Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) have requested a list of awards made under the KYF2 (Know Your Farmers Know Your Foods) program including the names of organizations receiving funds and amounts distributed.

The letter from the senators questioned the desirability of expending funds on “locavore” projects and “feel-good” measures. In the opinion of the three senators these grants are “completely detached from the realities of production agriculture.”

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan the original promoter of the National Organic Program under a previous administration, has favored community development programs and intends distributing up to $1 billion for the KYF2 initiative.

USDA Secretary Vilsack, in defending Deputy Secretary Merrigan characterized her policy as “an example of our efforts to enhance awareness of our programs and utilize them more effectively.”

The current administration has demonstrated a distinct bias towards alternative agriculture at the expense of conventional intensive crop and livestock production. This is understandable given the extremely pro-environmental, anti-commercial, background of policy makers and their complete detachment from the realities of modern grain and livestock production.

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In the U.S. less than 5% of the population is involved in production of agricultural products which provide the highest standard of nutrition in the world. In addition, the U.S. is a major supplier of food and commodities through the export market. Dependence on efficient U.S. agriculture is evident by the fact that diversion of domestic corn to ethanol production has progressively impacted developing countries which are forced to pay more for their grains.

We can ill afford to divert funds to nebulous unproductive endeavors which could be used for research and development and the introduction of new technologies to enhance productivity, safety and sustainability. We should eschew supporting enterprises which would not be financially viable without government support. Incidentally does the current approach to disbursing our tax dollars not conform to the definition of socialism?

The sense of unreality which pervades the upper reaches of USDA has profound implications for our future ability to contribute to the food needs of our nation and the burgeoning populations of developing countries. We will have to feed over 9 billion by mid-century.

I would commend to Secretary Vilsack the fact that candidate Mike Dukakis went down in flames in Iowa when he suggested that corn farmers switch to growing Belgian endives.