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USDA’s Budget Plan Cuts 5,263 Jobs

Perdue says big cuts loom at USDA.

WASHINGTON - Hours after the White House proposed a 36% cut in crop insurance and downsizing of conservation programs, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “There’s no sugarcoating” that USDA funding would be cut significantly if Congress agrees with the administration.

Crop insurance would see the largest cuts among agricultural programs – $16.2 billion over 10 years by limiting USDA’s share of crop insurance premiums to $40,000 a year per person and $11.9 billion through elimination of premium subsidies for revenue policies with the harvest price option. The budget proposal for the fiscal year opening on October 1 also would deny premium subsidies to people with more than $500,000 a year in adjusted gross income.

The proposed USDA budget also would bar any general sign-up in CRP through 2020 and target enrollment on grasslands and continuous practices, bar new enrollments in the Conservation Stewardship Program, and eliminate the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, created in the 2014 farm bill. Those changes would cut spending by $6 billion on land stewardship.

Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall said the White House plan, which also eliminates an array of rural development programs, “fails agriculture and rural America.” NFU president Roger Johnson called the package “an assault” on the farm safety net. The Republican chairmen of the Senate and House Agriculture committees said, “We will fight to ensure that farmers have a strong safety net” in the budget and in the 2018 farm bill. The farm groups and their allies in Congress all pointed to the slump in commodity prices and farm income since 2013.

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, a Senate Agriculture Committee member, reminded reporters that Congress controls the purse strings. “The president proposes,” he said, “and Congress disposes.” Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, the senior Democrat on Senate Ag, said, “Given the fragile state of the rural and farm economy, I will oppose these cuts and work on a bipartisan basis to pass a farm bill that strengthens support for agriculture and our rural communities.”
 
USDA budget officer Mike Young said 5,263 jobs, including 925 in the Farm Service Agency, would be eliminated under the administration plan. The reduction would equal 5.5% of USDA’s workforce. In a video message to USDA employees, Perdue said USDA would accommodate job cuts through attrition, early retirements, “or other least-disruptive means.”

“There’s no sugarcoating what we will face,” Perdue said in the video message in discussing the budget proposal. “USDA will likely see a significant reduction in funding by the time this process is complete.”

“This should be no surprise to anyone as the president promised before his election that he would realign government spending, attempt to eliminate duplication or redundancy, and see that all government agencies are efficiently delivering service to our customers, the taxpayers of America,” said Perdue, who added, “We are going to get the job done, even if it means doing more with less.”

Here’s what Ag Secretary Perdue had to say about the cuts in a message sent to USDA employees this morning:

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