Trump budget cuts ag, SNAP; new tobacco agency proposed
President Donald Trump on Feb. 10 released his proposed fiscal year 2021 budget.
The document published by the Office of Management and Budget titled “A Budget for America’s Future” proposes cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps, and to agriculture programs including crop insurance.
The Health and Human Services section also proposes moving tobacco from the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration to a separate agency.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., a member of the Senate Budget Committee who is rarely critical of the president, said “I applaud the administration for aiming to tackle the debt and deficit by addressing federal spending, but I do not support the disproportionate cuts to important agricultural programs.”
“Our producers have struggled enough with extreme weather and unfair retaliatory actions amid trade disputes. The cuts proposed today would save little but inflict severe pain in American agriculture. Instead of reducing essential services as the administration proposes, I’ll work in Congress to ensure we focus on eliminating waste, fraud and bureaucratic inefficiency.”
Congress, which determines actual expenditures through appropriations bills, is expected to reject most of Trump’s proposals, as it has in past years.
The American Association of Crop Insurers, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, Crop Insurance Professionals Association, Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, and National Crop Insurance Services issued a joint statement critical of the proposed budget:
“Last year brought unprecedented challenges for rural America. Even now, farmers and ranchers across the country are dealing with the lingering consequences of weather events that destroyed fields and ruined crops. And there looks to be no reprieve from the ongoing rural recession: The USDA estimates that farm cash flow will tighten this year, dropping more than $10 billion, or 9%, from 2019.
“The federal crop insurance program reacted quickly and efficiently to keep many farmers afloat during this difficult time. It’s no wonder then that the nation’s farm organizations teamed up in late 2019 to ask Congress to reject any attempts to cut crop insurance and weaken the farm safety net when it’s needed most.
“It’s inexplicable as to why OMB would target such a critical risk-management tool for budget cuts,” the crop insurers said. “The proposed cuts will make crop insurance unaffordable and unavailable for farmers, seriously undermining the farm safety net.”
Michael Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, said, “Today’s budget proposal relies on optimistic projections for economic growth and unlikely budget cuts to illustrate deficit reduction. The reality is that in order to manage our rapidly growing debt, we need to address the big issues — the aging of our population, rising healthcare costs and inadequate revenues.”
“Economic growth is critical for improving our fiscal situation, but the irony is that the longer we wait to deal with our debt problem, the worse our economy will be,” Peterson said.
“Over the long term, our fiscal path represents an inter-generational injustice that funds current consumption over investment, and passes the bill to our kids and grandkids. With interest costs already at $1 billion a day and doubling every 10 years, we are not taking the right steps to build the future we want.
“This new budget season is an opportunity for the president and Congress to advance fiscally responsible policies that will put our nation in a position to meet our most pressing challenges, now and for the next generation.”
“The 2021 budget requests $21.8 billion in discretionary resources for USDA, a $1.9 billion or 8% decrease from the 2020 enacted level. The budget proposes $240 billion in net mandatory savings over 10 years from USDA programs to reduce long-term deficits.
“The budget eliminates duplicative and wasteful programs within the Rural Business Service which gives funds to businesses that could qualify for private sector capital, saving $91 million from the 2020 enacted level.
“Reforms Food Stamp Program to Promote Work — The budget continues bold proposals to reform work requirements for able-bodied adults participating in SNAP to promote self-sufficiency.
“This proposal would streamline SNAP work requirements and apply them consistently to able-bodied adults ages 18 to 65, unless they qualify for specific exemptions. Under the proposal, adults would be required to work, participate in job training, or volunteer at least 20 hours a week in order to receive SNAP benefits.
“The budget also combines the traditional SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer benefits with ‘Harvest Boxes’ of 100% American-grown foods provided directly to households, ensuring that Americans in need have access to a nutritious diet while significantly reducing the cost to taxpayers.
“States would maintain the ability to provide choice to their participants, including by using innovative approaches for the inclusion of fresh products. To bolster state program integrity initiatives, the budget provides for the nationwide implementation of the National Accuracy Clearinghouse, an interstate data-matching system to prevent duplicate participation in SNAP.
“The budget also includes proposals to reserve benefits for those most in need, promote efficiency in state operations, and strengthen program monitoring and oversight.”
“Supports Comprehensive Farm Safety Net Reforms and Reduces Waste — Building on the agricultural reforms proposed in the 2020 budget, the administration continues proposals to modify and target crop insurance, conservation, and commodity programs in a way that maintains a strong safety net, saving $36 billion over 10 years.
“The budget also proposes to eliminate wasteful duplication and excessive subsidies between federally subsidized crop insurance and mandatory disaster assistance. This addresses recent congressional changes that removed safeguards and would ensure that taxpayer funded assistance is limited and that producers do not collect more than 100% for the same loss.”
The document also notes the administration’s efforts to curb opioid abuse and says the budget “proposes $44 million in distance learning and telemedicine grants, of which 20% would be dedicated to projects that combat the opioid crisis and keep rural communities safe.”
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Here are relevant quotes from the Health and Human Services section, including the Food and Drug Administration.
“Improves Access to Rural Healthcare — The budget includes proposals to address the healthcare needs of rural America.
“The budget proposes to expand access to telemedicine services by offering increased flexibility to providers who serve predominantly rural or vulnerable patient populations, including IHS providers and providers participating in Medicare payment models requiring financial risk.
“The budget proposes to modify payments to Rural Health Clinics to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries continue to benefit from primary care services in their communities.
“To address the trend of rural hospital closures, the budget proposes to allow critical access hospitals to voluntarily convert to rural standalone emergency hospitals and remove the requirement to maintain inpatient beds. In addition, the budget maintains funding for Rural Health Outreach grants in HRSA.
“Reforms Oversight of Tobacco Products — The budget proposes to move the Center for Tobacco Products out of the Food and Drug Administration and create a new agency within HHS to focus on tobacco regulation. This new agency would be led by a Senate-confirmed director in order to increase direct accountability and more effectively respond to this critical area of public health concern.
“A new agency with the singular mission on tobacco and its impact on public health would have greater capacity to respond strategically to the growing complexity of new tobacco products. In addition, this reorganization would allow the FDA commissioner to focus on its traditional mission of ensuring the safety of the nation’s food and medical products supply.”
To read the budget, go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/budget_fy21.pdf. ❖
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