On Wednesday, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs penned a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack pointing out waste and abuse within the department that could be cut in order to pay for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance that the department slashed for 600,000 women and children. Coburn points out that despite sequestration, on April 4, representatives from the USDA Rural Development Office held “a workshop on their agency’s economic development and affordable housing programs” for residents of Martha’s Vineyard. Clearly, affordable housing is not the key issue in an area whose cheapest home is listed at $260,000 (a two-bedroom condo). In fact, Coburn points out, the “entire island of Martha’s Vineyard has been designated as a rural area eligible for taxpayer backed home loans by USDA.”
That’s not the only giant waste of money. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the USDA will now provide “free meals to all children 18 years of age or younger this summer through the Summer Café program of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) regardless of need.”
The USDA Rural Development agency also touted a program to subsidize the Wine Barn LLC in “marketing and increasing production of its Kansas produced wine.” That cost $25,000. The USDA Rural Development also said it would hand $300,000 to the Mackinaw Trail Winery in Michigan, $100,000 for the Appleton Creek Winery in New York, $162,500 for the Old Westminster Winery in Maryland, and tens of thousands of dollars to wineries in Nebraska and Iowa.
Liquor is the name of the game for the USDA, apparently – they’re also subsidizing the production of vodka in North Carolina, Bloody Mary mix in West Virginia, and hard cider in Virginia.
The USDA has also awarded value-added producer grants for social media for pickles, pizza, and ice cream.
Coburn asked for a full list of savings and efficiencies the USDA has implemented to reduce impacts of sequestration by July 22.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).