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May 4, 2009 - Ray Hall (Archive)
One person’s pork in the Federal budget is renewal for a distressed community to another. $1.7 million for pig odor research might sound extravagant—even silly to some but if you were a resident of an Iowa community that had several 1000 head pig farms just outside your municipal boundary you could conceivably consider the research a necessity. Picture if you can 1000 hogs—only one of many farms-- in a steel building and all their droppings falling through slatted floors only to be washed clean with high pressure water hoses to a holding pond—a lagoon—a really big lagoon of liquefied hog manure. To a farmer—to the community—that smells like jobs and money, but to a commoner it smells like what it is—tons of hog poop. Bacon anyone?
There are others: $6.6 million for termite research in New Orleans probably isn’t important to many New Englanders, but if a New Yorker has ever had an infestation of carpenter ants imagine watching your house being devoured while you watch by billions of termites. Then, there is $2.1 million for the Center for Grape Genetics for New York.  According to Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-New Hartford) the funding would be used to design and build a new federal research facility for USDA scientists to work with Cornell University researchers in establishing and coordinating a national, concentrated grape program that maximizes the impact of grape research right up the road at Geneva, NY. Protest that project with a “tea bag” if you will, but I say “hooray for Congressman Boehlert.” For those who haven’t noticed; New York State is becoming a pretty darn good wine producing state and Cornell University is one of New York’s priceless gems.   Salute!
Spending $1.7 million for a honeybee factory in Weslaco, Texas might not be everyone’s tablespoon of honey on your oatmeal but as best as I can find out the $1.7 million is going to be spent for research on the alarming disappearance of bees—colony collapse disorder. I can’t remember where, but I have read someplace that one in every three bites of food—one third—that we put in our mouth is from the work of bees. Tea bag protestors bewail the debt our grandchildren will inherit, but without bees our grandchildren will have an even more difficult time putting “food on the family” as President Bush is fond of saying.
Earmarks in the budget can make for strange bedfellows. Take the “tea baggers” national cheerleader, Governor Sara Palin who protested the study of fruit flies in her run for Vice President. Her state of Alaska got $238,000 for the Alaska PTA to train parents in their roles and responsibility under the No Child Left Behind Act.   Sound frivolous doesn’t it? However, local teachers—almost to a teacher, lament that too few parents either do not, or do not know how to encourage children to live up to their potential in the classroom.
Senator John McCain made a fuss about a $150,000 earmark in the budget for a rodeo museum in South Dakota. This museum is not just any museum; it is the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, population 1991; the county seat of Stanley County and the hometown of cowboy and actor Casey Tibbs. Locals anticipate enthusiastic rodeo fans and tourists will stay a night or two at the fairly new Holiday Inn Express and learn about bronc riding, bulldogging and barrel racing.  The Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center might not be important to a man who cannot remember how many houses he owns—Senator John McCain—but even a few imported tourist dollars can multiply three or four times among the city’s 580 families. 
Of course, the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center isn’t nearly as meaningful as the $2.5 to $5 million that Congressman Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) earmarked for the renovation of Jamestown’s Erie-Lackawanna Train Station. The depot is currently vacant, but the plan is to renovate the structure and dedicate it as a Welcome Center for Jamestown and Chautauqua County. The date for the opening of the Center is yet to be announced. Bring your tea bag to the opening ceremonies if you must, but I can hardly wait until the station houses one or two museums and offers excursion trains rides for locals and tourists. 
When it is all said and done, earmarks it is argued, are all about jobs. 


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