Hill Republicans polite, Democrats scathing in ag budget reactions | TheFencePost.com

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Hill Republicans polite, Democrats scathing in ag budget reactions

Republican agricultural leaders on Capitol Hill attempted to be polite in their reactions to President Donald Trump's proposals to cut mandatory programs at Agriculture Department by $232 billion over 10 years. Democrats were scathing in their reactions.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, issued a joint statement.

"We support the Trump administration's goal of achieving 3 percent economic growth for our nation," the Republican statement said. "USDA's latest estimates find agriculture, food, and related industries contribute $992 billion to our economy."

"As we debate the budget and the next farm bill, we will fight to ensure farmers have a strong safety net so this key segment of our economy can weather current hard times and continue to provide all Americans with safe, affordable food," Roberts and Conaway said.

"Also, as a part of farm bill discussions, we need to take a look at our nutrition assistance programs to ensure that they are helping the most vulnerable in our society."

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said, "President Trump's budget proposal would leave our farmers, families, and rural communities vulnerable in tough times."

"The proposed cuts to important farm and family safety net programs, including crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are harsh and short sighted," Stabenow said. "By zeroing out critical funding for rural infrastructure and job-creating programs, the budget proposal neglects the needs of every small town in rural America."

Stabenow said the budget proposal would make it nearly impossible for Congress to pass a new farm bill, and added that she is concerned that the budget request for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would not come close to meeting the needs of that agency to regulate markets.

"If we are serious about having financial markets that work for our nation's farmers, manufacturers, and consumers, we need a strong, effective cop on the beat," Stabenow said.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said, "This budget should be a warning to people in rural America. For years, groups like the Freedom Caucus, Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth have been advocating for these exact policies as part of their goal to completely do away with farm programs. They are now closer to making this a reality than ever before."

"By all accounts, this budget is going nowhere on Capitol Hill, but it is still a statement of priorities and should be of concern to all rural Americans," Peterson said. "Going down this path all but guarantees there will be no new farm bill."

"I will continue to advocate for strong policies that ensure a strong farm safety net, including crop insurance, as well as programs that allow rural communities to provide critical infrastructure services like water and broadband access. I'm hopeful we can get past this ideology and make reasonable reforms as part of future farm bill debate but this is not a good place to start."

House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said, "Certain aspects of the budget have been a long time in coming, as they are simply common sense. I am particularly interested in what my colleagues across the aisle will say against work requirements for able-bodied adults without children who are receiving taxpayer support. I would like to see this go even further in requiring drug testing for certain welfare recipients."

"Farmers, on the other hand, work, and they work hard for longer than the typical eight-hour workday. It is by the sweat of their brow that Americans are blessed to be among the people that spend the least amount of their available income for their daily bread.

"Commodity prices, however, are in a historic slump, and farmers, ranchers, and producers are under economic duress. They do not have the luxury of paying additional costs to the government, as there are no 'excess profits' in agriculture right now. One need only to look at the plight of the cotton farmer, whose input costs exceed their crop's market value.

"I applaud the president's resolution to rein in uncontrolled spending," Aderholt said. "However, the proposed elimination of USDA's water and wastewater programs is concerning. I have seen how these programs support hard-working rural Americans in obtaining access to safe and affordable drinking water and are often the only source of loans available for small communities."

"I look forward to hearing Agriculture Secretary Perdue's testimony on these and many more subjects this week during his comments before our subcommittee."

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Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said "President Trump's budget lays out in detail his administration's vision for how the federal government can best serve the American people. It is an opportunity for Congress to reexamine programs across the government, and to address the significant fiscal challenges that face our country."

"The Appropriations Committee will immediately begin to hold hearings and do the work necessary to prepare appropriations bills that responsibly provide for our national security and other priorities. We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time."

Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Pat Leahy, D-Vt., said, "Rural America, including rural states like Vermont, is MIA [missing in action] in the president's budget."

"His budget eliminates key investments in rural communities, leaving them without federal partnership support for everything from infrastructure development and affordable housing, to programs that preserve the environment and provide food for the elderly," Leahy said.

"It also is a compilation of broken promises to working men and women and to struggling families, fraying the lifelines that help vulnerable families lift themselves into the middle class. To this Vermonter, that is not acceptable."