by Andrew Walden
When Dan Inouye was among the living, Hawaii could always count on juicy revelations in Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn's annual government "Wastebook."
But those days are gone. Now Coburn's newly released “2014 Wastebook” has only one sad and lonely reference to federal spending on “silly, unnecessary, and low priority projects” in Hawaii.
Coburn explains, the USDA Value-Added Producer program "offloads some of the burden for producing and marketing locally grown products, and places it on the backs of taxpayers. This fiscal year, the USDA provided $4.5 million in grants to 28 recipients in 20 states, and footed the bill for all kinds of operating costs that are normally born by the businesses. While the USDA says grants are awarded on a 'competitive basis,' it seems that politics may also have contributed.... (A) company in Hawaii even received taxpayer funds to produce mead from tropical fruit."
The USDA gave away three "Value-Added Producer Grants" totaling $91,822 to Hawaii agricultural businesses for 2014. Coburn's Wastebook calls out the $22,322 given to "Double Spirals on Tap, LLC" for the mead project. According to the USDA Grant announcement, "Rural Development funds will be used to conduct a feasibility study and business plan for a tropical fruit grower to produce mead. Additional farmer, apiarist (honey producer) will benefit by use of his honey in the mead production."
In other words, your tax dollars will pay Double Spiral to bring in a bee hive to pollinate the fruit trees in their garden. To score the federal bucks, they will ferment a glass of mead from the honey and write a report about it.
A search of BREG shows that "Double Spirals on Tap" is owned by Melanie and Colehour Bondera. Melanie Bondera, who did not respond to a request for comment, introduced herself as "the Director of the USDA Cooperative Center in Hawaii" when testifying against GMO Papaya farmers before the Hawaii County Council in September, 2013.
According to its website, the USDA Cooperative Services Program administers Value Added Producer Grants.
Money doesn't grow on trees--unless you are a self-dealing anti-GMO activist with a politically modified double spiral.