Jeff Flake - U.S. Senator ~ Arizona

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VIDEO: Who Wants to Eat Bugs for Lunch? **Crickets**

Flake offers amendment to end federal subsidies for cricket farms, edible insects

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) today spoke on the Senate floor in support of his amendment to end federal agriculture subsidies for the farming of insects and prohibit spending taxpayer dollars to develop bug-based food for human consumption. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is spending more than $1.3 million to support cricket farming and the development of edible insects:

“At a time when the Office of Management and Budget is projecting trillion-dollar deficits in 2019 and beyond, how can we give millions of federal dollars to try to get people to eat bugs? It doesn’t pass the laugh test. I hope this amendment passes – we shouldn’t be forcing taxpayers to pay to eat crickets.”

Video of Flake’s remarks can be viewed here.

A complete transcript of Flake’s prepared remarks can be viewed below.

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Mr. President,

Who wants to eat bugs for lunch?... I’m hearing crickets.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the USDA is spending more than $1.3 million dollars to support cricket farming and the development of bug-based foods for human consumption. This sounds like a headline straight out of the Onion, but it isn’t! It’s your hard-earned taxpayer dollars being used to try to develop a taste for crickets and other bugs.

The initiative is trying to determine which bugs taste best, which bugs are the most nutritious, and the best methods for farming bigger, tastier crickets.

While the USDA has no plans to inspect cricket farms and the FDA has ‘no special rules for edible insects’ at this time, multiple bug-based companies have received federal funds to research and develop techniques to put bugs in our food.

For example, Bugeater Labs of Nebraska has received a $100,000 grant to identify the most edible insects.

With support from the USDA, Bugeater is testing bug-based pasta, ramen, and macaroni noodles.

To get the bugs into the food, the crickets are ground to a powder and mixed into pasta dough.

Bugeater hopes to secure another $600,000 in federal funds to cover the cost of developing and manufacturing a commercial-ready product made from bugs.

Separately, “All Things Bugs” of Georgia has received nearly $1.3 million for reducing the costs and improving the efficiency of farming crickets as food ingredients.

They currently produce and sell cricket powder, with ‘mild aroma, neutral flavor, and minute particle size’ that can be added to recipes.

Four pounds of crickets are required to produce one pound of powder. A pound of cricket powder produced by All Things Bugs, which boasts ‘the most affordable wholesale price’ in the industry, sells for $35 per pound.

By comparison, the average retail price of 100 percent ground beef is about $3.80 per pound.

The US has more than 2.5 billion pounds of beef, pork, poultry, and turkey being stockpiled –a record level!

Clearly a new source of protein is not needed, and in this case, likely not wanted.

In fact, a CEO of one of the cricket cuisine companies said yesterday, “Realistically, as much as we wish people would behave differently, Americans won’t buy significant amounts of insect protein.”

If most were asked to volunteer to eat a bug, the response is likely to be “crickets”.

And with the annual commemoration of Pioneer Day in Utah, I think I speak for my own ancestors (who nearly starved thanks to swarms of crop-destroying crickets) when I say that insect-based food development won’t be stomached well by taxpayers.

Today, I am proposing an amendment to end federal agriculture subsidies for the farming of insects and prohibit spending taxpayer dollars to develop bug-based food for human consumption. I can’t believe it takes an amendment to do this.

I would just say: this is not going to balance the federal budget. But, at a time when the Office of Management and Budget is projecting trillion-dollar deficits in 2019 and beyond, how can we pay money and give millions of dollars in grants to pay companies to try to get people to eat bugs? It doesn’t pass the laugh test and people simply have to be able to have more faith in their government. I hope this amendment passes – we shouldn’t be forcing taxpayers to pay for this.

I yield the floor.

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