar programs are ostensibly designed to help, are actually hurt the most: The majority of Ag’s direct payments go to large agribusiness growers of the “big five” crops, not small family farmers; they have effectually cemented the standing of a government-run crop-insurance racket that actually makes insurance more expensive for farmers; they enforce arbitrary price controls and ceilings that may help some niche markets in the short-term but in the long-term make everybody poorer; and they incentivize farmers to bring marginal land into production, which comes at an environmental cost. This is all just off the top of my head, by the way.

The fact that we’re currently running up a national deficit of over a trillion dollars, and the USDA feels that it can honestly justify programs like these, is nothing short of egregious.


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…Thirty percent of the grants went for “marketing and promotion” of specialty crops, which are defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).”

If you have to market FOOD to get someone to buy it – I am guessing that what you’re promoting is not something that is so vital that the country can’t do without it.

CycloneCDB on October 3, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Big Government is tone deaf? Say it ain’t so.

NapaConservative on October 3, 2012 at 4:06 PM

These investments will support local and regional markets,…

Sounds like a perfect investment for local and regional groups. I thought he was trying to make an argument in favor of Federal spending?

weaselyone on October 3, 2012 at 4:07 PM

We were building wealth in this country before these crazy government “investments”. Now we’re broke. Maybe it’s time to stop doing that.

forest on October 3, 2012 at 4:07 PM

I mean – it’s FOOD. People have a natural predeliction for EATING.

CycloneCDB on October 3, 2012 at 4:08 PM

…Thirty percent of the grants went for “marketing and promotion” of specialty crops, which are defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).”

So these growers are incapable of promoting their own product – the taxpayers have to do it for them?

Hill60 on October 3, 2012 at 4:08 PM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it spent $55 million in fiscal 2012 to support 748 “specialty crops” across the country – benefiting everything from fruit and nuts in California to an “interactive wine trail” in Massachusetts to the promotion of Michigan-grown Christmas trees and poinsettias.

Was that a kind of non-sexual double-entendre?

OhEssYouCowboys on October 3, 2012 at 4:09 PM

“If we don’t market FOOD, people won’t EAT!”

That kind of logic fits in nicely with the Preezy’s belief that if you don’t teach someone how to behave in an office or dress appropriately or shower or get to work on time, that they just won’t be able to do it.

IT’S FOOD! IT MARKETS ITSELF!

CycloneCDB on October 3, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Don’t forget, Erika. USDA runs the food stamp program, too.

Bitter Clinger on October 3, 2012 at 4:10 PM

There will come a time when the Government will tell the farmers to grow Baby Ruth’s, and will subsidize their efforts.

Watch the skies! Keep your eyes on the skies!

OhEssYouCowboys on October 3, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Want your crop promoted? A small kickback goes a biiiiiiig way…

Archivarix on October 3, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Well…I’m hungry, so food must be classified as a RIGHT. USDA is just helping farmers aid me in my right to access food.

Who can’t see that logic?

-libtard

NapaConservative on October 3, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Last spring, I read on the official federal jobs website that the U.S. Forest Service (which is under the USDA) was hiring 44,000 temporary employees… The jobs were to last until mid-November.

Coincidence?

LegendHasIt on October 3, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Well…I’m hungry, so food must be classified as a RIGHT. USDA is just helping farmers aid me in my right to access food.

Who can’t see that logic?

-libtard

NapaConservative on October 3, 2012 at 4:12 PM

I’d like to know if Pelosi’s vineyard in Napa received any money and did her husband’s business?

riddick on October 3, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Thirty percent of the grants went for “marketing and promotion” of specialty crops, which are defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).

So it’s the USDA that pays for all those Florida Orange Juice, California Almonds, and “Beef – It’s whats for dinner” ads I see all the time? Interesting.

Something tells me we could cut the USDAs budget by 50% and the vast majority of Americans would never know the difference.

RobertE on October 3, 2012 at 4:23 PM

There will come a time when the Government will tell the farmers to grow Baby Ruth’s, and will subsidize their efforts.

Watch the skies! Keep your eyes on the skies!

OhEssYouCowboys on October 3, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Don’t forget spaghetti trees:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_tree_hoax

rbj on October 3, 2012 at 4:23 PM

benefiting everything from fruit and nuts in California

Wasn’t it easier just to type San Francisco?

riddick on October 3, 2012 at 4:26 PM

Something tells me we could cut the USDAs budget by 50% and the vast majority of Americans would never know the difference.

RobertE on October 3, 2012 at 4:23 PM

And I’ll bet you we would. In lower prices for things like corn, for example, which is now grown for ethanol production and raised prices as a “food product” in the process.

riddick on October 3, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Is the wine trail for the childrens too?

kringeesmom on October 3, 2012 at 4:30 PM

I’d like to know if Pelosi’s vineyard in Napa received any money and did her husband’s business?

riddick on October 3, 2012 at 4:23 PM
benefiting everything from fruit and nuts in California
Wasn’t it easier just to type San Francisco?

riddick on October 3, 2012 at 4:26 PMyou answered yourself

Rio Linda Refugee on October 3, 2012 at 4:32 PM

What if they shut down a Cabinet Department, and nobody noticed?

Another Drew on October 3, 2012 at 4:33 PM

The USDA is under orders to, take out the enemies of a socialist takeover of the economy. The Obama mandate is to take care of his donors and choke out the little guys. Why is this a surprise to anyone? The Marxist Messiah is well on his way to “Fundamentally Transforming this Country”!

http://www.paratisiusa.blogspot.com

God Bless America!

paratisi on October 3, 2012 at 4:33 PM

The USDA is the Willie Wonka of your grocery bill.

That said, biting my nails as the Rangers are up 5-1 on the A’s in the 3rd and pushed Griffin’s pitch count to 70.

Limerick on October 3, 2012 at 4:36 PM

My kids were amazed last night as I told them about how farmers are paid to destroy their crops, the ins and outs, the why’s etc.

catmman on October 3, 2012 at 4:38 PM

catmman on October 3, 2012 at 4:38 PM

Now, now, do the right thing and tell them also that bacon has to be controlled.

Limerick on October 3, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Ah, my wife and I just finished making about two gallons of her famous potato salad. It doesn’t require marketing. Grandkids can smell it from 3 miles away. Best stuff ever. Yum!

a capella on October 3, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Secretary Vilack on MSNBC Morning Joe August 16th, 2011

When you talk about the SNAP program or the Food Stamp program you have to recognize that it is also an economic stimulus. Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in terms of economic activity.

Obama and his minions actually think putting people on food stamps is good for the economy.

Wigglesworth on October 3, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Wigglesworth on October 3, 2012 at 4:40 PM

At a 16 cent loss what is to worry about?

Limerick on October 3, 2012 at 4:45 PM

BIG Government HAS to LEVEL the PLAYING FIELD in the INTEREST of FAIRNESS and EQUALITY so the LITTLE growers can COMPETE with the BIG growers.

IN OTHER WORDS, if a LITTLE grower WANTS to MARKET a special CROP fertilized exclusively with UNICORN POOP, because it’s DIFFERENT/BETTER/MAGICAL, that’s where BIG Government can HELP!

Marcola on October 3, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Marcola on October 3, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Can’t I just opt for a frozen pot pie?

Limerick on October 3, 2012 at 4:48 PM

“specialty crops” = “expensive organic crops”

More welfare for well to do leftists.

jukin3 on October 3, 2012 at 4:50 PM

I wonder how this spending fits with “investing in minority-owned businesses, in our neighborhoods.” I just don’t see it. It seems like it’s helping out people in the suburbs and rural areas, and fattening the wallets of advertising agencies.

Dusty on October 3, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Crap, the left coast A’s are at 1st and 3rd with no outs. It is the Ranger’s Fredricksburg!

Limerick on October 3, 2012 at 4:58 PM

It was Tom Vilsack & his Democrat successor Chet Culver (The Big Lug) that put Iowa in debt a billion plus dollars despite the presence of a constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget. He fits in well with the Obama administration. He doesn’t care about the little guy at all. He cares about his constituencies. The ones who pay HIS bills.

Terri on October 3, 2012 at 5:03 PM

My favorite is how they have one guy who is paid almost a million a year to promote cheese and another guy who is paid to discourage cheese eating because it’s too fatty.

Stop the madness/1

It’s just one gigantic slush fund.

PattyJ on October 3, 2012 at 5:18 PM

USDA also pays out the huge Pigford claims. Pigford III is due to start paying all Indians, women and hispanics who claimed they ever thought about farming up to $50k with no proof of ever actually farming.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/09/25/New-Obama-Farmers-Settlements-Designed-For-Fraud

DanMan on October 3, 2012 at 5:23 PM

It’s like they think we are SIMs or something. Just characters in a game who will DIE if they don’t tell us what to do.

OTOH maybe if the Feds got out of the food marketing racket, our obesity levels would drop. Those too foolish to figure out how eat would starve.

Lily on October 3, 2012 at 5:27 PM

…Thirty percent of the grants went for “marketing and promotion” of specialty crops

That would be money handed to the biased Democrat liberal media.

RJL on October 3, 2012 at 5:34 PM

Don’t forget, Erika. USDA runs the food stamp program, too.

Bitter Clinger on October 3, 2012 at 4:10 PM

…that’s just another “investment”…

KOOLAID2 on October 3, 2012 at 5:43 PM

Let me know when they start promoting tira misu, I’ll be all in.

Kissmygrits on October 3, 2012 at 5:44 PM

What if they shut down a Cabinet Department, and nobody noticed?

Another Drew on October 3, 2012 at 4:33 PM

The FAA shut down for a few days without notice…….

BobMbx on October 3, 2012 at 5:57 PM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it spent $55 million in fiscal 2012 to support 748 “specialty crops” across the country – benefiting everything from fruit and nuts in California to an “interactive wine trail” in Massachusetts to the promotion of Michigan-grown Christmas trees and poinsettias.

Was that a kind of non-sexual double-entendre?

OhEssYouCowboys on October 3, 2012 at 4:09 PM

It should say “everyone from fruits and nuts in California to…”

itsnotaboutme on October 3, 2012 at 6:19 PM

philly inquirer ran a story about how the USDA is funding a theater in South Jersey. http://articles.philly.com/2012-10-01/news/34178698_1_arts-groups-rural-development-theaters-and-arts-centers

sbvft contributor on October 3, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Was that a kind of non-sexual double-entendre?

OhEssYouCowboys on October 3, 2012 at 4:09 PM

benefiting everything from fruit and nuts in California

Wasn’t it easier just to type San Francisco?

riddick on October 3, 2012 at 4:26 PM

LOL Early thread winners!

Wolfen on October 3, 2012 at 7:38 PM

Vilsack…another Commie hack out to pay off contributors and screw the rest of us.
Until the People revolt…Nothing Changes

dirtengineer on October 3, 2012 at 7:53 PM

While I tend to agree with the general sentiment regarding government spending and the USDA in particular, I happen to have specific knowledge about this program that will at least shed some light on what it is, even if we shouldn’t do it.

First, the grants are not given directly to ANY farmers but instead are given to State Agriculture agencies that apply for the funds. If a given State decides not to participate, or they do not have a valid project for the money (yes, specific staff review every application, only 2 people), the money is then redistributed to the other participating states, dependent on them also having valid projects. The Farm Bill lays out the rules for evaluation and allows the office that manages the grant program to audit the States to ensure the money is spent as specific in their application.

The projects must provide for marketing of specialty crops, meaning crops that no other State produce, and show it will increase the sales of that product.

This 55 million dollar program is run by three dedicated staff and pulls in auditors as needed.

While I too have asked why, it isn’t the USDA staff who are at fault for this program. The individuals I know are dedicated to executing the program as defined by CONGRESS. If it is not funded, they will either be placed into other jobs, apply for another job with an identifier that gives them preference, or leave the government.

As a government worker myself (not at USDA), I work hard to reduce waste and ensure the tax payer, me included, gets the best value for my efforts. The largest issue in terms of the Federal budget are the rules and legislation passed by CONGRESS that each agency is required to execute. The correction for waste and the reduction of the budget must start with those who pass the laws.

GeekWithin on October 4, 2012 at 9:16 AM

No, Secretary Vilsack — a thousand times, no. The federal government does not make wise or profitable “investments” that strengthen economies, the federal government doles out special treatment that picks economic winners and losers based on political preferences and lobbying clout.

Romney disagrees with you… from the debate last night.

“You don’t just pick winners and losers, you pick losers.”

He was discussing energy policies, but I think the message can be broadened a bit without weakening it.

gekkobear on October 4, 2012 at 12:49 PM

The FDA isn’t doing a very good job on notifying the general public pertaining to the long term damaging effects of genetically modified food (GMO). I understand, that 70/80% of our corn and cotton crops have been compromised. I further understand, that GMO crops are pollinating, and taking over organic crops.

byteshredder on October 4, 2012 at 6:57 PM