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Senate Democrats cry foul over proposed rural development cuts

Danielrao/ThinkstockPhotos Small rural village in summer, Haigler, Nebraska, USA. Water tower, blue sky and road sign.
Senators also ask for reconsideration of elimination of Under Secretary for Rural Development position.

Senate Democrats are taking their concerns about rural development cuts to President Trump.

In a letter written May 30, Senate Democrats say that Trump's budget request to cut farm bill programs by $231 billion and to dramatically reduce or eliminate USDA rural development programs will have significant negative effects on rural America.

"These reductions would undermine the ability of local communities to support rural home ownership; provide clean drinking and waste water systems; and promote access to critical services such as rural hospitals, police, and firefighters," the letter reads.

"For example, zeroing out the USDA funding for water and wastewater infrastructure projects leaves small communities without access to the federal funds needed to address the $2.5 billion backlog for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage waste disposal, and emergency water assistance. Eliminating USDA’s small business programs leaves businesses with less access to capital, educational opportunities, entrepreneurial training, and technical support. And finally, the budget proposal jeopardizes critical rural broadband health service grants that provide communities with additional tools to help provide access to education and rural health care, including battling the opioid epidemic."

While the senators praise the appointment of an Under Secretary for Trade, they express concern over the elimination of the Under Secretary of Rural Development.

"We do not believe that enhancing agricultural exports has to come with a demotion for the rural development activities," the letter reads.

The senators also question the timing of the reorganization, made before public comments are due.

"USDA must carefully consider all comments received before the proposed reorganization is actually implemented," the letter reads.

Senators signing the bill: Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Angus King (I-Maine), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Source: Sen. Christopher Coons

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