USDA announces $25 million loan guarantee for manufacture of food & soda sweetener

I find myself confused.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it will provide a $25 million loan guarantee to support the manufacture of a sweetener found in diet soda. From the USDA press release:

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has approved a loan guarantee of $25 million to Myriant Corporation to help construct a bio-based production facility in Lake Providence, La.

“This project will support the President’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy and create job opportunities for American workers,” said Vilsack. “The facility will bring opportunity to an area of Louisiana that has been battered by hurricanes, and has lacked new development. It will also expand a market for farmers.”

The facility will make succinic acid, which is used primarily as a sweetener within the food and beverage industry. Currently it is made from butane, using petrochemicals, but the new plant will convert grain sorghum, an actual food source and a sustainable resource source, into succinic acid and ammonium sulfate. It is expected to produce 15,000 tons per year of succinic acid and 18,000 tons per year of ammonium sulfate.

Myriant is the first bio-based chemical company to receive funding under USDA Rural Development’s Business and Industry Guarantee program, which supports local rural businesses and helps create or retain jobs. …

The Myriant facility also received $44 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and an additional $10 million from the Louisiana State Department of Transportation for infrastructure improvements.

So, let’s get this straight: This Myriant Corporation will receive almost $70 million in federal (read: taxpayer) loan guarantees for the construction of a new facility — which, we’re to believe, is a harbinger of “green job” creation. These “green” workers will manufacture a new type of grain-based succinic acid (but succinic acid nonetheless), a sweetener often used in making diet soda (h/t Joel Gehrke).

I’m pretty sure that diet soda and other such sweetened, processed food products don’t make the cut in the some of the USDA’s signature endeavors, i.e., the “Let’s Move!” campaign and the “MyPlate” nutrition guide in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama. I suppose the thinking (if, indeed, there was any) is that this is a new, more natural type of succinic acid, but isn’t the government always telling us that diet sodas contain harmful sodium and other chemicals that many argue cause — oh, I don’t know — cancer?!

Hey, remember when the federal government started to subsidize corn out the wazoo for the production of ethanol in the name of furthering clean energy? And you know how high-fructose corn syrup is now super cheap and in practically everything processed that we eat? Yeahhh.

The hubris, cross-purposes, and unintended consequences from the federal government in planning our lives for us, never ceases to amaze.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022