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Ag sector unimpressed with president’s proposed budget

By Staff | Mar 25, 2019




Grain producers are already facing financial concerns stemming from the trade war tariffs and an unfriendly market, but President Donald Trump’s proposed $4.7 trillion Fiscal Year 2020 budget released last week could hurt farmers even more.

The proposed budget would slash U.S. Department of Agriculture funding by 15 percent, which includes cutting the amount of subsidies farmers receive to help pay for crop insurance by 31 percent, meaning they would have to pay for 52 percent of their crop insurance instead of 38 percent. A 12 percent cap would be established on insurance company underwriting gains.

Also impacted would be the SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and conservation efforts. The president’s budget proposes boosting SNAP work guidelines to require almost all able-bodied adults up to the retirement age of 65 to work or participate in an approved training program.

The tool used to test for commodity programs also would be reduced from $900,000 to $500,000 adjusted growth income. These same agriculture areas were on the chopping block during the latest farm bill’s formation, but they were rejected during its creation and kept alive.

Other USDA programs at risk of being eliminated through Trump’s budget proposal include the McGovern-Dole International Food and Education Program, Food for Progress and Rural Business-Cooperative Services programs. The Food Safety Inspection Service would employ user fees, but because Congress would have to approve legislation thereafter to implement them, no one expects it to happen.

American Soybean Association president and grower Davie Stephens said the cuts contained within the proposed budget are a “180 from the support we saw a few short months ago.”

“I and other farmers are confused as to why his (Trump’s) budget proposal would include wholesale changes and spending cuts in farm bill programs,” he stated.

One notable concern to the ASA is that Trump’s budget proposal calls for reductions to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers programs that buoy inland waterways infrastructure. This would affect the “global competitiveness” of soybeans, corn and other commodities.

“Given the significant disruptions that we are experiencing in trade markets for soybeans, it is more important than ever to invest in infrastructure that will improve our future global competitiveness,” he stated.

Other areas that could see spending cut in Trump’s proposal include Medicaid, environment protection, education, transportation and other non-defense agencies and departments.

Many officials believe Trump’s budget proposal will not make it very far, as it contains several items that have hit a brick wall before.

Monte Shaw, director of the Renewable Fuels Association, said that the proposal is “DOA.”

Gene Paul, a retired farmer with the National Farmers Organization, said he and several others involved in agriculture are “very concerned about this budget.”

“We realize that Congress is not going to pick this budget and run with it,” Paul said. “But it shows the thinking of the administration and it concerns us. In December, Congress passed a budget-neutral farm bill and now the administration is asking Congress to take another cut with crop insurance, which comes at a time when farmers need crop insurance worse than ever. Reducing subsidies is just not good thinking as far as we’re concerned, either.”

Paul described the proposed White House budget as being a “not farmer-friendly administration.”

“I really don’t know what he’s thinking and where it’ll go,” Paul said. “The farm bill is pretty well set for the coming years and I honestly don’t know where the administration will go with this. It gives you some idea what the thinking is in D.C. Apparently the people who put this together don’t have an idea of what those crops are going to mean as far as farming is concerned.”

“They’re not in touch with what’s going on out there.”

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