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Ag responds: Trump 2018 federal budget blueprint


After President Donald J. Trump issued his fiscal year 2018 federal budget blueprint Thursday calling for a drastic reduction in spending on agriculture and rural related agencies and programs, several agricultural organizations and the House Agriculture Committee Chairman have responded.

In brief, here is what these folks had to say:

House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway statement included this:

“Today’s proposal covers appropriations spending and mainly provides top line numbers. A comprehensive budget, including details, is expected later this spring, when we will have a more complete picture. Importantly, Congress will be working along this same timeline on its own budget policies and priorities.

“On the USDA budget, I am concerned that the cuts, while relatively small in the context of the total federal budget, could hamper some vital work of the Department. I think it is very important to remember that net farm income is down 50 percent from where it stood just four years ago. America’s farmers and ranchers are struggling, and we need to be extremely careful not to exacerbate these conditions. In fact, we need to do all we can to be there to help our farmers and ranchers. The work they do is critical. A well fed world is a safer world.

“I think it is also important to point out that the Agriculture Committees put together a farm bill in 2014 that saved more than $100 billion according to latest estimates. That’s more than four times the savings we had pledged. Agriculture has done more than its fair share. As we in Congress get ready to write the budget, we will certainly pay close attention to the President’s recommendations, many of which I suspect will be incorporated into the budget. But, we will also have ideas on what the budget should look like and our priorities will also be taken into account. The bottom line is this is the start of a longer, larger process. It is a proposal, not THE budget.”

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson included these remarks:

“Family farmers and ranchers are currently enduring the worst farm economy in well over a decade and an inadequate safety net that is hamstrung by $23 billion in budget cuts. The last thing our members need right now is more cuts to agencies and programs that provide incredibly important work, especially in the midst of the current farm crisis. These cuts and the message they send to rural America are deeply disappointing.

“The President’s blueprint also provides for a $2.6 billion cut to EPA funding. This 31 percent drop guts the agency’s ability to provide very important environmental services and pesticide approval. It even limits the administration’s ability to rewrite or remove the unnecessary regulations that the President promised to address. Regulatory relief comes from having a system that works.

“To this point, the president has put the needs of rural America and agriculture on the backburner, and, in many cases, on the chopping block. We call on Congress to reject these budget cuts and adopt funding levels that ensure the success and vibrancy of farming communities and rural America.”

National Sustainable Agriculture Coaltion (NSAC) Policy Director Greg Fogel said:

“The President’s first budget request misses the mark entirely when it comes to the needs of rural America. He is targeting these detrimental cuts right at the people who helped bring him to the White House – America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.

“By zeroing out funding for Rural Business Development programs, this budget guts USDA’s ability to invest in rural enterprise development. These programs have a proven track record of success – both in terms of business survivability rates and job creation. To call such vital programs ‘underperforming’ reflects a lack of understanding of their function and impact.”

National Young Farmers Coalition National Policy Director Andrew Bahrenburg commented:

“This budget proposal dramatically underestimates the economic urgency facing rural America. If we don’t recruit a new generation of farmers to take over for America’s aging farm population, rural economies will continue to unravel. Instead, this proposal would take us backward, and make rural life a less viable option for entrepreneurial young Americans. It’s a strange message for President Trump to send to the rural voters that helped elect him.

“As the organization representing a new generation of farmers and ranchers already facing unprecedented challenges, the National Young Farmers Coalition calls on every Member of Congress to reject this shortsighted proposal. With a rapidly aging farm population and most farmland on the cusp of transition, this is a critical time for U.S. agriculture. Though they still do not have a Secretary in the President’s Cabinet, farmers and ranchers need champions in Washington. We all have a stake in our nation’s food system.”

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