On May 20th, I had the pleasure of attending an agricultural roundtable in Spokane orchestrated by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers with Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia in attendance. Most of us would be unaware that Congressman Kingston sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee—the committee that decides how the Federal budget is spent—and in 2011 was appointed as the Chairman of Appropriations Committee’s Agricultural Subcommittee. This makes the congressman an influential politician with opinions on the upcoming Farm Bill, and inclusive of this and more specifically, the Market Access Program (MAP), of which the Washington Apple Commission receives several million dollars each year. To her credit, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers understands the Congressman’s negative opinion of the Market Access Program described as ‘Corporate Welfare’ to our group by the Congressman.
Corporate Welfare. Being an ex linebacker (heavy on the ex), and maybe a little more aggressive than most, I took offense to this comment. With the current financial woes in Washington, D.C., and clear acceptance that spending must be reduced to save our nation from bankruptcy, I acknowledge the necessity for elimination of wasteful spending. However, with approximately 80% of our federal budget in untouchable mandatory programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Defense), why attack programs that are successful and promote exports without attending to the bigger issues? All of that aside, I did a little research and have the following comments for Congressman Kingston:
· In the 2009 apple crop year, packers spent $13,228,096 towards supporting exports. This broad category includes overseas travel, export staff salaries, generic apple stickers, and market development.
· The Washington Apple Commission spent 87% of available grower assessment dollars to support our MAP allotment of $4,709,228. That means that growers contribute cash in the amount of $0.37 for every $1 of MAP dollars received.
· A recent study by Global Insights found that the Market Access Programs “contribution to exports is equal to $35 in agricultural export gain for every dollar spent.”
There can be no argument that the Market Access Program supports increased exports. And corporate welfare may be true of other MAP recipients, but the Washington apple industry isn’t a “taker”—we have a “chip in the game!”