A Natural Resource Conservation Service employee (left) based in a Utah Service Center helps assess native grasses with workers at a range-land restoration project. The budget proposal calls for staff cuts at USDA Service Centers around the country. (USDA via flckr)

President Trump’s budget proposal, released earlier today, calls for major cuts in programs that target needs in rural America.

The proposal says Agriculture’s Rural Development programs would be cut so deeply there would be less need for staff in USDA’s Service Center offices. Service Centers are located across the country and provide local access to programs serving farmers and landowners, local governments, businesses, and others.

Rural Development’s programs include grants and loans for projects such as rural utilities, broadband deployment, water treatment facilities, and housing.

The proposal would pull nearly half a billion dollars out of the Water and Waste Water loan and grant programs. “Rural communities can be served by private sector financing or other Federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Funds,” the document says. (The budget also earmarks the EPA for a 30 percent budget reduction.)

The outline suggests that USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service, which supports business development and job training in rural areas, should be cut by more than 60 percent, from $155 million this year, according to a USDA document, to $60 million next year.

Also cut would be “lower priority” Forest Service programs, such as land acquisition.

Another area singled out for cuts is USDA’s “statistical capabilities.” The budget calls for USDA to focus on producing the Census of Agriculture and to reduce analysis on topics not directly related to agriculture.

The Economic Research Service of USDA is not named in the document, but that program produces a range of economic and demographic reports on both agricultural and nonagricultural topics. (Many of those reports become stories in the Daily Yonder.)

Overall discretionary spending in USDA would drop to $17.8 billion, a decline of $4.7 billion or 21 percent, according to the budget proposal.

In addition to cuts at USDA, the president’s budget proposal calls for cuts to other programs of interest to rural communities, such as the following:

  • Eliminating the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Delta Regional Authority and the Denali Commission. The ARC, created in 1965 during the War on Poverty, is a partnership of Appalachian states and the federal government that supports infrastructure and development efforts in the Appalachian Mountains. The Delta authority, established in 2000, has a similar mission for states in the Mississippi Delta. The Denali Commission, created in 1998, streamlines government services and funds development programs in rural Alaska.
  • Reducing the Department of Interior by $1.5 billion, a 12% reduction.
  • Eliminating LIHEAP, which helps low-income rural residents with paying high home heating and energy bills.
  • Reducing Department of Education funding by $9 billion, a 13% reduction.
  • Eliminating the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Adminstration (EDA), a source of funding for economic development efforts in low-income communities.
  • Eliminating the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) grants program, which facilitates capital and small business financing in both rural and urban areas.
  • Eliminating the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds Americorps volunteers.
  • Eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • Reducing Department of Energy spending by $1.7 billion, a 5.6% cut.
  • Reducing Environmental Protection Agency funding by $2.6 billion, a 31% cut.

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