The SBA: In a Jam or Shaking Like Jelly?

While doing some research on the Small Business Administration's budget for next year, I ran across a transcript for a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing held in May on the SBA's funding for fiscal 2009.

As I perused the transcript, I wondered what twilight zone I had stumbled into. While lawmakers did touch on free-trade, small business programs and other relevant issues, a large part of the short hearing didn't focus on the SBA at all, but the difference between jam and jelly. The head of the Small Business Administration at the time, Steven Preston, was the only witness.

Here's a little lunchtime humor in the form of actual excerpts of the hearing transcript...

Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio): I get a classic in my district. I have the Smuckers people, who do the jams and jellies and the original grandfather of the two young men that run it now, started out making apple butter in the backyard and selling it to his neighbors.

Today they employ thousands of people. They have facilities all over the United States and some overseas and they're a major, major company that is a classic example... And I will be interested in the definition of the small business. Is it employees or is it gross product or how do you define a small business?

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.): I was going to ask the same question, but I have another question as a big Smuckers fan. What's the difference between jam and jelly? I know one spreads better on bread, but I can't --

Regula: Strawberry jelly would be clear it would be jelly. Strawberry jam would have little pieces of berry in it.

Serrano: I thought those were preserves?

Regula: Well, jams are preserves.

Serrano: I'm from the city. I'm trying to get some help, here.

Preston: See I don't understand the difference either so I might need to...


Serrano: See? I'm the guy who dares asks these questions and these are all country boys.

Preston: As evidenced by last year's hearing on the facial hair discussion.

Regula: He wants some jam, too. It is good, I have to say. They put out the best product of all.

Serrano: I love it. Isn't that great?

Regula: I've been in their plant. It's in Armadillo, Ohio, and you could eat off the floor there. They're so careful in their standards. In this day and age we worry a little bit about sometimes products are not up to snuff but they really run a good operation.

Serrano: I tell you there are some points for the two of us on Broadway.

Regula: We'd be in a jam if we did that.

Serrano: I saw two country boys who can't tell me the difference between jam and jelly. I love it.

Administrator Preston, now that we've bored you with our country/city humor, town and country humor, we do welcome you. We appreciate the work that you do and the service that you give our country.

And please keep in mind to keep your testimony to about five minutes so we can beat you up after that. But your full statement will go on the record.

Preston: Great. All right, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Regula, and members of the committee. I'm pleased that I both know the Smuckers Company and the difference between jam and jellies. So I feel like I'm starting out ahead of the game here, which is great.

[Author's Note: Preston goes on to give a good outline and defense of the agency's budget request. Serrano asks him about free-trade agreements, but is interrupted when Regula is given a box by a staffer.]

Regula: Off the record a minute.

Serrano: This is jelly.

Regula: This is plum preserves. You get a light on it and you can see there are pieces of plum in it.

Serrano: I see.

Preston: Is somebody bringing the toast and some knives?

Regula: And with a name like Smuckers.

Preston: It's got to be good. I like that.

Serrano: I love that. This is a Bronx, New York, picture if you ever saw one.

Regula: I'm going to give you this box. I don't know, my staff got into it, I think. A few jars are missing.

Preston: A couple of jars are missing.

Serrano: Thank you so much.

Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.): Mr. Chairman, we have some Alabama peanuts that would go good with that too. I'd be happy to--

Serrano: And Mr. Alexander, I hear, has Smuckers Cajun style.

[Author's Note: A reference to panel member Rep. Rodney Alexander, (R-La.). The rest of the short hearing touches on more substantial issues such as free-trade and disaster loans for small businesses, until Rep. Serrano asks Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) to weigh in on the great jam/jelly debate.]

Serrano: Mr. Goode, you're recognized for your usual five minutes, however, you can take an extra minute to explain the difference between jam and jelly since no one else on the panel seems to know.

Regula: Now wait a minute.


Goode: Mr. Chairman, I would have to defer to the ranking member.

By Sharon McLoone |  June 25, 2008; 12:15 PM ET Policymakers
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Were these people in the same room? Between the improper use of grammar - I get a classic in my district. wha?? - and the digression into facial hair and country boys, I wonder if the transcription lady was drinking during the hearings.

Posted by: Sam | June 25, 2008 8:13 PM

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