A compendium of the most ridiculous examples of Congress's pork-barrel spending.
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The Pig Book
How Government Wastes Your Money
By Citizens Against Government Waste
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Citizens Against Government Waste
All rights reserved.
Agriculture: Pork on the Range
American agriculture conjures up images of amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties, with farmers waking at dawn to milk the cows and feed the pigs and chickens. For the members of the U.S. Congress, the Agriculture Appropriations Act is the prime opportunity to send pork back to their district or state.
Millions of dollars in agriculture research are funded through this appropriation. In fiscal year 2004, $111 million was appropriated for special research grants even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) only requested $3 million. At first glance, this may seem sensible, but the reality is that most of the research benefits particular commodities or states. The USDA has repeatedly warned Congress not to fund any state-or commodity-specific research, citing that it is not the federal government's responsibility.
$102 Million for Screwworm Research
There is nothing like getting "screwed" by the government. The initial $33.4 million dumped into this particular research program in 1991 created quite a buzz on Capitol Hill. Critics sat bewildered as members of Congress appropriated the loot for screwworm research. Apparently someone forgot to tell them that this flesh-eating fly was eradicated in the 1970s.
The little bugger was pushed south as far as Panama, but the USDA claims research is needed because beef in Central America may still carry the parasite. No word on why Central America can't pay for its bug problem. But we should "bug out" of this debate.
$9.9 Million for the Rural Policies Research Institute
The Rural Policies Institute (Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska) has been a cash cow since 1992, when the appropriations committees dumped $525,000 into the research. The institute "conducts policy-relevant research and facilitates public dialogue to assist policymakers in understanding the rural impacts of public policies and programs." Hint: One of the bad policies is subsidies.
$7.4 Million for Peanut-related Research
Whether chowing down on Kung Pao chicken or your favorite candy bar, peanuts are a staple of American cuisine. Peanut research has also become a staple of appropriators' cuisine. Included in the $7.4 million total: $1.54 million for the National Center for Peanut Competitiveness at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia; $1.3 million for peanut research in the state of House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Member Jack Kingston (R-Ga.); and $47,000 for peanut breeding.
The center is an absurd waste of money because the federal peanut program restricts the acreage for growing peanuts, preventing any marketplace competition. There was more nutty spending in 2001: The Senate appropriated $500,000 for peanut allergy reduction research in Alabama. In November 1998, Senate appropriator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) released a statement opposing federal involvement in peanut allergy concerns, calling it "overreaching" and precisely what makes Americans question the government's "common sense." But three years later, Sen. Shelby abandoned his own common sense by voting to earmark $500,000 for more peanut allergy research.
$1.7 Million for the Center for Rural Studies
Since 1992, the Center for Rural Studies in Vermont has received an annual gift from Congress, courtesy of Agriculture Committee Ranking Member and Senate appropriator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Just looking at the name of the research provides very little insight into its purpose. But, according to USDA testimony, funds in the past have been used for "analytical reports provided to a retail shopping mall to help it attract new businesses to fill vacant space. ..." How about having the mall's owners pay for their own advertising?
$3.2 Million for Cranberry/Blueberry Research
New Jersey and Massachusetts have walked away with $3.2 million for cranberry/blueberry research. But that's a drop in the bucket. According to congressional testimony, "The researchers anticipate that significant solutions to the many interrelated pests and production problems will require an additional three to ten years especially to develop improved cultivars."
$15.6 Million for Swine Research
Since Congress is constantly "porking up" the budget, there may not be a more appropriate area of research, although there's no truth to the rumor that these projects are located under the U.S. Capitol. Swine research includes $3,442,000 in North Carolina and $539,000 in Minnesota. In 2002, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) chastised his colleagues with jabs at such piggish funding:
Winning the War on Terrorism. Securing our homeland. Modernizing our military to ensure readiness and supremacy. Increasing the flexibility of states, local communities, and parents to provide a high-quality education for every child. And putting more money back into the wallets of hardworking, overtaxed American men and women. Are these good uses of federal funds? You bet. But how about cash for manure management research at the National Swine Research Center in Iowa? Or a government grant for Hawaiian sea turtles? Or taxpayer dollars used to fund a tattoo removal program in San Luis Obispo, California? The list goes on and on. Are these good uses of federal funds? Sadly, it depends on who you ask. You see, when it comes to "pork projects" like these, too many congressional Democrats and Republicans are equal opportunity squealers. And even in the midst of a war, a period of economic uncertainty, and a temporary return of budget deficits, some of my colleagues contribute to an already bloated federal bureaucracy by quietly sliding 'earmarked' pet projects into federal appropriations bills each year. And the current fiscal year is no exception.
$2.7 Million for Lowbush Blueberry Research
Appropriators find their thrills on Blueberry Hill. This research is being conducted at the University of Maine, home state of Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Lowbush blueberries are not planted, but are common forest groundcover plants. About 60,000 acres of lowbush blueberry are managed in Maine, which produces 99 percent of all the blueberries hitting the U.S. market. So why doesn't Maine foot the bill, then?
It's because blueberries intrigue Congress. In 2002, Congress dished out $10 million of taxpayers' money for blueberry purchases; that same year, Senators Collins and Snowe teamed up with the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine and pushed USDA officials to buy the blue fruit. According to a 2002 Wall Street Journal article, the $10 million would buy about 12 million pounds of wild blueberries — between 16 and 17 percent of the entire industry crop of 70 million to 75 million pounds of berries in an average year.
"Why all the fuss for a fruit that sells at a premium and that grows naturally throughout New England, New York and elsewhere?" asked the Journal. "Politicians, of course," who "love to harvest the federal government's bounty for home-state farmers. The wild-blueberry industry is small and therefore easy to enrich. The industry is also almost entirely located in Maine — by one estimate, 99 percent of commercially picked wild blueberries come from that state. What's more, blueberries have been a staple of the rural economy for decades — if not centuries — and are now part of the state's culture. Supporting such an industry is an easy political decision. Oppose it and you'll be opposing the local farm stand's wild-blueberry pies and hot, fresh muffins."
$64.4 Million for Shrimp Aquaculture Research in Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas
This little creature sure proposes big problems for American taxpayers. An internal USDA audit obtained by CAGW details abuse by one of the grant recipients, the Oceanic Institute (OI) of Hawaii. In addition to USDA, OI was audited by the Department of Commerce and the Agency for International Development. According to the USDA inspector general, OI "did not comply with Federal regulations or with the terms of the grant agreements. OI used grant funds for purposes that were not specified in its grant budgets and that were not approved by ARS (Agricultural Research Service) or CSREES (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service). It also made unallowable procurements with related parties and did not always perform required cost analyses, document the bases for contractor selection, or justify the lack of competition when procuring goods and services."
Even so, that hasn't stopped Congress from appropriating funds to the shrimp industry since 1985. This research is currently being undertaken in Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas. In case legislators happened to forget their geography lessons: Arizona is a landlocked state. This little detail didn't escape Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who in 2001 stated that "I always am intrigued by the vision of little shrimp flopping around out in the desert."
$5.4 Million for the Food Marketing Policy Center
The Food Marketing Policy Center (FMPC) at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in Storrs, Connecticut, is located in the district of ex-farmer and UConn alumnus Sam Gejdenson (D-Conn.). While FMPC claims "the general intent is to provide information that can contribute to improved performance of the food production and marketing system," it may be more apparently dedicated to consuming our tax dollars. One of the center's projects has been researching the pricing and marketing of cereal — a task one would think could be determined by the cereal companies, families, and children at no cost to taxpayers.
$5.94 Million for the North Central Biotechnology Initiative
This project was established in 1995 to be a "competitive" grants program. It wasn't, so USDA proposed no funds for this project in fiscal year 1997, and USDA officials stated that, in keeping with the "Administration's policy of awarding research grants competitively, no further federal funding for this grant is requested." Apparently the House didn't get the memo, because it appropriated $1.94 million for the project in fiscal year 1997.
$23.2 Million for Human Nutrition Research
While a handful of research centers and universities conduct human nutrition research, the $473,000 study in Iowa sticks out. In 1997, some of that money was used to develop low-fat snack foods, such as "Soy-nog," a low-fat, low-cholesterol version of eggnog.
$9.3 Million for Floriculture Research
While funding for floriculture research in the state of Senate appropriator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) was expected to be done by fiscal year 1996, it didn't stop the Senate's annual allotment for the research. USDA officials also specifically stated that this program should be funded by the state of Hawaii. Hawaii's response? Why bother when Uncle Sam is pollinating the state with tax dollars? This research is expected to help the $50 million cut flower and foliage industry in Hawaii.
$10.4 Million for the Viticulture Consortium
Physicians have stated that a glass of red wine is good for the heart. Drink up because reading about how much money has been appropriated for the wine industry may cause a coronary. According to USDA testimony, this research is designed to "help the viticulture [grape] and wine industries remain competitive in the United States and in the global market." The mission of the Viticulture Consortium, located in California and New York, is to:
Understand grape physiology and develop cultivation methods that lead to sustainable and economical production of grapes;
Determine the impact of grapevine cultivation practices on chemical traits that affect the quality of wines and other grape products produced in different geographical regions;
Improve the productivity of grapes and quality of grape products by selecting and breeding scion and rootstock varieties; and
Improve understanding of the biology of pests and diseases, and develop integrated crop management programs for specific grape production regions that are economically feasible, environmentally sound, and socially acceptable.
Wine sales in the U.S. grew 5 percent to a record 627 million gallons in 2003, with a retail value of $21.6 billion — a 2.3 percent increase over the previous year. California alone produced 417 million gallons, which accounted for a 67 percent share of the market, two of every three bottles sold in the U.S. Export figures jumped an estimated 17 percent over the previous year (about 95 percent of exported product came from California) to $643 million in winery revenues, and surged 29 percent by volume to 96 million gallons.
Who needs a drink?
$1.75 Million for Agricultural Diversification and Specialty Crops in Hawaii
Senate appropriator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) has grabbed $1.75 million for agricultural diversification and specialty crops projects for his state. Along with their "lei project," researchers are also trying to obtain marketing orders for Maui onion growers — a stinky result for taxpayers.
$10.5 Million for the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville, Mississippi
Congress seems to have quite an appetite for fish farms. The National Warmwater Aquaculture Center received $3,308,000 between 1999 and 2001 to research catfish production. The aquaculture industry earned more than $500 million in 1997, whereas Congress spent $9.4 million that same year on various aquaculture research projects, including $370,000 on Chesapeake Bay aquaculture; $330,000 on aquaculture research in Louisiana; and $127,000 on multi-cropping strategies for aquaculture in Hawaii.
$7.25 Million for Grasshopper Research
Congress has appropriated $7.25 million for grasshopper research, including $75,000 in 1992 and 1993 for grasshopper biocontrol in North Dakota. But that doesn't compare with the $750,000 added by the Senate in 1999 for grasshopper research in the state of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Doesn't a frozen grasshopper simply require crème de menthe, crème de cocoa, and vanilla ice cream?
$21.9 Million for the National Center for Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture in Leetown, West Virginia
Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) is making sure money flows regularly to the National Center for Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture in Leetown, West Virginia. According to USDA, the center consists of a tank/aquarium building of approximately 20,000 square feet and a laboratory/office complex of approximately 30,000 square feet. The center opened in 2001, employing five scientists and five support staff. At full capacity, 12 full-time scientists and 18 support personnel will work at the facility.
$650,000 for Alternative Salmon Products Research
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has sold taxpayers up the river for this research. In 2002, Alaskan salmon fishers netted around $220 million in profits. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the waters of Valdez swelled with an estimated 22 million salmon in 2003, the largest amount ever recorded. With the overabundance of salmon, the city decided to entice tourists by giving a free salmon to anyone who visited Valdez during the summer tourist months. That makes the industry a lot more solvent than most taxpayers.
$728,000 for Vidalia Onion Research
Known for its sweet taste, the Vidalia onion is grown in only a handful of counties in Georgia. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Member Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) has been the biggest supporter for research of these onions. In the past, money has been used for "pungency testing" and is now supposed to go toward onion disease research. According to testimony by USDA officials, this research will solely benefit the state of Georgia and the Vidalia onion industry.
The Vidalia onion has become a sweet source of revenue for Georgia, and chopping this subsidy from the budget would certainly make some folks cry. According to the Vidalia Onion Committee, its industry pulls in an estimated $95 million annually for the state and accounts for 13 percent of Georgia's vegetable cash receipts. Similar onions are grown in other states, including Texas and Washington, but none of them get such a sweet subsidy.
Excerpted from The Pig Book by Citizens Against Government Waste. Copyright © 2005 Citizens Against Government Waste. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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