OPINION President Donald Trump has released his proposed spending for fiscal year 2021. The $4.8 billion budget would cut both mandatory and discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies while boosting spending on infrastructure and defense initiatives.
The hypocritical proposal overlooks the economic difficulties in farming communities. As both a presidential candidate and now as president, Trump has repeatedly expressed his appreciation for and dedication to American farmers. Yet year after year his budget has failed to address the very real economic challenges facing rural communities. Farm debt and farm bankruptcies have skyrocketed, crop prices remain depressed, climate change is disrupting food production and rural economies continue to lag behind their urban counterparts. There are a number of programs and agencies that can help farmers and rural residents with those difficulties – including the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Agricultural Research Service and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But the Trump administration is looking to cut funding from all of them.
Despite our deep frustration with this budget’s indifference to the plight of rural America, at least one of the proposed changes is warranted. For many decades farm programs have disproportionately benefited the largest and wealthiest farms, something the National Farmers Union has long opposed. Trump’s budget would address that problem by decreasing the adjusted-gross-income eligibility threshold for crop insurance and commodity programs from $900,000 to $500,000. We are pleased that the change would likely direct more support to the farmers who need it most. But the gesture seems hypocritical following the USDA’s recent doubling of payment limitations for trade-assistance payments.
We are similarly ambivalent about the proposed expansion of infrastructure spending. Time and time again, the Trump administration has made big promises to improve national infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, but they have yet to deliver on those promises. We hope this year’s budget indicates that Trump will finally invest in our roads, bridges, rails, locks and dams, water and waste systems, and rural broadband.