Feds use tax dollars to fund pet shampoo ad, reality show in India

Coburn says brands don’t need help, but the federal deficit does

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The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ chief auditor, also has questioned the program’s worth, as have liberal and conservative interest groups.

Yet lawmakers have managed to preserve it, and often brag about the amount of money going to local associations.

The money is reserved for small businesses and for brand associations, such as Blue Diamond.

Now, with a five-year farm bill pending in the Senate, Mr. Coburn is trying to set up another fight over the money. He has introduced an amendment to trim 20 percent from the program.

He said a major problem is that the program doesn’t appear to be competitive anymore — it awards subsidies year after year to the same prominent associations.

In his report, Mr. Coburn took aim at the Cotton Council International, which sponsors the reality television show “Let’s Design” in India as part of its international promotional activities.

Mr. Coburn said CCI has received more than $169 million in taxpayer support through the market program over the past decade, but added that it has publicly acknowledged that the India reality show doesn’t necessarily promote U.S.-grown cotton.

A CCI executive told the New York Times last year that the subsidies help promote a market for cotton.

Mr. Coburn also said taxpayer money is subsidizing promotion of items such as pet food brands, livestock semen and embryos.

The senator also took aim at Sunkist, a cooperative of Arizona and California citrus growers that he said tops $1 billion a year in sales and proudly says it is one of the most recognized brands in the world.

“Despite its brand ubiquity, Sunkist receives $3 [million] to $4 million annually,” Mr. Coburn said, pointing to recent subsidies funding advertising in Japan, China and Hong Kong.

An email message to Sunkist wasn’t returned Wednesday.

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