Rural America helped swing the election in Donald Trump’s favor. But at first glance, he doesn’t appear to be returning the favor with his proposed budget.
The President released the long-awaited budget last week, and agriculture spending took one of the biggest hits. Trump proposed slashing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) discretionary spending to $17.9 billion, which is a whopping 21 percent cut – the third largest of any federal agency.
Some leaders in agriculture have already spoken out. House Agriculture Committee Chair Michael Conaway told Reuters News Agency that “America’s farmers and ranchers are struggling, and we need to be extremely careful not to exacerbate these conditions.”
(Source: The New York Times)
More specifically, the biggest hits to the USDA are as follows:
·Elimination of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program worth $200 million.
·Staff at county USDA offices, although the budget fails to mention which agencies would be targeted.
·Reduced funding for the National Agriculture Statistics Service.
·$350 million from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative — half of the $700 million authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and below the $375 million proposed in Congressional appropriations.
It’s also worth noting that Sonny Perdue, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Agriculture, still has not been confirmed so agriculture currently lacks a leader to vouch on behalf of its interests.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The President fully funded the Food Safety and Inspection Service, safeguarding America’s supply of animal products. The budget continues to support grants for farmer-focused research at land-grant universities — though at a much lower number than previous years — so there’s still some hope for canola research in the years to come.
Some of these cuts proposed cuts are meant to streamline services and remove redundancies, according to the Trump administration. For example, staff will be reduced at the USDA’s Service Center Agencies in order to streamline county operations. The administration also proposed eliminating the water and wastewater loan and grant program, calling it “duplicative” and something that could be financed in the private sector.
No matter how you feel about Trump or his proposed policies, it’s important to remember that none of this is set in stone. Congress has to approve it first, and it’s unlikely that all of the proposals will pass without careful scrutiny. A more detailed budget will be released in May 2017, hopefully shedding some light on how the canola industry in particular will be impacted.
Mattie Quinn is a contributing writer for the U.S. Canola Association based in Washington, D.C.