Trump's Budget Axe Takes Another Swing at Farmers and Rural Communities

With storm clouds hovering over a farm economy facing trade disruptions, escalating debt, and the threat of rising interest rates–the Trump administration called this week for another round of deep cuts targeting important farm and rural programs.

After signing a March spending bill that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects will raise the deficit to over $1 trillion in just two years (the CBO projects the debt will rise to $33 trillion by 2028), the Trump administration decided to take another swing at slashing programs through a rarely used budget rescission measure. The rescission measure attempts to renege on spending commitments that have already been appropriated for various federal agencies.

Trump proposes $15.4 billion in total cuts across a variety of agencies. The proposed cuts are small beans in addressing the deficit, but they will have big impact for already under-funded farm and rural programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

With the blessing of USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, the Trump Administration urged Congress to slash USDA programs by:

  • $148 million in consumer food safety protections at the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service;
  • $499 million from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), including funding for conservation programs and the Environmental Quality Improvement Program;
  • $157 million from NRCS for watershed protection and flood prevention programs;
  • $40 million for Rural Housing Assistance
  • $14 million for the Rural Cooperative Development
  • $36 million for the Biorefinery Assistance Program
  • $13 million for efforts to reduce rural energy costs
  • $37 million from Rural Water and Waste Disposal

The proposed cuts to the rural cooperative development, through the Value Added Product Grant Program, came just days after a USDA report documented the program’s strong track record of improving the success rate of rural businesses while adding new jobs.

The proposed cuts are consistent with calls in previous Trump budgets to slash farm and rural development programs. They would also come on top of major cuts for farm and rural programs being proposed in the House Farm Bill, including the elimination of the nation’s most popular conservation program, cuts to local food infrastructure and renewable energy programs, and the reduction or elimination of benefits for one million people using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Of the top 100 counties ranked by share of population that participate in SNAP, 85 are rural, finds a Daily Yonder analysis of government data.

The administration’s proposal to slash important programs, comes only months after Trump signed into law a historic windfall in tax breaks for wealthy individuals and multinational corporations. Ultimately, Congress will vote on whether to follow Trump’s rescission request. The Trump administration’s ongoing budgetary attack on rural-focused programs, combined with a damaging House Farm Bill, indicate just how disconnected Washington is from the real challenges farmers and rural communities are facing on the ground. There are important Farm Bill proposals to address the current price crisis and to help farmers protect the environment and access higher-value markets, while strengthening rural communities.

How dark will the storm clouds over the farm economy have to get before they are advanced?