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Thanksgiving turkeys from Uncle Sam

Watchdog group sees wasteful spending in these federal agriculture programs.

Each October Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) publishes a report poking fun at how Washington spends your tax dollars.

In 2019, CAGW wrote “Federal debt, which is already high by historical standards, is on an unsustainable course, projected to rise even higher after 2029 because of the aging of the population, growth in per capita spending on health care, and rising interest costs.”

CAGW’s prime cuts for 2019 identify what it calls “wasteful government spending.” The report is interesting because agriculture is singled out as a department that is not on the path towards “fiscal sanity.”

Broadband in the country

CAGW states the Rural Utility Service should be eliminated. The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was established in 1935. By 1981, 98.7% of rural America had received electric service. Also, 95% of rural America had telephone service. Like all government programs, success did not mean closing the REA. So in 1994, the REA became the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). By 2002, RUS had a new mission: to provide broadband to unserved rural areas. CAGW claims one wasteful project involved LaGrange, Arkansas. The town’s population is 122 and it costs $5,468.00 per resident to build a hybrid fiber coaxial network and new community center.

I suspect the citizens of LaGrange would say it was worth every penny.

Another alleged wasteful RUS program is the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It builds water-waste treatment works for rural communities. CAGW states USDA’s own Inspector General determined RUS spent $3.3 billion funding 854 treatment projects throughout the U.S. Only 3 of 22 projects investigated by the USDA Inspector General had been completed on time. This money created only 415 new jobs which was less than 20% of the jobs predicted.

Another wasteful USDA expense, according to CAGW, is a $10 million earmark for folks who have high energy costs in rural areas. CAGW states “The time has come to unplug and expose the RUS.” By eliminating RUS, the government would save $42 billion over five years.

Candy-coated handout?

Another turkey highlighted is the U.S. sugar subsidy. CAGW states  “The U.S. sugar program is an outdated, Soviet-style command-and–control program that uses import quotas, loans, marketing allotments, price supports, and tariffs to artificially inflate the price of sugar.”

We must wonder if consumers are aware that the price of sugar in the U.S. is “…roughly double the world price.” CAGW claims the sugar program is for a small cartel of sugar processors. CAGW claims the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) found “The welfare transfer to sugar growers and processers is quite large in the aggregate, hovering around $1.2 billion. Losses to households are diffused, about $10 per person per year but large for the population as-a-whole, in the range of $2.4-4 billion.”

CAGW also claims that every sugar growing job saved causes 3 manufacturing jobs to be lost.

Promoting commodities overseas

Another program which should face elimination is the Market Access Program (MAP). This is the market promotion program which allows farmers from many commodity groups to take trips to foreign countries to assure and convince other nations to purchase America’s commodities such as corn, cotton, soybeans and numerous other products. CAGW believes eliminating this program would save $174 million per year or over $870 million over five years.

It is claimed groups such as Blue Diamond, California Prune Board, Pet Food Institute, and Welch Foods benefit from this program. Waste in this program was singled out by former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn when he disclosed $20 million from MAP was used to create an India (the country) reality TV show. The Indian TV show did not promote U.S. cotton and he noted that India is a net exporter of cotton. He claimed it was time to eliminate MAP as a Thanksgiving turkey.

What do you think? In any case, have a Happy Thanksgiving!   

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
TAGS: Regulatory
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