President Trump submitted his FY 2020 budget proposal to Congress drawing the praise ad the ire of many with regard to agricultural spending that cuts $2.2 billion from federal food and farm programs.
“Our economy is booming, and unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades. While the agriculture community still faces challenges, the Trump economy is creating new opportunities for all Americans to thrive,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “President Trump’s budget is fiscally conservative and lays out a vision for an accountable federal government that cuts spending. With our national debt soaring to over $22 trillion, we can no longer kick the can down the road. The time to act is now and USDA will actively do its part in reducing federal spending. We are stewards of other people’s money and must be diligent in spending it more carefully than we would our own when it comes to delivering our programs. At the same time, we will maintain a safety net for farmers, ranchers, foresters, producers, and people who need assistance in feeding their families.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said President Trump’s budget makes significant, unacceptable cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Brown said the 90% — $270 million — cut would negatively affect Ohioans, as the GLRI is a highly successful program that has jumpstarted restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes like Lake Erie.
“Ohioans rely on Lake Erie for jobs, clean drinking water, and a place to enjoy with their families. Instead of investing in Ohio communities so they can grow and create jobs, President Trump is asking Ohioans to pay for tax cuts for millionaires by gutting Great Lakes programs and eliminating economic development efforts,” Brown said. “Senator Portman and I have always fought to ensure the GLRI is at full strength as communities work to keep Lake Erie clean. I will continue fighting for Ohio priorities throughout this budget process.”
Trump’s budget also:
- Cuts funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, USDA’s only farmer-driven agriculture research program, in half.
- Cuts funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program in half, just as the first wave of Food Safety Modernization Act inspections are beginning for the nation’s produce farmers.
- Eliminates the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program.
- Cuts funding for Conservation Technical Assistance by $71 million (10%).
- Recommends a $75 million increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) compared to FY 2019, and an additional $100 million to address aging research infrastructure.
- Proposes $25 million will be needed to relocate the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture; a plan widely opposed by food and farm groups, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
- Reintroduces the Harvest Box proposal, which was widely criticized by anti-hunger and food access organizations when it was first floated in the President’s FY 2019 budget.
The proposal also makes several recommendations that would require policy changes and/or affect farm bill mandatory spending, including:
- Eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
- Cuts $17 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Reforms to federal crop insurance and commodity programs, including: reduction of the average premium subsidy for crop insurance from 62% to 48%; limiting commodity, conservation, and crop insurance subsidies to those producers that have an Adjusted Gross Income of $500,000 or less; capping underwriting gains at 12%; tightening commodity payment limits, including eliminating the separate payment limit for peanut producers and limiting eligibility for commodity subsidies to one manager per farm.
“While the budget released today doesn’t give us all the details on the President’s priorities for FY 2020, the $2.2 billion in cuts targeted to agriculture and food programs sends a clear message that America’s farmers and rural communities don’t make the list” said Wes King, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition senior policy specialist. “The 2018 Farm Bill made historic investments in key initiatives like support for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, organic research, and local/regional food systems, and that is the path on which we need to keep moving in FY 2020. Implementation of the farm bill’s programs – including new programs like the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) and long-standing programs like SARE and CSP — need adequate funding to do the work mandated by Congress. We ask that Congress not turn their backs on the promises of the 2018 Farm Bill, and that they instead build upon the bill’s pledged investments.”