President Trump’s election-year budget proposal once again calls for steep cuts to federal spending that supports rural communities.
The president’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget would cut the Department of Agriculture’s discretionary budget by 8%, down from the current $23.8 billion to $21.8 billion. The bulk of the proposed cuts target nutrition and food security programs, although farm, conservation and rural economic development programs are also cut.
Trump’s budget proposal, “A Budget for America’s Future,” also proposes $240 billion in net mandatory savings over 10 years from USDA programs that the Trump administration says will “reduce long-term deficits.”
Some of the key reductions in spending include the following proposals:
- Economic Research Service—cut from $84 million this year to $62 million in 2021, a 35% decrease.
- Rural Business and Cooperative Programs—cut from $94 million this year to $3 million in 2021, a 97% decrease. Key programs in this unit include the Value-Added Producer Grant program, Rural Energy for America Program and numerous programs that support farmer and rancher cooperatives.
- USDA Single Family Housing Direct Loans—eliminates the program, funded at $90 million this year.
- Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network—the budget provides $2 million for local farm financial stress counseling, $8 million less than is allowed by the 2018 Farm Bill.
The budget proposes $44 million in distance learning and telemedicine grants, with 20% dedicated to projects that “combat the opioid crisis and keep rural communities safe.” It provides $614 million in funding for water and wastewater grants and loans, $5.5 billion in electric loans, and $690 million in telecommunications loans, $2.5 billion for community facility direct loans and $500 million for guaranteed loans. The budget also provides $1.5 billion for business and industry guaranteed loans, a $500 million increase over current levels paid for by increased lending fees.
Budget “reforms” called for to reduce spending in the next ten years include:
- Food Safety and Inspection Service—the budget proposing increasing “user fees” to pay for the program.
- Child Nutrition Programs—cuts to National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, along with closing a “participation loophole” in the Community Eligibility Provision of child nutrition programs. The budget document projects $1.7 billion in cuts to these programs in the next decade.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—large cuts to SNAP, the nation’s largest food assistance program for low-income people. The budget document projects $181 billion in cuts to this program in the next decade, primarily through the Trump Administration’s work requirement rules.
- Farm Conservation Programs—the budget proposes to cut $9.15 billion from conservation programs in the next decade.
Congress is expected to reject the Trump administration proposal as they have done in the last three budget years. The House and Senate must each pass a budget by September 30, 2020, or extend current spending levels, to avoid a government shutdown.