The federal government spent more than $160,000 in taxpayer funds to bankroll programs promoting “specialty crops” at college football games and tailgates in fiscal year 2023, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) document.
The agency spent $60,000 to fund a promotional program for “specialty crops” at college football tailgates in Alabama and spent an additional $104,000 on a similar program at college football games in Georgia, according to the USDA. The funding came from the farm bill, which was originally enacted in 2018 and then extended by President Joe Biden in November 2023, and the USDA’s “Specialty Crop Block Grant Program” distributed the funds.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) will use the “Sweet Grown Alabama” program to raise awareness and interest in seasonal “specialty crops” at six college football tailgates across the state next season, according to the USDA. “Participating fans will receive a sample of a local specialty crop/product and education regarding how to access and prepare the specialty crop” and “a brief survey will collect data from participants about knowledge gained and intent to purchase Alabama specialty crops.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) runs the “Georgia’s Harvest Huddle” initiative, which “partners with major college football programs to develop menus showcasing these crops and create promotions to increase awareness” in order to “create a sustainable and thriving agricultural economy in Georgia while highlighting the state’s unique specialty crops,” according to the USDA. Other desired outcomes “include increased demand and sales for farmers, awareness of Georgia agriculture and a strengthened connection between consumers and local farmers.”
“Specialty crops” include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits, as well as horticulture and nursery crops, according to the USDA’s definition.
“When reckless federal spending is making it hard for families to afford groceries and keep a roof over their head, paying businesses tens of thousands of dollars apiece to hand out food samples and put up advertisements at college football games ought to be a scandal. It’s clear that Washington has no respect for hard-earned tax dollars,” David Ditch, a senior policy fellow for the Heritage Foundation whose work focuses on federal spending and fiscal policy, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The federal government is stuffed with programs that use bureaucratic buzzwords to disguise what’s happening: corporate welfare on a massive scale. Handouts to favored businesses are a way for politicians to build support while trying to take credit for private sector jobs. The costs are buried in obscure reports that most people don’t know exist, meaning there’s rarely accountability for blatant waste,” Ditch said.
The USDA, GDA and ADAI did not respond immediately to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Nick Pope on January 3, 2024