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Just when I was starting to believe Washington lawmakers only follow their political parties' whims instead of standing up for agriculture and rural residents, I got a pleasant surprise.
U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, last week introduced a proposed budget, which calls for $4.7 billion in cuts to the USDA. With an urban president and for now a lack of guidance from an agriculture secretary, the budget should be cause for concerns.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, as expected, has those exact concerns.
“I think it demonstrates a lack of understanding of farm programs and their impact on rural America,” Peterson wrote in his weekly newsletter. “I urge the administration to spend more time in rural America to gain an understanding of how things work and I hope that once an agriculture secretary is in place that he will be able to explain the value of these programs and services.
Luckily, similar concerns cross the aisle.
Rep. K. Michael (Mike) Conaway, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, appears to get that and wants to make sure that those most directly affected by the USDA aren’t harmed as a result of budget cuts.
"On the USDA budget, I am concerned that the cuts, while relatively small in the context of the total federal budget, could hamper some vital work of the department,” Conaway said in a statement. “I think it is also important to point out that the agriculture committees put together a farm bill in 2014 that saved more than $100 billion according to latest estimates. That's more than four times the savings we had pledged. Agriculture has done more than its fair share.
“I think it is very important to remember that net farm income is down 50 percent from where it stood just four years ago. America's farmers and ranchers are struggling, and we need to be extremely careful not to exacerbate these conditions. In fact, we need to do all we can to be there to help our farmers and ranchers. The work they do is critical. A well fed world is a safer world. “
Conaway did acknowledge that the House should pay close attention to Trump’s recommendations on the overall budget, but added that House members also have ideas on what the budget should look like, and those ideas also need to be considered.
“The bottom line is this is the start of a longer, larger process. It is a proposal, not THE budget,” he said.
Let’s hope that Conaway, Peterson and other aggies in Washington keep their minds on the people that can be adversely affected and not on partisan politics.