President Proposes, Congress Disposes: But What Exactly is in That Budget?

Posted: 5/31/2017

By: Dale Thorenson

Rural America may be having second thoughts about predominantly casting a vote for President Trump as he continued to slash agricultural funding in May. His FY 2018 budget, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” proposes $3.6 trillion in cuts over 10 years, including $228 billion in reductions to farm bill programs. This is in addition to the 21 percent cut to annual discretionary expenditures advanced in the President’s “skinny budget” released in March.

Here is a breakdown of the cuts that impact canola interests:

The federal crop insurance program is slashed by $28.5 billion – or roughly 36 percent – by capping the premium subsidy to $40,000, limiting crop insurance eligibility to a $500,000 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and eliminating the Harvest Price Option for revenue insurance. To put that into perspective, in 2016, 1.48 million acres of canola were insured with the Harvest Price Option – or 99.8 percent of the revenue policies purchased – and 91.3 percent of the total 1.63 acres of canola were covered by federal crop insurance. 

The White House’s proposed budget also would cut nearly $9 billion from Title I commodity supports, including the Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs, by reducing the AGI eligibility cap from $900,000 to $500,000.

Funding would be eliminated for the two hallmark U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that expand foreign markets: the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development.

The budget would also zero out the McGovern Dole Food for Education Program as well as the Food for Peace program (P.L. 480).

Nearly $6 billion would be cut from conservation programs. This includes the elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program, which is USDA’s largest conservation program with more than 70 million acres enrolled and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

This is not all bad for agriculture. The budget recognizes the need for infrastructure investments, including inland waterways and ports, as well as the need to reduce burdensome regulations and permitting processes.

As the President’s budget continues to be analyzed, farmers should be aware the Congress, not the administration, passes the budget and agriculture has rebuffed attacks on farm and food programs for years. 

The danger is that the extreme and ill-informed cuts proposed in this document will embolden those in Congress who lack any understanding of how these programs work together to protect the food and farm supply chain for all Americans. This will likely encourage further attacks on these programs from both the right and left. 

Dale Thorenson is a policy expert with Gordley Associates in Washington, D.C. 

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