Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $1,850,000 for Wine-Making at Cornell

This week’s taxpayer rip-off of the week is an agricultural dream and a taxpayer’s nightmare. Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture doled out $526 million in agricultural pork, a 44% increase from the previous year’s $365 million. Especially flagrant was a Cornell University grant of $1,850,000 for a viticulture (the cultivation of grapes for the purpose of making wine) consortium to serve California, New York, and Pennsylvania.

The grant is particularly outrageous considering that the wine industry is not exactly suffering. Wine sales in the United States grew 5% to a record 627 million gallons in 2003, a retail value of $21.6 billion and a 2.3% increase from the previous year’s sales. California alone, one of the beneficiaries of the grant, produced 417 million gallons. According to the Wine Institute, a public policy advocacy association of California wineries, "there has been a steady long-term growth curve for California wine sales . . . The wine market is poised for growth."

As difficult as it is to believe, the Washington insiders have really outdone themselves this time. The federal government is acting like an ATM machine, dispensing cash at every Congressional whim and wish. The bottom line is that our leaders in Washington are acting irresponsibly, and the taxpayers of America deserve better than that.