Less than three months after signing the 2018 farm bill, President Donald Trump proposed a fiscal 2020 budget that would reopen the law to slash crop insurance and tighten commodity program eligibility limits while making deep cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The Trump budget would go beyond previous proposals to toughen SNAP work rules by proposing to require nearly all able-bodied adults up to age 65 to work or be in an approved training program.
SNAP work requirements are currently limited to able-bodied adults who don’t have dependents at home and are under 50 years of age, and the administration released a proposal earlier to make it harder for states to get waivers from those rules. The FY19 budget proposal sought to increase the top age to 62.
For the second year in a row, Trump's budget proposes to slash USDA’s Economic Research Service, but this time includes $15 million to pay for moving most of the agency’s staff out of the national capital region, a goal Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced after the FY19 budget was released. The ERS budget would be cut $87 million this year to $61 million, including the relocation allowance.
The budget asks Congress for an additional $9.5 million to relocate the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The overall cuts to USDA spending would help offset a 5 percent increase in defense spending that the president wants, plus assist in his plan to balance the federal budget in 15 years. The budget also calls for making permanent the individual tax cuts enacted by Congress in 2017.
The budget has no chance of passing Congress, and in fact Perdue complained to reporters recently that the White House continued proposing cuts that were non-starters with lawmakers. He said that limited the administrations negotiating leverage with Congress
The budget would slash SNAP, currently estimated to cost $64 billion in 2020, by $17.4 billion in fiscal 2020 and nearly $220 billion over 10 years. The budget includes the administration’s widely panned “Harvest Box” proposal to convert a portion of SNAP benefits from cash to commodities.
Other mandatory spending programs, including crop insurance, would be reduced by $1.9 billion in FY20 and $61.3 billion over 10 years. Spending levels for mandatory programs are driven by requirements in the farm bill and other authorizing laws.
Additional USDA programs, for which spending levels are determined by annual appropriations bill, would be cut by 15 percent in FY20 to $20.8 billion.
Perdue issued a statement Monday promising USDA would “actively do its part to reduce federal spending.
“We are stewards of other people’s money and must be diligent in spending it more carefully than we would our own when it comes to delivering our programs,” he said. “At the same time, we will maintain a safety net for farmers, ranchers, foresters, producers, and people who need assistance in feeding their families.”
But crop insurance industry organizations issued a joint statement expressing disappointment that the White House was rehashing proposals to cut the program.
“This is a shortsighted proposal that, if adopted, would undermine a critical safety net for farmers when they need it most during this time of increasing economic difficulties and challenges in rural America,” the organizations said.
Crop insurance would be cut by $26 billion over 10 years, primarily by eliminating the Harvest Price Option, which would save an estimated $22 billion. Another $3 billion would be saved over 10 years by reducing the cap on insurance company underwriting gains to 12 percent of the return on retained premium. A proposed new income eligibility limit of $500,000 a year for producers would trim an additional $641 million.
The current means test for commodity programs, including Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage, would be lowered from $900,000 to $500,000 the same amount proposed for the crop insurance, to save $1.3 billion over 10 years under the budget.
House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., called the budget “a road map for how to make things worse for farmers, ranchers and those who live in rural communities.”
“This proposal tells us one of two things: either the White House doesn’t understand why these programs are important, or they don’t care. What’s more, all of these shortsighted cuts are second and third attempts to revisit policy proposals that were rejected in the farm bill negotiations,” he said.
The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, said, “Just months after the President signed the historic bipartisan farm bill into law, his budget proposal rolls back much of this critical support for agriculture and rural America. The steep cuts to the USDA would jeopardize the Department’s ability to implement the Farm Bill at a time when farmers are struggling with economic instability and trade uncertainty.
The administration's proposed EPA budget looks like another example of administrative priorities that will have a hard time on Capitol Hill. As an example, in its $6.1 billion proposal for the agency — a 31 percent cut from the FY 2019 — the administration tries again to zero out nonpoint source grants, which total about $170 million in the current fiscal year.
EPA also is asking for a $410 million cut in its $448 million geographic programs, which fund restoration of water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and Puget Sound. The Chesapeake would get $7.3 million (down from $73 million) and the Great Lakes would get $30 million (down from $300 million), but the rest of the programs, which target Lake Champlain, San Francisco Bay and Long Island Sound, among other areas, would get nothing. Congress, as it did this year, will almost certainly continue to fund those programs.
The budget also would eliminate water quality research and support grants, which total $16.8 million for the current fiscal year. "States have the ability to develop technical assistance plans for their water systems using Public Water System Supervision funds and set-asides from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund," EPA said in its "Budget in Brief" document.
In other cuts, EPA would reduce grant funding available for states to develop their own wetland programs from $14.6 million to $9.7 million. Similarly, state grants to implement their pesticide programs would fall from $12.7 million to $8.5 million, and grants for pesticide enforcement would fall from $18 million to $10.5 million.
EPA is unlikely to stem criticism of its enforcement efforts by proposing a $23.8 million cut in its civil enforcement budget, from $174.3 million to $150.5 million.
"In FY 2020, EPA will refocus efforts toward areas with significant noncompliance issues and where enforcement can address the most substantial impacts to human health and the environment," the agency's budget document said.
Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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