Trump budget would eliminate McGovern-Dole program
President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request for Agriculture Department discretionary programs revealed March 16 would eliminate the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program and the water and wastewater loan and grant program.
Those eliminations are part of a $17.9 billion budget for discretionary programs — a $4.7 billion or 21 percent decrease from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution (CR) level excluding funding for P.L. 480 Title II food aid, which is reflected in the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development budget.
Presidential budget requests are sent to Congress and are only requests because Congress determines the budget — if it can agree on one — and passes appropriations bills for each federal agency. But the budget request signals an administration’s priorities and what issues might trigger presidential vetoes of those bills.
Perhaps the most controversial item in the request is the proposed elimination of the McGovern-Dole program on the grounds that it “lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented to reduce food insecurity.”
That program, which provides funding for school meal programs in lower-income countries, is named for the late Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D., and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., and is highly popular on Capitol Hill. Dole was also the only former Republican presidential nominee who backed Trump.
The Obama administration requested $182 million for the program this fiscal year, enough to provide food to 3.4 million people, the Food and Environment Reporting Network said. The elimination of the McGovern-Dole program may be part of the Trump administration’s plans to make bigger cuts to foreign aid, but there were no details on what further cuts to food aid programs may be involved.
The budget document says the elimination of the water and wastewater loan and grant program would save $498 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. The proposal would also eliminate discretionary activities of the Rural Business and Cooperative Service and reduce USDA staffing.
The document proposes to continue full funding for food safety programs and provides enough money for all projected participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
The USDA budget request says it would maintain “wildland fire preparedness and suppression activities at $2.4 billion, 100 percent of the 10-year average for suppression operations, to ensure the resources necessary to protect life and property,” but cuts other U.S. Forest Service activities.
The budget would continue “to support farmer-focused research and extension partnerships at land-grant universities and provides about $350 million for USDA’s flagship competitive research program” and would focus “in-house research funding within the Agricultural Research Service to the highest Department of Agriculture priority agriculture and food issues, such as increasing farming productivity, sustaining natural resources — including those within rural communities — and addressing food safety and nutrition priorities.”
The budget would also reduce USDA statistical services while maintaining the Census of Agriculture.
The cuts at USDA and other agencies are part of a plan to increase military spending by $54 billion as part of an “America First” budget.
At the Commerce Department, the budget eliminates the Economic Development Administration on the grounds that its “small grants with limited measurable impacts” duplicate other federal programs, such as the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service grants.
In a move that will please trade critics, the budget “strengthens the International Trade Administration’s trade enforcement and compliance functions, including the anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations, while rescaling the agency’s export promotion and trade analysis activities.”
The budget calls on the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to be reorganized for greater efficiency.
For the Environmental Protection Agency, whose proposed Waters of the United States or Clean Water rule is unpopular in rural America and is being reviewed, the budget requests $5.7 billion — a savings of $2.6 billion, or 31 percent, from the 2017 annualized CR level. It eliminates funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs.
The budget also proposes to eliminate funding for other independent agencies, many of which have activities in rural America, including: the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; and the Northern Border Regional Commission.
The budget proposal does not cover USDA’s mandatory programs, including farm subsidies and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Here is a link to the budget: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf. ❖