Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) sent a letter this week to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to cancel two upcoming conferences that Coburn feels are an example of unnecessary spending when sequestration is threatening agency budgets.
The 26th annual California Small Farm Conference will feature field trips and tasting receptions. The tasting reception “showcases the regional bounty from local farms, chefs, wineries, breweries, bakeries, and other food purveyors.” The Priester National Extension Health Conference scheduled for next month in Oregon also features wine tasting on its itinerary.
“While these conferences may be fun, interesting, and even education getaways for department employees, food inspecting rather than food tasting should be USDA’s priority at this time,” Coburn said in his letter.
Agency spending on conferences has been under scrutiny recently after reports of lavish events at the conferences, such as the GSA conference scandal from last year.
Coburn has also been an advocate for cutting waste in government with issuing annual reports on waste, fraud and abuse.