President Donald Trump’s election-year budget proposes $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, including $25 billion earmarked for rural America, while reprising the administration's failed efforts to slash farm programs and nutrition assistance.
The fiscal 2021 budget also repeats past proposals to deeply cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Under the “Revitalizing Rural America” infrastructure initiative, funding for broadband, transportation and other projects would be distributed via formula to states. Bonus grants would be “provided based on the boldness of locally-developed investment and performance plans,” according to the White House.
The largest portion of the total 10-year infrastructure plan, $810 billion, would be devoted to surface transportation.
Congress is not expected to consider a major long-term infrastructure package this year, although small individual bills could pass, including water projects authorization legislation.
A president's annual budget lays out the administration's spending priorities both for program where entitlement programs such as commodity programs, food stamps, Medicare and Social Security, where spending levels are determined by eligibility, and for "discretionary" programs that are subject to annual appropriations by Congress.
Congress has shown no interest in the sweeping cuts in spending proposed by Trump. But the FY21 budget, released Monday, calls for $43 billion in cuts to farm programs over the next 10 years, including proposals rejected repeatedly by Congress to slash crop insurance subsidies.
“Farm subsidies should be targeted to the farmers who have fewer options to manage risk through the private sector,” the budget says.
The White House wants to save $21 billion by reducing the average premium subsidy for crop insurance from 62% to 48%. Capping crop insurance companies' underwriting gains at 12% would save $2.8 billion.
The major trade groups representing the crop insurance industry quickly issued a joint statement criticizing the proposal.
“It’s inexplicable as to why OMB would target such a critical risk-management tool for budget cuts. The proposed cuts will make crop insurance unaffordable and unavailable for farmers, seriously undermining the farm safety net,” said the statement issued by the American Association of Crop Insurers, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, Crop Insurance Professionals Association, Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, and National Crop Insurance Services.
The income eligibility limit for commodity programs would be lowered from the current $900,000 in annual adjusted gross income to $500,000.
Conservation assistance, including the Conservation Stewardship Program, would be cut by $9.1 billion. A major form of disaster assistance for livestock producers, which compensates them for lost forage, would be eliminated to save $5 billion.
Programs at USDA that are subject to annual appropriations, including international food aid, agricultural research and rural development assistance, would be cut by 8% in FY21 to $21.8 billion.
However, the research budget includes a targeted increase to support work on artificial intelligence, a priority for the administration.
The budget requests $600 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which would be $175 million more than FY20. Some $100 million in AFRI funding would be targeted toward basic and applied research in artificial intelligence.
The budget also earmarks $140 million for sustainable agriculture research, including climate adaptation and mitigation, up from the $98.9 million being spent in FY20.
The overall reduction in USDA spending for FY21 relies on some familiar proposals, including the elimination of the McGovern-Dole international school feeding program.
Other cuts would fall hard on nutrition assistance programs.
To save $5.1 billion, the budget would block USDA from using its Section 32 authority to tap customs receipts to purchase surplus commodities for feeding programs. The purchases would be funded out of the general treasury instead.
The budget calls for slashing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $181 billion over 10 years. The cuts include the department’s previous proposals to convert a portion of SNAP assistance to “Harvest Boxes,” food products that would be delivered to recipients in lieu of cash aid. The budget also repeats a previous proposal to increase the SNAP working requirement from age 50 to 65.
EPA's proposed budget contains a new initiative to address harmful algal blooms, or HABs, but otherwise is chock-full of reductions. The new $15 million competitive grant program would fund “prevention and response efforts for HABs with significant health or economic risks.” HABs have become more common through the U.S., most notably in western Lake Erie and Florida.
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Otherwise, the pattern for the EPA budgets are holding relatively steady. The Trump administration has tried repeatedly to slash funding for so-called “geographic programs” that target regional ecosystems, and the same is true this year.
For FY 2021, the cuts are less severe, but only because EPA’s budget would, unlike last year’s budget proposal, maintain $320 million for Great Lakes Restoration. Widespread criticism of last year’s proposed $270 million decrease led EPA to reverse course and say it backed increased funding.
Other geographic programs, however, addressing the environmental health of Puget Sound, Long Island Sound, San Francisco Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain, would be zeroed out. The Chesapeake Bay program would receive $7.3 million, a $77.7 million cut from the current year.
It’s virtually certain Congress will find all the geographic programs, as it did in the fiscal 2020 budget.
The administration also proposed, as it did last year, to not fund about $170 million in nonpoint source grants to states. EPA said it “will continue to coordinate with [USDA] to target funding, where appropriate, to address nonpoint sources.”
Grants for state wetland program development would drop from about $14 million in FY 2020 to $9.7 million in FY 2021. State pesticide program and enforcement grants would go from about $36 million to $19 million.
In the Interior Department budget, the Bureau of Land Management said it would “continue efforts to improve and streamline grazing permit processing” to achieve both efficiency and “land condition objectives.”
“BLM plans to expand the use of Outcome-Based Grazing Authorizations and will continue to invest in vegetation management projects to improve rangeland habitats,” the budget proposal said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species budget would be cut from $266 million to $244 million, with funds for listing species dropping in half, from $20.3 million to about $9.4 million. Funding for Endangered Species Act consultation, such as that for pesticides, would be cut slightly, from $109 million to $107.8 million.
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