House Ag leaders criticize Trump USDA cuts
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, on Thursday said he is pleased that President Donald Trump’s budget would increase military spending and cut the Environmental Protection Agency, but is worried about the proposed cuts to the Agriculture Department.
“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,” Conaway said in a statement.
“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.”
Conaway added, “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.”
Conaway said members of Congress “will certainly pay close attention to the president’s recommendations. … 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.”
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said Trump’s proposal to cut the USDA discretionary budget by $4.7 billion or 21 percent “demonstrates a lack of understanding of farm programs and their impact on rural America.”
“Cuts to the water and wastewater loan grant program are wrongly portrayed as duplicative when they are the only ways for small rural communities to update their water systems,” Peterson said. “County offices are already understaffed and further cuts would mean private organizations would be tasked with helping farmers navigate farm programs. Again, it’s a general lack of understanding of what really takes place in rural America.
“The good news is this budget will be ignored, as it should be,” Peterson continued. “I urge the administration to spend more time in rural America to gain an understanding of how things work and I hope that once an Agriculture secretary is in place that he will be able to explain the value of these programs and services.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said she “will not stand for President Trump’s foolish and shortsighted budget proposal which will make America less healthy, safe and economically secure. Cutting Meals on Wheels, heating assistance for low-income families, and essential economic stimulus programs that rural states like Maine rely on in order to build a $1.5 billion wall with Mexico shows how out of touch President Trump is with the needs of real Americans.”
“Moreover, as a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, I am appalled by President Trump’s proposed budget for USDA, which would cripple this agency with a 29 percent cut from the agency’s enacted fiscal year 2016 budget,” Pingree said.
“Slashing all discretionary funds from Rural Business and Cooperative Services will only stifle economic development in rural America and harm the very communities that the president claims to support,” she said.
“Farmers in Maine and across the country benefit greatly from Value Added Producer Grants, the Rural Energy for America Program, and military veteran farmer trainings organized by ATTRA. Field office staff are USDA’s boots on the ground, providing farmers with essential technical assistance and outreach, yet President Trump wants to cut these positions which have an enormous impact in rural communities.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., who oversees the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, said “I am very concerned that deep cuts to our diplomacy will hurt efforts to combat terrorism, distribute critical humanitarian aid, and promote opportunities for American workers.”
“We need a strong reform budget that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of foreign assistance,” Royce said. “And we can achieve this without undermining vital U.S. economic and national security interests.”