Top officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture didn't even try to act enthusiastic as they unveiled details of their agency's proposed 2018 budget, which includes drastic cuts in spending. "We're going to do the best we can," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. "It's my job to implement that plan."
The broad outlines of this budget, with its 20 percent cut in the USDA's discretionary spending, had been released two months ago. This week, it became clear exactly what the Trump administration wants to cut: agricultural research, food aid for the poor, and programs that benefit small rural communities.
The budget also includes a surprise that's particularly unwelcome to big Midwestern farmers. It proposes new restrictions on government-subsidized crop insurance, a program that is particular favorite of grain farmers. The changes, which would require congressional approval, would limit the ability of large farmers to take advantage of those programs and cut government subsidies by more than $2.5 billion each year.
In a statement, the American Farm Bureau Federation said that "this budget fails agriculture and rural America." Similar criticism came from the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association.
The impact of those cuts, however, is dwarfed by proposed restrictions on the SNAP program, which helps the poor buy food. Those changes would cut SNAP spending by $4.6 billion in 2018, increasing to more than $20 billion annually by 2022.