Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Government Agriculture Grants Pork Barrel Waste

by Lewis Loflin

In Bristol USDA and State agriculture grants are often wasted. There is little public benefit and no enforcement mechanism.

$30,000 wasted on private booze distillery. Something called Lost State Distilling was awarded $30,000 in corporate welfare. The money came from Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture.

This will be located at 200 State Street in Bristol, Tennessee. The owners spent $375,000 for the building. The business is supposed to open later in 2019. If it ever does, who knows.

There is no evidence this will be a viable business. They are supposed to make small batch booze. Public officials that loath welfare claim these types of grants "made an economic impact of $25 million..."

In the past these claims are subjective and they refuse to present empirical proof. The grant was based on using local grain, then using the distiller leftovers as local cattle feed.

The keyword is "local". That's a big buzzword for professional grant farming. In the past buzzwords have included "sustainable" to appeal to emotion over common business sense.

Is there a mechanism to assure this is actually used properly? Not in the past.

Once these grants are awarded the public has no access to internal company operations. Tennessee like Virginia keeps this a secret - as was the whole process. It's an example of crony capitalism at best.

A local strawberry hobby farm got a $213,000 U.S.D.A. grant to produce-sell jars of jelly. Nothing has been heard of this since. Now I know why.

GlenMary Gardens got the grant in 2013. This was part of 110 grants to "added value producers." There is no clear definition what that even means.

How does that qualify for $213,000 in public largess?

When the grant was awarded they were "still formulating the exact implementation of the grant". What? They didn't know at the time?

This was supposed to be in conjunction with the defunct Southeast Culinary and Hospitality College in Bristol, Virginia.

Yet the "College" closed January 4, 2015 due to financial issues. They partially operated out of the Bristol Mall that also closed down. It was established by a Richard Erskine in 2005 in the former Piedmont Avenue Post Office Building.

Erskine claimed the U.S. Department of Education owes him $300,000. Yet the school lost its Federal accreditation in April 2013.

Yet to quote the Bristol Herald Courier in 2013:

"The jams are produced at the Southeast Culinary and Hospitality College in Bristol with the help of several local chefs."

Was the basis of the grant? To quote Michael R., "The grant was designed to create jobs."

This was supposed to be in partnership with a college that lost it's accreditation at nearly the same time???

I don't believe or suggest anything shady or illegal is going here. The grants are awarded for often dumb reasons with predictable results.

Where was government or public oversight? The same for all of these grants.

The point is these type grants are government waste. This has been the story across Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee for decades.

Appalachian Sustainable Development being the worst example of government waste. They got millions in state and federal grants and I'm still waiting for a list of those jobs I requested. Their website is

Example: They received a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Grant in 2010 for $68,906. Among the important efforts they organized was a "Local Food Celebration Supper" in Kingsport, Tennessee and Abingdon, Virginia. I'm sure somebody had something good to eat.

The local press is reporting another $500,000 in 2018 to A.S.D. and other similar nonsense organizations. This amounts to jobs for agency employees not measurable benefit to the general public. Besides $7,750 more largess for A.S.D. this also includes:

$175,000 to the "Mobile Agriculture Education Demonstration Project". More pork barrel waste. Jobs for leftwing college professors.

$14,,595 to the "Demonstration Greenhouse and Aquaculture Project." Note they have wasted millions on this in the past such as fish farming in Appalachia. This is a jobs program for college professors.

$15,000 for "Agriculture Based Professional Development Training". This is a jobs program for bureaucrats.

$225,000 for "Agricultural Workforce Development and Training". This is some scam about from farm to "food insecure students in public schools." Why not go down to Aldi's and buy a 2 pound bag of carrots for $1.25? That's easily 180,000 pounds of carrots.

Go to the Dollar Tree buy a 2-pound bag of brown rice for $1. That's 450,000 pounds of brown rice. Or 225,000 to 450,000 pounds of dried beans. This is another jobs program for bureaucrats. It will produce nothing.

$62,176 for "Local Food Access, Southwest Virginia Food Hub". Try going to Aldi's and buy veggies. Go to Dollar Tree. Another jobs program for bureaucrats.

Ref. Bristol Herald Courier Jan. 15, 2018. Nothing has come of any of this. Send me a list of those jobs outside the grant recipients.

GlenMary Gardens still exists as of January 2019. They are advertised as "a small pick your own strawberry farm and roadside stand." Where are all those jobs we were promised?

I called the owner. He says they are closed 5 months out of the year and all employees were let go. To the owner's credit at least he is still in business part of the year.

But the result was zero jobs for $213,000 and less jobs if we count the closing of Southeast Culinary and Hospitality College.

Those grants are a sham and need to be ended. If people need food then buy it in bulk and distribute it. But that runs counter to Republican crony capitalism.

Ref. GlenMary Gardens gets $213,000 Federal Grant. Apr. 30, 2013 Bristol Herald Courier.

Ref. Southwest Culinary Institute, Cafeteria Close Amid Financial Issues. January 4, 2015, Bristol Herald Courier.

Ref. Lost State Distilling Receives $30K Agricultural Grant. Bristol Herald Courier January 25, 2019.

Posted 1-28-2019.

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