Political and nonprofit leaders respond to the president’s proposed 16% cut to the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget. Spoiler alert: It ain’t pretty.
Out of touch. Destabilizing. Pulling the rug from underneath young farmers. Sleight of hand.
This is some of the language rural advocates are using to describe the president’s proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Even the Republican chairs of the House and Senate agriculture committees can muster only that the budget won’t “prevent us from doing [our] job” of protecting farmers, consumers, and others.
Groups normally supportive of the president are noticeably silent. The American Farm Bureau Federation did praise the president’s separate rural infrastructure proposal but is mum about the USDA budget plan.
The president’s USDA budget proposal calls for a $3.7 billion, or 16%, decrease in spending compared to the 2017 level. (The final budget that Congress produces is likely to look much different.)
Here’s what rural-focused political and nonprofit leaders have to say about the proposed budget:
House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS)
- This budget, as with every other president’s budget before, will not prevent us from doing [our] job. We are committed to maintaining a strong safety net for agricultural producers during these times of low prices and uncertain markets and continuing to improve our nation’s nutrition programs.
Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
- The Trump Administration’s budget proposal is out of touch with our farmers, families, and rural communities. The proposed cuts to both the USDA and the Farm Bill would hurt American agriculture, neglect rural businesses, and leave families and seniors behind. This is especially troubling given the state of the fragile rural economy. If taken seriously, this budget would make it impossible for Congress to pass a Farm Bill this year.
Greg Fogel, Policy Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
- The proposals included in this budget request would undermine decades of investments in American agriculture. Farmers already facing major economic struggles will be further squeezed, rural communities will be at risk of losing desperately-needed tools and resources for job creation and enterprise development, low-income families will be denied critical nutrition support, and we will all feel the impact of a less sustainable food and agricultural system.
Jordan Rasmussen, Policy Associate, Center for Rural Affairs
- SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is often the linchpin between rural and urban representatives in the passage of the farm bill, set to expire in September 2018. The President’s budget strips away nearly $214 billion in funding for SNAP over the next decade. Beyond the revocation of funding, the budget outlines a plan to reduce direct SNAP assistance, and instead, distribute quantities of ‘American grown,’ shelf-stable items like milk, peanut butter, cereals, and canned meats. This action would not only destabilize attempts to bring more healthy, fresh foods into the homes of America’s food insecure, but would keep dollars out of local grocery stores and farmers markets, which are critical assets to all communities.
Roger Johnson, President, National Farmers Union
- To say that this budget is disappointing is an understatement. This administration has consistently demonstrated a lack of support for the most vulnerable populations, and this plan is just more of the same. It is frankly disgusting that the government has offered corporations and the wealthiest among us a $1.5 trillion gift in the form of tax cuts while proposing deep cuts to programs so important for low- and middle-income Americans.
Land Tawney, President and CEO, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
- By starving key resource management agencies of funds, the administration essentially deprives them of the tools to execute their jobs efficiently and effectively. Economically speaking, the value of investing in our resource agencies is undeniable and contributes significantly to the $887 billion generated every year by outdoor recreationists, including hunters and anglers. Congress owes it to the innumerable communities that rely on this economy – and the citizens who sustain it – to summarily reject this shortsighted proposal and instead ensure that our federal land managers are given the resources they need to do their jobs.
Andrew Bahrenburg, Policy Director, National Young Farmers Coalition
- Young farmers are out there defying the odds and fighting to stay afloat, and the President is proposing to pull the rug even further out from under them. Fortunately, it’s up to Congress to pass the budget and the farm bill. When Members go home to their states and districts every weekend, they see the impacts of our current farm economy. They understand the irreparable loss their communities will face if our aging farm population retires without enough young farmers ready to take their place.
Jay Farrell, Executive Director, National Association of State Foresters
- The president’s proposal would be a detriment to the American people, especially rural communities that depend on the jobs provided by the forest products industry. Given the president’s declarations of support for small town America, the nation’s state and territorial foresters expected more. If the administration truly supports rural America, it should fund the state and private forestry programs vital to its survival.
Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists
- While the White House claims its infrastructure plan will boost rural communities, the administration pulled a sleight of hand to these communities by cutting a slew of USDA’s agriculture research and technical assistance programs that support farms, clean water and a safe food supply. We need a government that values and invests in our long-term scientific capacity, public health protections and clean energy leadership. Members of Congress should oppose this budget and fund these agencies in a clean spending bill with no ‘poison pill’ anti-science riders.
Brent Van Dyke, President, National Association of Conservation Districts
- Once again, this administration is calling on American producers to do more with less. The President’s budget proposes cuts to almost every area of USDA’s discretionary and mandatory budgets, including nearly $15 billion in cuts to farm bill conservation programs and over a 20 percent reduction to Conservation Operations.
This article was originally published on The Daily Yonder.