The Alabama Watermelon Queen seemed like a great target for Republicans in the House of Representatives looking for wasteful spending in the federal budget.
Texan Jeb Hensarling and Oklahoman Tom Coburn griped that spending $25, 000 in each of two years to fund travel for Alabama’s Watermelon Queen was a waste of taxpayer money, the Wall Street Journal reported.
But now the Alabama Watermelon Association is fighting back, defending its use of Department of Agriculture funds that are earmarked for specialty crops.
First, watermelon is an important crop in Alabama, officials told the WSJ, bringing in $6.5 million in 2009.
Second, the queen’s travel is to schools — mostly in low-income areas — where she explains to students that watermelon is a healthy food choice and teaches them how to eat and store it safely.
And finally, says Association Promotions Coordinator Katie Eubanks to the WSJ, the association has been very frugal with its federal funds, spending only half its award and rolling over the remainder.
text by Nedra Bloom