Row of round cotton modules shows production of Arkansas field
Dozens of round modules grace the edge of a cotton field near Portland, Ark., in 2016.

Trump budget ‘fails agriculture and rural America’

Farm organizations come down hard on budget filled with "misplaced priorities."

It’s not unusual for an administration budget to be declared “Dead on Arrival” when it lands on Capitol Hill. Most of Barack Obama’s, George W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s initial budget proposals were stamped “DOA.”

What was unusual about the FY 2018 budget recommendations released by the current administration on Tuesday (May 23) was the rancor of some of the responses to the president’s spending proposals, which included massive cuts to farm programs.

The USA Rice Federation headlined its press release: “Trump budget declares war on agriculture.” The National Cotton Council called the president’s budget “extremely concerning” and said now was not the time to be “weakening farm policy when U.S. cotton producers were struggling with difficult economic conditions.”

Aside from the cuts in the latest blueprint far exceeding those in the so-called Skinny Budget earlier this year (27 percent vs. 21 percent), farm organizations were upset by the way the reductions would be made.

Federal crop insurance, for example, is targeted for $28.56 billion in cuts over 10 years, or a 36 percent reduction. This includes a $40,000 payment limit on premium discounts and a $500,000 AGI means test. The administration’s Commodity Title proposal cuts $653 million over 10 years through a $500,000 AGI means test vs. the current $900,000.

Heritage Foundation primer

The proposal reads like it was taken directly from propaganda by the Heritage Foundation or the Environmental Working Group, two unlikely allies who have repeatedly called for the elimination of farm programs.

The president also would reduce the farm bill’s Nutrition title by $193.29 billion over 10 years through “reforms” of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and retailer user fees. Conservatives believe SNAP provides disincentives to work although studies show most food stamp recipients work but don’t make enough to put them above the poverty level.

Farm groups have traded support for food stamps for urban votes for farm bills going back to the 1960s, which could mean the 2014 farm bill was, in fact, the last one Congress will pass if the administration budget becomes law.

Another rice industry complaint: The administration budget proposes eliminating the Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program, which studies say would result in an average annual decline of $14.7 billion in U.S. agricultural exports.

The gloves may also be coming off for the American Farm Bureau Federation, whose president, Zippy Duvall, had some rather caustic comments.

Deficit reduction

“The administration’s budget fails to recognize agriculture’s current financial challenges or its historical contribution to deficit reduction,” he said. “It would gut federal crop insurance, drastically reshape voluntary conservation programs and negatively impact consumer confidence in critical meat and poultry inspection….

“Clearly, this budget fails agriculture and rural America.”

For more information on the administration budget, visit http://wapo.st/2qcGnuo.

 

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