Major changes came to the USDA with the shift in administration. After the news of organizational restructuring last week, the proposed budget cuts that limit the department’s spending and reach has shocked many Americans, especially those who will be primarily affected in the rural areas.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue did not appear happy at all with the announcement of the details of the department’s 2018 budget. Despite the new caps, the secretary is determined to still do the best they can to achieve the objectives of the department.
A $4 billion cut
The 20 percent cut in the department’s spending was known since two months ago but it was only in the announcement last week that it became clear which part of the department’s services will be affected by the cut.
These include agricultural research, programs that positively impact many small rural communities, as well as food aid for the poor. It also proposes new restrictions on government-subsidized crop insurance which would limit the ability of large-scale farmers to cut government subsidies by more than $2.5 billion annually. These eyebrow-raising deficit is outlined in the new budget blueprint published by the Office of Management and Budget on March 16, ironically titled “America First.”
But it does not stop there. SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by the USDA that helps the poor buy food is also limited under the new spending cut. When passed, the new budget would effectively sever $4.6 billion of SNAP allocations and would increase to more than $20 billion year after year by 2022.
Research would also be one area that will be most affected. The new cut will close research in 17 centers and take 26 percent or $360 million off research funding.
And when it comes to international food aid, the Food For Peace is completely eliminated in the blueprint.
The proposal earned a dominance of negative reactions from different sectors, especially those who are to be directly impacted by the changes. Is the new budget anti-poor, given how significant the cuts were on projects that are directly-beneficial to many economically-challenged Americans in rural-designated areas? Isn’t this counterproductive to the objectives made just in the previous weeks that presumably focused on strengthening the agricultural sector domestically and internationally?
Currently, the proposal is to be passed to Congress where it will be evaluated. The fate of rural America in the near future is dependent on whether our leaders think the American people deserve such a maiming.