Perdue’s Proposed USDA Reorganization Puts Global Agribusiness Above Farmers and Rural Communities.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

05/11/2017

Contact: Josh Wise, jwise@iatp.org, 952-818-5474; Ben Lilliston, blilliston@iatp.org, 612-741-8650

Perdue’s Proposed USDA Reorganization Puts Global Agribusiness Above Farmers and Rural Communities.

Minneapolis/Washington, D.C. – Just two weeks on the job, new U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today a major re-organization to expand the role of trade for global agribusiness companies, while downgrading the role of rural development within the Department. Congress should scrutinize this proposal carefully to ensure the interests and needs of family farmers and rural communities aren’t diminished, says the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

The re-organization would establish a new Under-Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, providing new status and resources within the Agency to work on behalf of agribusiness to advance export markets. To make room for the new Undersecretary, the plan would eliminate the Under-Secretary for Rural Development.

“Secretary Perdue’s re-organization plan puts global agribusiness first by further orienting the agency’s mission toward expanding exports, rather than focusing on the economic challenges facing family farmers and rural communities. We have an emerging farm crisis – with now four straight years of falling farm incomes and rising farm debt. This re-organization expands an export-focused approach that has increased the profits and market power of global agribusiness, while steadily reducing the number of farmers and ranchers, who are the economic backbone of most rural communities,” says Juliette Majot, Executive Director of IATP.

By eliminating the Undersecretary position, critical rural development work will be led by lower ranking officials, and the work will lose important “mission area” status within the USDA.  That loss likely will result in lower funding of that work by Congress and further USDA neglect of rural communities and rural people.

The downgrading of rural development within the USDA is consistent with the Trump budget proposed last month. That budget slashed programs like the Rural Business and Cooperative Service and essential rural water and wastewater programs. The Trump budget would also cut important rural economic development commissions in low income rural areas, low income weatherization assistance to reduce energy loss in homes, and subsidies to rural airports to continue providing service.

“We are  seeing an unfortunate trend with the Trump budget and the USDA reorganization to disinvest in rural communities – even at a time when rural communities are facing economic challenges beyond those in the rest of the country. We hope Congress will carefully review the USDA proposal and ensure we aren’t taking a major step back on rural development,” says IATP Analyst, Ben Lilliston. “It’s deeply troubling that with just two weeks on the job, the new USDA Secretary would announce such sweeping changes without public input. Our concern with Perdue’s appointment was that he would represent corporate interests at the expense of family farmers and rural communities. This proposed re-organization confirms and heightens that concern.”