SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) – President Trump’s proposed budget cuts could affect us here at home with major proposed budget cuts to the agricultural industry that would affect producers in our area.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been vocal about the proposed budget since its release last week. Rep. Kristi Noem R-S.D. even told KSFY News in a statement she said,
“I don’t agree with every choice made in this proposal, especially when it comes to cutting ag programs, which were heavily reformed and optimized for efficiency during the 2014 Farm Bill process. As Congress works on its own budget, I will be fighting to maintain critical South Dakota priorities while also putting America on track to balance the budget.”
Over the next 10 years, America’s producers could be looking at $47 billion dollars — or 21 percent of the budget — worth of cuts to vital ag programs. Farmers in our area said it’s a cost the struggling ag economy just can’t afford.
“In this time of down prices in agriculture we can’t afford to have anything – matter of fact – we should be looking bring more money into the economy for agriculture not taking it out,” said Doug Sombke, president of the South Dakota Farmer’s Union.
“In a year like this year there isn’t much bottom line left,” said Mark Jensen, owner of Jensen’s Sweet Corn & Produce. “I mean, the way prices are and the way expenses are, so if you take a considerable loss or a reduction in your income you can be very easily forced out of business.”
The proposal would gut nearly $5 billion from the USDA’s discretionary spending from 2017 to 2018, something Sec. of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, shouldn’t be a surprise, as cutting the budget deficit was a campaign promise President Trump made. Perdue said farmers will likely have to do more with less, if Congress puts their stamp of approval on the cuts.
“There’s no sugarcoating what we will face,” Perdue said in a video statement. “USDA will likely see a significant reduction in funding by the time this process is complete.”
The reductions come in the form of a cap on crop insurance subsidies, conservation reserve programs (CRP), research and more. The budget would all but eliminate the USDA’s Farm Safety program, and would likely phase out many Natural Resources Conservation Service programs like watershed protection.
“It’s important to keep that insurance subside for agriculture,” Jensen said.”We can always get food from foreign countries — why not produce it and buy it right at home? Just like at the farmers market. The reason a lot of people come here is they want it fresh, they want it local, they like to know where it comes from.”
“The CRP — if we cut that — we wouldn’t be allowed to increase the acres as Sen. Thune has implemented that he would like to do,” Sombke said. “It would also eliminate the possibilities of maintaining the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives) program, the CSP (Conservation Stewardship) program, and other conservation measures as well.”
The proposal also cuts SNAP benefits, which Sombke said could create a problem when South Dakota tries to negotiate with other states on the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill.
Local producers explained, the cuts could have an effect on more than just farmers.
“I think in order for our country to keep a policy that provides food for a reasonable price we have to have some kind of guarantee,” said Jensen. “Not just for the producer, but also for the consumer, because if it’s all produced by big, big farms they can take over and you will really pay a lot more.”
“It affects all the farmers in the nation, not just farmers, but young people, elderly, kids — the SNAP program being cut would affect all of them,” Sombke said.
And producers are hoping lawmakers in Washington will hear their concerns from The Heartland.
“A lot of the people in Washington were born millionaires,” said Jensen. “How in the world do you think they can have the same philosophy as the normal people who are growing up in the ag economy here? It’s hard work and there’s a lot of risk involved. We like to minimize our risk whenever possible so don’t take the subsidies away and it will benefit everybody — the producer and the consumer.”