Saturday, December 18, 2010

McCain Puts Foot in Mouth on Maple Syrup Research Grant

WASHINGTON -- On its face, it does seem absurd. Buried in a trillion-plus-dollar omnibus spending bill is a line requesting $165,000 for maple-syrup research in Vermont. Americans love the savory sap, and the Green Mountain state is the epicenter for its production, churning out 890,000 gallons this year alone. But why does the federal government have to get involved? And for what purpose are taxpayers forking over the dough?

These questions, undoubtedly, were on the mind of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) when he launched his Twitter screed against the pork-barrel projects included in the omnibus. The syrup-research expenditure made ranked fifth on McCain's list of the ten most egregious wastes of money in the omnibus bill -- a surefire example of the pure backwardness of the appropriators in Congress.

Dig a bit deeper, however, and that $165,000 starts to sound a lot less like a testament to fiscal lunacy.

That industry is at a crossroads. While international demand for maple syrup is rising, a poor harvest in 2008 crippled the U.S. supply, and much of that void has been filled by Canadian manufacturers. If domestic producers are to survive -- and maintain U.S. consumers' access to reasonably-priced syrup -- they need a technological breakthrough.

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