Department of Agriculture

Agriculture interests are reacting to proposed cuts in the USDA budget.

President Trump’s budget for 2020 includes cutting USDA’s discretionary funding by 15% — $3.6 billion — to $20.8 billion.

It also requests a nearly $2 billion decrease in mandatory funding for USDA’s rural and agricultural programs and slashes $17.4 billion in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Trump’s “skinny budget” goes even further to reduce all government spending by $2.7 trillion over 10 years to rein in the $1 trillion budget deficit and get a handle on the $22 trillion national debt.

His 10-year budget plan would reduce spending on mandatory programs at USDA by $61.3 billion by 2029 — including a $26 billion cut to crop insurance — and an additional reduction in nutrition program spending of $219.8 billion.

While the proposal is only a “wish list” and unlikely to garner congressional approval, it’s enough to raise concern in farm country and on Capitol Hill.

In addition to reducing subsidies for crop insurance premiums and limiting crop insurance eligibility based on income, the proposal would limit eligibility for commodity program payments, reduce funding for conservation programs and government commodity purchases and eliminate the Livestock Forage Program.

National Farmers Union said the president’s budget yet again neglects the severity of the farm economy.

“There is a very clear disconnect between President Trump’s priorities and the economic realities facing family farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” Roger Johnson, NFU president, said in a statement.

The president is calling for significant cuts to the one department tasked with serving farm families, rural residents and those struggling with food insecurity, he said.

National Association of Wheat Growers said the budget proposes drastic cuts to some key programs, many of which were misguided cuts rejected by Congress in the recently passed farm bill.

The proposal “will make crop insurance more expensive for farmers when input costs already remain high and commodity prices are low,” Ben Scholz, NAWG president, said.

“This additional cost could result in many growers not having insurance and may make it difficult for them to stay in business,” he said.

The American Association of Crop Insurers and other insurance associations agree.

“This is a shortsighted proposal that, if adopted, would undermine a critical safety net for farmers when they need it most during this time of increasing economic difficulties and challenges in rural America,” they said in a joint statement.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said the budget puts agriculture back on the chopping block.

The budget cuts targeted to agriculture and food programs “send a clear message that America’s farmers and rural communities don’t make the list,” Wes King, the coalition’s senior policy specialist, said.

American Farm Bureau Federation had no comment on the budget proposal, telling Capital Press it is focused on working with Congress.

Rep. Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said the budget proposal is a road map for how to make things worse for farmers, ranchers and those who live in rural communities.

“This budget was concocted by a bunch of ideologues who can’t see what’s clearly going on in the farm economy,” he said.

The good news is it’s going nowhere in Congress, he said.

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