Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Iron Triangle: Modern Version

From a USDA press release:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of $8.4 million in competitive grants to support the work of partner organizations that provide training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged, Tribal and Veteran farmers and ranchers. USDA's Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program, is administered by the Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO).
In the old days the discussion of the Iron Triangle started with interest groups who had their representatives in Congress and worked with bureaucrats in the appropriate agency.  One classic example was the US Army Engineers: the interest groups were ad hoc organizations at the local level who wanted/needed a port to be dredged, a levee refurbished, a dam built.

The press release shows an updated version: the USDA agency is sponsoring these interest groups/nongovernmental organizations.  I suspect there little or no money going into their support from the individuals who they aim to serve (no dues-paying members).  Rather the funding is coming from charitable foundations and from the government.  While the activity is similar to the old Iron Triangle with each party (Congress, the bureaucracy, the private groups) getting something out of it, in this case one can argue that governmental functions are being out-sourced. It's no longer an educational agency of the government (Extension Service, NRCS, etc) educating; it's an intermediary semi-private "partner organization".

At least in this case there's likely a partisan cast--I doubt President Trump's Secretary of Agriculture would approve such aid.

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