Coburn says farmers markets program is a waste of $90,000
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
1/10/12 at 3:08 PM
WASHINGTON - Coming in at about $90,000 did not keep an Oklahoma program promoting local farmers markets from getting on a list that U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn uses to highlight what he calls egregious examples of government waste.
Asked how that program even drew the Oklahoma Republican's attention, the state Department of Agriculture said it did not know.
Blayne Arthur, associate commissioner at the state agency, also did not have a comment on why the senator failed to include the U.S. Department of Agriculture's entire program that benefits the specialty crop industry in all 50 states.
Coburn's office did not respond to a request Monday for comment.
His report stated the Oklahoma Agriculture Department received a total of $380,851 through the USDA specialty crop block grant program.
In his "Wastebook 2011," the senator highlights 100 examples of programs and projects across the nation that total more than $6.5 billion.
"Over the past 12 months, politicians argued, debated and lamented about how to reign in the federal government's out-of-control spending," Coburn said last month in a statement.
"All the while, Washington was on a shopping binge, spending money we do not have on things we do not absolutely need."
Other examples cited by Coburn: $35 million allocated for the political conventions later this year, $10 million for a remake of "Sesame Street" for Pakistan and $113,227 for a video game preservation center in New York.
In singling out Oklahoma's program promoting farmers markets, Coburn's report cited the explosive growth such events have experienced over the past 20 years.
"There are now over 6,000 farmers' markets nationwide," it states.
"In light of the robust success these enterprises are enjoying, it is questionable why federal assistance for farmers' markets is even needed."
At least four other federal programs offer support as well, Coburn's report added.
Arthur said facts in the senator's report are accurate but noted those four other programs it cited are not related to promoting farmers markets but are consumer programs geared toward low-income seniors and children.
Under the program for farmers markets, Arthur said, grants of as much as $2,000 are awarded for advertising and promotion to those that have at least six producers participating.
Arthur would not say whether the state agency plans to apply for more funding.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, also did not respond to a request for a comment on Coburn's report.
Original Print Headline: State ag program lands on Coburn list
Jim Myers 202-484-1424
Sen. Tom Coburn: "There are now over 6,000 farmers' markets nationwide," his report says. "In light of the robust success these enterprises are enjoying, it is questionable why federal assistance for farmers' markets is even needed."