Larison puts it in context. McCain is making fun of silly sounding earmarks again, including "$165,000 for maple syrup research in Vermont." Steinglass counters:

Vermont, the leading maple syrup producing state in America, produced 890,000 gallons this year. International demand is rising strongly, especially in Asia, and a poor harvest in 2008 pushed prices up to $65 per gallon in 2009 (according to USDA figures; a maple-syrup industry blog, and how awesome is that, did its own survey and found retail prices averaging $95 a gallon). Meanwhile, American producers lag far behind industry leader Quebec because of inefficient mom-and-pop organisation. Quebec taps a third of its maple trees; New York and Vermont tap 2% or less. Regulatory changes and industry reforms are needed to increase producer access to trees on public and large private lands. Increasing volatility in winter weather is creating boom-and-bust problems for producers. There are also some  promising innovations in tap technology. In sum, this is a promising industry for American agricultural exports worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Is this particular research programme worthy, or not? I don't know. Neither does Mr McCain.

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