The Trump administration’s proposed 21 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Agriculture could cause significant harm to Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry and rural communities, according to state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
The cuts, he said, could affect everything from the safety of community water systems and the prospects for economic growth in rural communities to funding for important agricultural research projects.
“While there is still a great deal of detail that is unknown, what has been reported thus far is alarming,” said Secretary Redding. “The programs targeted for cuts or elimination in the President’s budget proposal may be considered ‘discretionary’ in Washington parlance, but the work those programs support on the ground in communities across Pennsylvania and the country are vitally important. This is not the way to put ‘America first.’ If anything, it puts our rural communities and some of our most vulnerable neighbors at a tremendous disadvantage and represents a threat to their livelihood.”
According to a blueprint document from the federal Office of Management and Budget, USDA is targeted for $4.7 billion in cuts under President Trump’s 2018 funding proposal.
The cuts would impact USDA Rural Development; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children; the National Forest System; and the Agricultural Research Service, among other programs and agencies.
For example, the president’s proposal seeks almost $500 million in cuts from the Water and Wastewater loan and grant program. The program is the federal government’s only dedicated resource for financing water and sewer programs in communities of fewer than 10,000 people.
In 2016, the program supported 16 projects across Pennsylvania totaling nearly $55 million.
“At a time when we’re trying to bring new focus to restoring water quality in Pennsylvania, the cuts to the water and sewer grant and loan program undermines the work we’ve done,” said Redding. “For small and poor communities, this program has been invaluable to rebuilding the water infrastructure that families and businesses depend on. Many of our rural communities could not afford clean water without this program.”
The program is administered by USDA Rural Development. The agency’s Rural Business and Cooperative Service, which supported 73 projects in Pennsylvania last year to the tune of $30 million, would be cut by $95 million under the president’s budget.
Funding for WIC, which helps to provide nutrition and health services to low-income women, expecting mothers, and children, is facing a $200 million cut – roughly equal to what Pennsylvania received through the program in 2016.
Based on USDA figures from 2014, there are more than 275,000 infants and children, alone, in Pennsylvania who are eligible for the program
“USDA has been a vital partner of the commonwealth, but this budget threatens key mission areas of the department, and that could have harmful consequences to us here in Pennsylvania and to our citizens,” said Redding. “We intend to work with our congressional delegation and others to underscore the importance of these investments in our state so that we can continue to grow our agricultural economy and our rural communities.”