The recent release of the White House’s FY 2021 USDA budget proposal to Congress has prompted concern by some involved with Minnesota agriculture.
The White House suggests cutting crop insurance by almost $25 billion, conservation programs by more than $9 billion, eliminating assistance for livestock producers in drought-stricken areas, ending the ability to provide U.S. commodities for food aid, and eliminating the Rural Energy for America Program and other rural economic development programs, according to a news release from the office of Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-Minn., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
The Trump administration also proposes a reduction to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $182 billion.
“The past year has brought serious economic damage to farmers and rural communities, yet the administration is proposing to cut billions in programs that they count on in many different ways,” Peterson said. “This budget also continues to short-change the funding needed to provide adequate service to USDA customers in field offices.”
Peterson said his committee will work to make sure that the farm bill isn’t cut during this year’s budget process.
“What’s worse is the president is proposing all these cuts without any attempt to balance the budget,” he said.
‘Hit after hit’
With news of farm bankruptcies 20% higher than last year and the impact of trade wars on farmers’ marketing capability, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., said USDA’s proposed budget cuts do not make sense.
“Producers in Minnesota and across the country have taken hit after hit, and many of them are in danger of losing their operations altogether,” she said. “So why the president would ask Congress to make cuts to USDA programs that bolster the economy and jobs across rural America — things like renewable energy, research, crop insurance and conservation programs — is beyond me. With Minnesota farmers already struggling under the weight of low prices and weather disruptions, we need to support these vital USDA investments.”
Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation president, said that the proposed USDA budget is the first step in the processing of establishing the agency’s final budget.
“It’s the first indication of what the administration is thinking,” he said. “It’s up Congress to decide [on the final budget.]”
Paap said MFBF will continue to work with lawmakers in the House and Senate and on the various ag committees to ensure voices of farmers and rural community members are heard.
“As a farmer, you’re all about efficiencies,” he said when asked about proposed cuts in specific USDA programs. “But we’re in the middle of a serious financial and emotional crisis in agriculture. Now is not the time to cause disruptions in programs. It’s not just farmers who are impacted. It’s rural America that is impacted.”
The proposed USDA budget includes the following:
Food safety inspection. $1.1 billion to support 8,700 Food Safety Inspection Service personnel who ensure the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products at 6,400 processing, slaughter and import establishments in the U.S.
Nutrition programs. $68.3 billion for SNAP, $25 billion for Child Nutrition Programs and $5.5 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Hemp production. Full funding for the Hemp Production Program.
Rural infrastructure. $5.5 billion in loans for rural electric improvements; $1.3 billion in direct loans and $614 million in grants to improve and expand the water and waste disposal facilities in rural America.
Commodity payments. $4.6 billion for commodity program payments to maintain an effective farm safety net.
Federal crop insurance. $8.8 billion for the federal crop insurance program.
Conservation programs. $2.3 billion for the Conservation Reserve Program; $1.8 billion is included for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; $450 million for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
Ag research. $1.4 billion for Agricultural Research Service projects and $1.6 billion in discretionary funding to support extramural agricultural research, education, and extension activities of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, including $600 million for competitive grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
Ag defense. $1.036 billion in discretionary funding to protect agriculture from pests and diseases; $81 million for the continued establishment of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Funding is also requested to transition highly pathogenic animal disease work from the obsolete facilities at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to NBAF.