USDA Subsidizes Vodka, Bloody Mary Mix, and Midwestern Wine, Proving Freedom and Alcohol Don't Always Go Together


Summertime is when we traditionally celebrate two things America loves dearly: freedom, and alcohol. But what happens when one encroaches on the other? Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has penned a letter to the USDA, asking why the department spent well over a million dollars subsidizing alcohol while cutting nutrition programs for women and children.

The USDA has cut WIC (welfare nutrition assistance for Women, Infants, and Children) for over 600,000 people, citing sequestration as reason for the cut. This very same agency that doesn't have enough money to feed America's most vulnerable populations, somehow has enough money to throw at little-known beverage industries.

The Idaho wine commission got a sweet deal to the tune of $40,000. Fish Hawk Acres, a company in West Virginia, received $45,000 of taxpayer money for the marketing of its Bloody Mary Mix. (You guys had 45 grand to promote a worthy cause, and out of everything you could have chosen, tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce won?!?!)

Grants of $100,000 and over went to wineries in Michigan and Maryland. (Perhaps the Department of *Agriculture* hasn't realized that grapes don't grow well there? Or maybe the USDA does know how grapes grow, and they just want us all to be drinking terrible wine. How rude.)

When the government is allowed to intervene in the private sector and pick winners and losers, the government wins and the rest of us lose. We lose taxpayer money to businesses that aren't sustainable. We lose the power of the people, in a free-market society, to choose which businesses succeed and which fail. The government gains more dependents, and then necessarily more power to manage them all.

The USDA has the wrong priorities if it would rather fund North Carolinian yam vodka (an actual drink, though it sounds like a hipster band) than pay for meals for struggling families. Thought it's hard to blame the government agency, when the commander-in-chief himself says we have no money for tours of his taxpayer-funded house, and then jets off on a state visit abroad that's going to cost $100 million.  Talk about setting the tone for misplaced priorities.

The USDA also subsidized social media campaigns for pickles, pizza, and ice cream.  (Because, how can we expect people to know what ice cream is, unless Big Brother benevolently tells them?) 

Not only is the government subsidizing alcohol — a completely unnecessary good — it's subsidizing terrible alcohol. The USDA needs to stop spending taxpayer money on things that taxpayers don't want. If we did want hard cider from Utah (another grant recipient), we would be buying it, and the company wouldn't need a government grant! More freedom, less waste, and — if other government departments get the hint — lower taxes.  I'll drink to that.