Jeanette Strong: Supporting our nation’s farmers
September 5, 2017
"Growing our farm sector and supporting our nation's farmers are absolutely critical steps to making America great again," Donald Trump, Farm Bureau News on Oct. 14, 2016.
Great words. Great plan. So what was President Donald Trump's follow-through?
The federal fiscal year begins on Oct. 1; budgets are approved before then. Trump submitted his budget to the Republican Congress in May. As part of his budget, he proposed cutting $4.7 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
These cuts would eliminate many essential programs, including the USDA Rural Development, a program which includes the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, Rural Housing Service, and Rural Utilities Service. These programs have helped farmers, ranchers, and rural communities to prosper.
In a May 24, 2017, LVN article, the former director of the USDA Rural Development said, "We would not have clean water running efficiently in upgraded systems throughout our state, modernized small town hospitals, hundreds of jobs from Elko to TRIC to Pahrump, or significant improvements in rural broadband access without the work of USDA Rural Development and its mighty band of just 27 staff." Trump's budget wants to eliminate these programs that help small communities continue progressing economically.
Other help that would be eliminated are the loans, grants, and technological assistance directed toward towns with fewer than 20,000 residents, such as Fallon. "Without these programs, it would be highly unlikely that rural and lower-income communities could build or modify their community center, develop trails, build parks, make costly infrastructure improvements in their downtown areas, or upgrade their aged municipal water or wastewater system," the LVN published on July 28.
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Right here in Fallon, the William N. Pennington Life Center (Senior Center) received a $48,200 Community Facilities grant from the USDA Rural Development to purchase commercial kitchen equipment.
This equipment is used to prepare food for the Meals on Wheels program and for the seniors who have lunch at the Center every day. This is just one example of how we in Churchill County have benefitted from this agency, an agency Trump wants to eliminate.
In a June 16 LVN article, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation described more programs that Trump wants to cut. "The proposed budget 'would gut federal crop insurance… It would drastically reshape important voluntary conservation programs and negatively impact consumer confidence in critical meat and poultry inspection.' The proposal would also threaten the viability of plant and animal security programs at the nations' borders, undermine grain quality and market information systems, and stunt rural America's economic growth by eliminating important utility programs and other rural development programs."
Notice the part about threatening the "plant and animal security programs at the nations' borders"?
Farmers, ranchers and environmentalists know the extreme economic and environmental damage that foreign species of plants and animals can cause.
Trump gets livid about undocumented workers, over a million of whom harvest our crops, but undocumented harmful plant and animal species that can destroy crops? No problem.
Trump also abolished the White House Rural Council on April 25. This Council was established on June 14, 2012, in order to identify rural economic opportunities related to energy and recreation and help provide capital for these economic ventures.
Actual businesses are developed with private-public partnerships, which the Council helps facilitate. By bringing this expertise to rural areas, everyone benefits economically, including in areas such as education and housing.
Trump apparently sees no benefit in such a program, even though many communities have flourished with this help.
In the 2016 presidential election, Nevada went for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, 47.89 percent to 45.53 percent, but the rural counties overwhelmingly voted for Republican candidate Donald Trump.
In an Oct. 20, 2016, article in Capitol Chat, Dee Davis of the Kentucky-based Center for Rural Strategies said, "The irony of this election is Clinton, who is not going to do well in rural areas, is working overtime to create policy and plans to reinvigorate small towns. On the other side, Trump, who is going to do very well in rural America is embracing policies that have been at the center of eliminating rural jobs."
Trump's budget includes the kind of dangerous, short-sighted budget cuts made by someone who has no idea what real people, including farmers and ranchers, need. The 2012 Census of Agriculture reported that there are 672 farms/ranches in Churchill County.
Trump's damaging budget is being considered by Congress. Fortunately, it looks as if it won't pass. The farmers/ranchers here and everywhere had better hope it doesn't, or they will be in a world of hurt.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.