U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) today released a new oversight report, "Treasure MAP: The Market Access Program's Bounty of Waste, Loot and Spoils Plundered from Taxpayers" highlighting more than $2 billion in taxpayer dollars indirectly subsidizing the advertising costs of some of the most profitable agriculture companies and trade associations doing business overseas. You will recognize many of these company brands as household names, such as Welch's, Sunkist, and Blue Diamond. Despite their combined $2 billion in sales in 2009, Treasure MAP shows how these companies received more than $6 million in 2012 from taxpayers for product promotion. Also receiving millions from taxpayers for private overseas advertising are the agricultural trade groups whose members include Tyson Foods, Purina, Hershey's, Georgia-Pacific and Jack Daniels. With a multitude of other agriculture, and fiscal priorities facing our nation, this report shows it is time to reduce funding for the Market Access Program (MAP).
"At a time when we are cutting funding for our troops, taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the filming of Reality-TV shows in India, wine tastings for foreign journalists, pet food advertising, and even to advertise pet shampoo anymore," said Dr. Coburn. "We need to make tough choices."
Among the key findings, the report exposes:
* Blue Diamond Growers almond company has received more than $28 million from MAP since 1999 to market its almonds overseas.
* Reality TV fashion and design show in India, Let's Design, received $20 million.
* One of the world's biggest sellers of fresh fruit, Sunkist Growers, received $34.1 million since 1999.
* California raisin growers received $31.7 million since 1998 to promote branded image California Raisins, internationally.
* A company specializing in organic hair products for dogs, cats, and horses, including "Boost! Volumizing Spray" and "Freeze! Hair Hold" hair sprays for dogs, Espree Animal Products, receives MAP funds to boost sales in the U.S. and overseas.
Examples of overlap and duplication:
* Prunes and plums are already directly targeted for assistance by USDA through the California Prune Board ($3.6 million, 2010) and the California Tree Fruit Agreement ($2.5 million, 2010), the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association ($9.6 million, 2010) brags in a recent association newsletter that "CropSource International of Walnut Creek, CA has been a part of the WUSATA's Branded Program since 2004, when they received $50,000 towards marketing their Sunsweet® brand prunes and prune juice in New Zealand (NZ)." The Organic Trade Association, a MAP funded organization, also promotes dried plums.
* The Popcorn Board, funded by USDA at more than $250,000 annually, promotes American popcorn and related products. Similarly, Food Export, USA ($11.2 million, 2012) recently assisted a Nebraska-based gourmet popcorn maker with sales in Japan.