This growing season, farmers have a new worry in addition to dicey weather and fluctuating market prices—budget cuts.
Released this spring, the Trump administration’s contentious 2018 budget proposal calls for deep cuts to agricultural subsidies, crop insurance, food aid for the poor, food-safety initiatives, and other programs that benefit small family farms and rural farm communities.
“Upper Valley farms and nonprofits like ourselves have been the beneficiary of USDA funding to support our local agriculture,” said Beth Roy, Valley Food & Farm Manager and Farm to School Coordinator for Vital Communities. “Cuts in the budget could limit farms’ ability to change and grow with the varied landscape as well as nonprofits’ ability to support local agriculture like through our Upper Valley Farm to School Network.”
The president is required by law to submit a budget proposal to Congress, though only Congress can ultimately draft and enact a federal budget. The proposed budget is now in the hands of lawmakers.
“There’s no guarantee this budget will pass,” said Amanda Charland, the Co-op’s director of Outreach and Member Services. “Even so, billions in farm subsidies are at stake, enough that even a revised budget could hurt farmers and the communities that depend on them.”
The budget includes billions of dollars in cuts to food-safety programs, pesticide reviews, international food aid, rural-development programs, conservation efforts, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a program that helps the poor buy food.
Some of the largest cuts affect crop insurance. The budget calls for a limit on crop insurance premium subsidies, which could prevent some farmers from insuring all their crops.
Crop insurance goes back to the late 19th century and is a cornerstone of U.S. farm policy, protecting farmers against loss of crops due to natural disasters or a loss of revenue due to disruptions in market prices.
Federal crop insurance is “one of the nation’s most important farm safety-net programs,” Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau, wrote in a statement. “Clearly, this budget fails agriculture and rural America.”
Whether the budget proposal serves as any sort of roadmap for Congress remains to be seen.
“The proposed changes in SNAP benefits and the School Nutrient Program has us concerned,” Roy said. “We are fortunate in the Upper Valley that many schools have outstanding meal programs that follow federal guidelines and teach students the values of local whole foods. These meals are accessed by our most vulnerable individuals that deserve meals we would all want to sit down to.”
Above: Farmer and Co-op employee Dave Phillips. Proposed federal budget cuts would slash funding to programs that benefit farms and rural farm communities.