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USDA Chief, Trump Budget Strike Sour Notes for Rural Communities

Rural Minnesota farmers worry they'll suffer under a plan by the nation's new Secretary of Agriculture and President Trump's proposed budget. (usda.gov)
Rural Minnesota farmers worry they'll suffer under a plan by the nation's new Secretary of Agriculture and President Trump's proposed budget. (usda.gov)
May 24, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Advocates for rural America are scrutinizing a plan by new U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and say it puts agribusiness ahead of small farmers and rural communities.

Just two weeks into the job, Perdue announced a major reorganization to expand the role of trade for global agribusiness companies, and eliminate the position of Undersecretary of Rural Development.

Ben Lilliston, director of climate strategies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said Congress should scrutinize the plan carefully to ensure that the needs of family farmers and rural communities are being met.

"If you take a look at the Trump budget," Lilliston said, "this is a pattern that's starting to develop in the Trump administration in terms of diminishing rural interests."

Perdue already is getting some pushback from members of Congress about his plan, which he said puts an emphasis on the importance of international trade.

Lilliston warned it could slow economic development in rural parts of America, and added that President Trump's budget proposal would cut farming-conservation programs and funding for food assistance, both of which would hit rural areas especially hard.

"Unfortunately, this Trump administration budget reflects that they don't care much about rural communities and farmers, and they're diminishing resources and it's troubling," he said. "It should be troubling to a lot of people who live in rural communities, and farmers, because I don't think this is what they voted for."

Lillison said programs that might be on the chopping block include the Rural Business and Cooperative Service, along with rural water and wastewater programs. It also would eliminate economic-development commissions in low-income rural areas, low-income weatherization assistance and subsidies to improve rural airports.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN