Trump budget 'devastating to farmers'

Sen. Durbin, IFB President Guebert rip cuts to Farm Bill, USDA

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue talk at a 2017 event in Rochester. (USDA/Lance Cheung)

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue talk at a 2017 event in Rochester. (USDA/Lance Cheung)

By Ted Cox

The state’s senior U.S. senator and the head of the Illinois Farm Bureau ripped proposed cuts to agriculture in President Trump’s budget released this week.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. said Trump’s proposal to slash $3.6 billion from the budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture — a 15 percent cut — would be “devastating to farmers” in a statement released Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin denounced an additional $267 billion in cuts to programs under the Farm Bill — a 31 percent reduction — on top of the USDA cuts, and accused the president on going back on promises he made to farmers when he signed the bill late last year.

“After signing the Farm Bill in December and saying ‘we have to take care of our farmers …and we will,’ President Trump is abandoning them in order to fulfill his campaign promise of building a big and beautiful wall,” Durbin said Wednesday. “With this budget request, President Trump is telling rural towns across Illinois that his wall is more important than their access to high-speed internet, crop insurance, or clean drinking water.”

Durbin made reference to how Trump’s proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year, formally released Monday, allotted $8.6 billion to construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico, while making those drastic cuts to agriculture.

According to Durbin, the Trump budget “cuts nearly $26 billion from crop insurance, kills jobs by eliminating support for rural small businesses, neglects crumbling rural water infrastructure, and eliminates job-creating renewable-energy projects.” His office added that “more than 310 million farm acres protected by crop insurance would be at risk and 70 million farm acres enrolled in conservation would be lost through eliminated conservation stewardship programs thanks to President Trump’s proposed budget.”

“Farmers have faced an enormous amount of uncertainty over the past year and this does not help family farms make plans for the future,” Guebert added.

Guebert took issue with attacks on crop insurance, which the Farm Bureau specifically lobbied to protect in the Farm Bill. According to Guebert, Trump is seeking to place a limit on the adjusted gross income for crop insurance at $500,000, and is seeking to reduce subsidies to crop-insurance companies with a 12 percent cap for underwriting gains.

Guebert charged the Trump budget would eliminate the Rural Economic Development Program, providing funds for rural utility projects, and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

The Trump budget was pronounced “dead on arrival” by congressional leaders, but it’s considered a political statement showing his commitment to the issues he stands for — like the wall and a hike in military spending — while also representing a betrayal to farmers. The Illinois congressional delegation figures to work to protect farm programs, but Farm Bureau legislative liaison Adam Nielsen told it was just an additional hassle, saying, “It keeps these discussions going and requires us to needlessly defend programs again.”