Proposed ag budget draws criticism from legislators, farm groups

by Jay Sjerven
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 Trump
President Donald Trump proposed a fiscal year 2018 budget for the US Department of Agriculture at $137 billion. 
 

WASHINGTON – President Donald J. Trump on May 23 proposed a fiscal year 2018 budget for the US Dept. of Agriculture at $137 billion (budget authority), down $12 billion, or 8 percent, from an estimated $149 billion in FY 2017, and outlined budget aims over the next 10 years that would sharply reduce expenditures and even eliminate a number of long-standing programs.

Leaders of the congressional agriculture committees pushed back against several of the more draconian proposals, which were roundly panned by farm and nutrition organizations.

The president’s FY 2018 USDA budget called for funding mandatory programs, those required by laws other than annual appropriations acts, such as the farm bill, at $116 billion, down 6 percent from $123 billion in FY 2017. The USDA requested $73.6 billion for SNAP for FY 2018, down $4.9 billion, or 6 percent, from $78.5 billion in FY 2017.

The budget would reduce spending on discretionary programs to $21 billion in FY 2018, down about $4.8 billion, or 19 percent, from the current year. A large share in the decrease in requested funding for discretionary programs in FY 2018 was tied to eliminating funding for the P.L. 480 Title II, Food for Peace, which is the principal vehicle through which the United States provides emergency and developmental food assistance to developing nations. Congress appropriated $1,713 million for P.L. 480 Title II operations in FY 2017. A scaled back international food assistance funding request was transferred to the International Disaster Account, which is managed by the State Department’s US Agency for International Development.

 

 

Additionally, the president’s budget would eliminate the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program, a school feeding program authorized under the 2002 farm bill for which Congress provided $201 million in funding in FY 2017.

Of particular concern for legislators, farm organizations and nutrition assistance program advocates were the administration’s proposals for legislation that will dramatically affect federal spending over the next 10 years.

It was estimated the president’s budget would cut $231 billion in mandatory farm bill spending over 10 years, including a $193 billion cut in funding for SNAP.

In introducing the USDA’s budget request, Secretary of Agriculture George E. (Sonny) Perdue, said, “President Trump promised he would realign government spending, attempt to eliminate duplication or redundancy, and see that all government agencies are efficiently delivering services to the taxpayers of America.  And that’s exactly what we are going to do at the USDA.

Sonny
Secretary of Agriculture George E. (Sonny) Perdue

“Having been the governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011 — not during the best economic times — we did what it took to get the job done, just like the people involved in every aspect of American agriculture do every single day. While the president’s budget fully funds nutrition programs, wildland fire suppression and food safety, and includes several new initiatives and increases for rural development, whatever form the final budget takes, it is my job as secretary of agriculture to manage and implement that plan, while still fulfilling the core mission of the USDA.”

Michael
Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texa, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture

In a joint statement, Rep. K. Michael Conaway of Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said, “We support the Trump administration’s goal of achieving 3 percent economic growth for our nation. The USDA’s latest estimates find agriculture, food, and related industries contribute $992 billion to our economy. As we debate the budget and the next farm bill, we will fight to ensure farmers have a strong safety net so this key segment of our economy can weather current hard times and continue to provide all Americans with safe, affordable food. Also, as a part of farm bill discussions, we need to take a look at our nutrition assistance programs to ensure that they are helping the most vulnerable in our society.”

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