Farm, rural groups denounce Trump budget
May 24, 2017
Farm, rural, conservation and nutrition groups issued dramatic statements denouncing President Donald Trump's budget proposals for the Agriculture Department and food assistance programs, even though Trump got two-thirds of the vote in rural America and a higher percentage in some places.
The groups highlighted cuts to crop insurance, conservation, food stamps and rural development, and said they would work with Congress to oppose the cuts.
American Farm Bureau Federation
"The administration's budget proposal fails to recognize agriculture's current financial challenges or its historical contribution to deficit reduction," said Zippy Duvall, president of the Republican-leaning American Farm Bureau Federation, noting that the 2014 farm bill has already cost less than projected.
"It would gut federal crop insurance, one of the nation's most important farm safety-net programs," Duvall said. "It would drastically reshape important voluntary conservation programs and negatively impact consumer confidence in critical meat and poultry inspection."
"This proposal would hamper the viability of plant and animal security programs at our borders and undermine the nation's grain quality and market information systems. It would stunt rural America's economic growth by eliminating important utility programs and other rural development programs.
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"Clearly, this budget fails agriculture and rural America."
National Farmers Union
"The president's proposed budget is an assault on the programs and personnel that provide vital services, research, and a safety net to America's family farmers, rural residents and consumers," said Roger Johnson, president of the Democratic-leaning National Farmers Union.
"It is deeply disappointing that the president would propose such cuts, especially in the midst of a farm crisis that has family farmers and ranchers enduring a drastic, four-year slide in farm prices and a 50 percent drop in net farm income."
Johnson added, "In addition to cuts to farm and rural programs, the president's proposal stands to worsen access to health care for rural residents. The proposed $800 billion cut to Medicaid would disproportionately impact rural residents who enroll in the program at a higher rate than their urban counterparts."
American Soybean Association
"By shredding our farm safety net, slashing critical agricultural research and conservation initiatives, and hobbling our access to foreign markets, this budget is a blueprint for how to make already difficult times in rural America even worse," said Ron Moore, American Soybean Association president and a soybean farmer from Roseville, Ill.
The budget would cut the federal crop insurance program by $28.5 billion — or roughly 36 percent — by capping the premium subsidy and eliminating the harvest price option, Moore noted. The crop insurance program is widely used by soybean farmers, and the harvest price option was selected in 99.4 percent of soybean revenue insurance policies sold in 2016.
The White House's proposed budget also would cut nearly $9 billion from Title I commodity supports, including the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, by reducing the adjusted gross income (AGI) eligibility cap from $900,000 to $500,000.
The administration's proposed 36 percent cut to crop insurance "is the most extreme proposed cut to crop insurance I've seen in my 40 years on the farm," Moore said.
"This is a program that exists to sustain farmers who suffer catastrophic losses. Coupled with the arbitrary caps the budget would impose on premium subsidies, it's clear that this budget was written without input from farmers who would be severely affected."
"The budget also poses an existential threat to export promotion and foreign food assistance programs," ASA said, noting the proposed elimination of the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development program (FMD) and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program and the Food for Peace program, also known as P.L. 480.
"Elimination of MAP and FMD completely ignores the global nature of our industry," Moore said. "Those programs are key to the work that soybeans and so many other crops conduct overseas to boost trade and trigger a multiplier effect that creates jobs and increased economic activity well beyond agriculture."
The $6 billion cut to conservation programs and the proposed elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which is USDA's largest conservation program with more than 70 million acres enrolled, and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) "will significantly hamper on-farm progress toward healthier water, soil and air," Moore said.
Moore did praise the administration for proposals to reduce regulation and increase infrastructure spending.
But Moore concluded, "This exercise is not a new one. We're aware that Congress— not the president — passes the budget, and agriculture has rebuffed attacks on farm and food programs for years. The danger is that the extreme and ill-informed cuts in this document will embolden those in Congress who lack any understanding of how these programs combine to protect the food and farm supply chain for all Americans."
National Corn Growers Associatoin
"The time and place to debate farm bill programs is during the farm bill reauthorization, not the annual budget process," the National Corn Growers Association said.
"Targeting the federal crop insurance program is extremely shortsighted. It is especially harmful during an extended period of low commodity prices. NCGA members consistently tell us that crop insurance is their most important risk management tool. This public-private partnership helps farmers manage their risk, and it saves taxpayers money in the long run by reducing reliance on ad hoc disaster assistance.
"MAP and FMD are successful programs that build global demand for U.S. farm products, and increase income and jobs in our communities. MAP and FMD create an average return on investment of $28 for every $1 spent, and account for 15 percent of all U.S. ag export revenue — making them a solid investment. At a time when the farm economy is struggling, we should be investing more in these programs, not less.
"Finally, the budget calls for streamlining conservation programs, which includes eliminating any new enrollment into the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Voluntary conservation programs such as CSP help farmers to be good environmental stewards, which benefits everyone. NCGA is committed to continuous improvements and helping our farms become even more sustainable."
National Sorghum Producers
"In view of the hard times in farm and ranch country right now with a 50 percent drop in net farm income in just four years and the fact that the current farm bill is on target to save taxpayers $104 billion, four times what was pledged when it was enacted into law, National Sorghum Producers urges Congress to craft a responsible budget that will enable the agriculture committees to develop and pass a strong new farm bill on time," said Chairman Don Bloss, a sorghum producer from Pawnee City, Neb.
Noting that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told the House Agriculture Committee last week that the administration had not proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) because "you don't try to fix things that aren't broken," Joel Berg, CEO of the New York-based Hunger Free America, said "Secretary Perdue made an eloquent case just last week for preserving nutrition programs."
"By proposing exactly the opposite of what Secretary Perdue promised, the White House threw him under the tractor," Berg said.
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, said Trump's budget proposal "is a moral disgrace."
"A budget should reflect our values and priorities as a nation," Leibman said. "This budget, which would take critical nutrition assistance away from millions of Americans who struggle with hunger, betrays our basic American principle of taking care of those in need."
USA Rice said that, "while every area of the federal government except defense and infrastructure saw cuts, the cuts to agriculture and rural areas are disproportionately severe by anyone's standards."
"The president's budget makes no attempt to hide its low view, or misunderstanding, of agriculture programs, saying 'the 2018 President's Budget targets commodity assistance, crop insurance subsidies, and conservation assistance to producers that have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $500,000 or less.'"
USA Rice further quoted the budget as saying: It is hard to justify to hardworking taxpayers why the federal government should provide assistance to wealthy farmers with incomes over a half a million dollars. Doing so undermines the credibility and purpose of farm programs. The budget also eliminates funding for a number of programs for which there is no federal purpose, those programs include the Market Access Program [and] the Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program … In a time of belt tightening, the government should not be subsidizing the advertising and promotion of commodities.
… Lastly, the budget targets conservation funding to the most sensitive agricultural land, by maintaining acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program at the current statutory cap of 24 million acres, eliminating distortionary signing and practice incentive payments, and focusing near-term enrollment on higher-value continuous acreage.
U.S. Wheat Associates
"These are the wrong proposals at the wrong time for the wheat farmers we represent," said Alan Tracy, president of U.S. Wheat Associates, which markets wheat overseas.
"Agriculture is truly a global industry and export demand determines the prices U.S. wheat farmers receive. Without funding from MAP and FMD, we would not be able to continue the training, technical assistance and service that is needed to promote this incredibly complex food crop. Our competitors would swoop in to take those markets and the potential effect on wheat prices is obvious."
"Our farmer leaders agree with the National Association of Wheat Growers President David Schemm who believes MAP and FMD merit an increase in federal funding, not elimination as proposed in this budget."
Tracy also criticized the administration's plans to eliminate food aid programs, noting "Wheat makes up 40 percent of of all in-kind food aid and because almost all food aid recipients are wheat-import dependent, particularly in Africa, wheat donations do not distort local markets. It is not a good time to diminish our ability to promote better lives around the world."
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
"The president's budget includes a number of concerning proposals that would handcuff rural families and businesses," said Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents the nation's more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives providing service to 42 million people in 47 states.
"America's electric cooperatives are deeply concerned about proposals in the budget that would undermine the vital Power Marketing Administrations and marginalize USDA's effective rural development programs. Co-ops across the nation leverage these federal programs to the benefit of millions of Americans," Matheson said.
More than 600 rural electric cooperatives in over 30 states receive an allocation of PMA power, NRECA noted. "Appropriations for the federal power program are repaid to the U.S. Treasury with interest."
"Equally as concerning is the proposed cut to USAID. For more than 50 years, NRECA's international program has partnered with electric cooperatives and USAID to bring electricity to more than 120 million people in 43 developing countries."
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
"This proposal spells disaster not only for America's farmers and ranchers, but for our environment and our nation," said Greg Fogel, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
"By gutting the programs that help farmers start and grow their businesses, conserve resources and increase efficiency, and connect with supply chains that allow them to feed their neighbors, this proposal blatantly dismisses the contribution that rural communities make to this country."
"The agriculture, conservation, and nutrition communities must come together to oppose this distorted vision for the 2018 farm bill. Any attempt to produce budget reconciliation bills that would rewrite the farm bill during this Congress should be vigorously opposed," Fogel said.
National Association of Conservation Districts
The National Association of Conservation Districts noted that Trump's more than $5 billion in cuts over 10 years to farm bill conservation programs includes a substantial $350 million cut to mandatory funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. It would also cut $91 million from USDA's Conservation Technical Assistance program, which NACD said is "the very lifeblood of voluntary conservation in the United States."
"We are very concerned that the president's budget calls for privatizing conservation planning," NACD President Brent Van Dyke said. "The need for conservation assistance is so immense across the country, it will take every dollar from both the public and the private sectors to get the job done."
NACD also noted that Trump has requested to cut the Forest Service's State and Private Forestry program by 46 percent ($98 million) and completely eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency's Section 319 grant program, which helps states curb non-point pollution sources like stormwater runoff.
The budget would also eliminate the Watershed Operations and Small Watershed Rehabilitation programs, which help local communities improve water quality, control erosion, and restore ailing infrastructure.
"We can provide a better approach to conservation than this budget proposal," NACD CEO Jeremy Peters said. "NACD will work tirelessly to educate our lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the critical importance of locally-led conservation, so come fall, they'll do what's right by American taxpayers and our country's natural resources."
"NACD believes this proposal would severely limit voluntary conservation on the ground, and for this reason, finds it unacceptable," Peters said.
World Food Program USA
Rick Leach, president and CEO of World Food Program USA, said proposals to eliminate the Food for Peace (Title II) program and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program and to make cuts to the Emergency Food Security Program, the Feed the Future agricultural development initiative and to other humanitarian and development programs, raise the question "Should the U.S. maintain its position as the global leader in the fight to end hunger?"
World Food Program USA is a private group that supports the U.N. World Food Program, which distributes food in troubled places around the world.
"Stepping back from global leadership in the fight to alleviate hunger would foster greater global instability and lead to unnecessary suffering in a time of unprecedented humanitarian need," Leach said.
"It would decrease the brightness of the American beacon that has long served as a signal of hope to those suffering from hunger. When the U.S. leads, the world takes note. It is critical that the United States' spending priorities serve as a call to action for other donor nations to raise their ambitions, rather than a signal to do less. Now is the time to reaffirm our values as a nation, not to retreat from them."
Share Our Strength
"The White House budget violates the fundamental social contract we have as a nation to help provide for the basic human needs of our most vulnerable residents," said Duke Storen, senior director of Share Our Strength.
"It takes away food, shelter and heat for the poor, children, seniors and people with disabilities. Cuts to child care benefits and work training and education programs make it harder for low-income families to find and keep good jobs. Any alleged 'savings' only pass the buck, pushing a massive 'cost sharing' burden onto states, cities and small towns, many of which are already struggling to keep financially afloat."
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
The proposal for the states to pay 25 percent of the cost of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits would amount to "a massive cost shift to states, cutting eligibility for millions of households, and reducing benefits for hundreds of thousands more," the Center for Budget abd Policy Priorities said.
"The unemployed, the elderly, and low-income working families with children would bear the brunt of the cuts," CBPP said.
The CBPP released a chart showing each state's required contribution over 10 years.