President’s Budget Shortchanges Food and Farm Programs
On Monday, President Donald Trump released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2021. As in years past, the proposal would make steep cuts to farm, food, and rural development programs while providing additional funding for defense initiatives. Though Congress is unlikely to take all of the President’s recommendations into account, the budget is a good indication of the administration’s priorities for the coming year.
Under Trump’s proposal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would receive 8 percent less in discretionary funding in 2021 than 2020 and $57.7 billion less in mandatory funding by 2030. Some programs would be hit harder than others; it would cut spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – also known as food stamps – by $182 billion over the next ten years. This would theoretically be achieved by both switching the flexible EBT card to a prepackaged “Harvest Box” as well as by tightening existing work requirements further.
The proposal would also cut crop insurance and commodity program spending by 31 percent. Most of this would be achieved by limiting the maximum adjusted gross annual income eligibility threshold for crop insurance subsidies and commodity programs to $500,000 from $900,000. Though National Farmers Union (NFU) supports income limitations on farm programs to ensure that they help the farmers in greatest need, the organization was frustrated that these limitations did not apply to the recent Market Facilitation Program (MFP). In fact, the USDA doubled income limitations for MFP participants, enabling the largest and wealthiest farmers to claim a significant portion of the available assistance.
Other USDA agencies and programs would experience significant cuts as well. It would cut $9.15 billion from farm conservation programs over the next decade, while entirely eliminating the popular Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). At the same time, the budget would reduce spending on agricultural research, including a 35 percent reduction for the Economic Research Service (ERS) and a 12 percent reduction for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Rural Business and Cooperative Programs, which support economic opportunity in rural America, would lose a whopping 97 percent of its funding.
Though the budget proposal would direct additional resources towards infrastructure, on the whole, it disregards the challenging economic circumstances in farming communities. “Farm debt and farm bankruptcies have skyrocketed, crop prices remain low, climate change is disrupting food production, and rural economies continue to lag behind their urban counterparts,” said NFU President Roger Johnson in a statement. “There are a number of programs and agencies that can help farmers and rural residents with these 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.”
Read more in the NFU release.