Taxes & Spending

Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $4.2M for Shrimp Aquaculture Research

The latest taxpayer rip-off of the week smells more than a little fishy. Over the past twenty years Congress has been dumping truckloads of money into shrimp aquaculture research, and by now, it’s more like an overwhelming, pervasive stench. Since 1985, Congress has appropriated a whopping $65.7 million for shrimp aquaculture research, including $4,200,000 from the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2744) for research in Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Texas.

According to USDA testimony, "the goal of this program is to develop a sustainable domestic shrimp farming industry in the United States." But the USDA might want to rewind and take a look at its previous testimony: "The completion date for the original research objectives was 1987. The original objectives have been met. Research conducted with fiscal year 2002 funding was completed in June 2003. Research outlined in the proposal is anticipated to be completed by May of 2004." Sound familiar? These are the words the USDA uttered in March of 2004. So why are taxpayers still paying for this research?

The notion of landlocked Arizona taking in money for aquaculture research is particularly offensive. And while Colin Kaltenbach of University of Arizona defended the allocation on CNN as "government support of research that’s needed to feed this nation," the state’s very own Senator John McCain (R-AZ) disagreed, saying, "I always am intrigued by the vision of little shrimp flopping around out in the desert."

This earmark is a prime example of what is wrong down in Washington. It demonstrates quite clearly that that pork-infested appropriations process is an imbedded part of Washington political culture, and what we need down there is not some small, token change to appease the public come election time, but a dramatic reinvention of the way business is conducted in the capitol city. Or else things are going to smell a lot worse in a couple of years.

Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee voted in favor of spending tax dollars on shrimp aquaculture research (Senate Roll Call Vote #282) on November 3, 2005.