Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $574,000 for Montana Sheep Institute

Montana’s state-run University system did very well for itself last year. Between the University of Montana (UM) and Montana State University (MSU), Montana’s institutions of higher learning brought home millions of dollars in federal pork. One of the most outrageous earmarks comes compliments of the 2005 Agriculture Appropriations Bill (HR 4818), which doled out $574,000 to the Montana Sheep Institute (MSI). Maybe that’s why they call Montana the Treasure State.

According to its website, MSI is "a cooperative project between Montana Wool Growers Association and Montana State University." The MSI seeks to develop and implement "non-traditional adjustment strategies that will increase the competitiveness of Montana’s lamb and wool in the world market." America’s hard-earned dollars are used for a variety of research projects, including methods for controlling Dalmation toadflax, ribeye studies, and electronic ear tag identification. MSI also offers a three-day beginners course and a four-day advanced course at its sheep shearing school.

To make matters worse, the Montana Sheep Institute is not a first-time beneficiary, but a repeat customer. This is not a one-time special deal but a crisis of greed, and those who have the most to lose are the ones who can least afford it. There are all sorts of important projects throughout the country, but the federal government and the hardworking taxpayers who generously fill its coffers cannot afford to fund every single one of them. It is up to our elected officials to prioritize and decide what is truly worthy of America’s tax dollars. I’m sorry to say, Montana’s wool industry is not one of them.

Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee voted in favor of spending tax dollars on the Montana Sheep Institute (Senate Roll Call Vote #215) on November 20, 2004.