President Trump’s proposed $4.75 trillion budget doesn’t have places like North Dakota in mind. Desired cuts to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) including changes to the premium subsidy for crop insurance, cuts to the Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Education, and “safety net” cuts should alarm North Dakota residents. Are these priorities what rural America expected when they overwhelmingly elected Trump in 2016?
Let’s start with looking at the USDA budget cut. We must consider the context of the negative impact Trump’s trade war has had on agriculture. In addition to a 14.8% budget cut, Trump wants to reduce the average premium subsidy for crop insurance from 62 percent to 48 percent. Previously, when changes like this were proposed but on a much smaller scale, Republican lawmakers spoke loudly against them. One of those Republicans was North Dakota Senator John Hoeven when President Barack Obama issued his 2017 budget. Below is was Hoeven said at the time. What are the odds Hoeven vocalizes his opposition to these changes now that Trump is President? If anything, Hoeven has proven he lacks consistency in his positions over the years.
The president’s budget once again proposes undermining the number one risk-management tool for our farmers: crop insurance. Crop insurance has already been reduced by more than $12 billion since 2008. His budget would reduce premium support for crop insurance by another $18 billion after our farmers have already helped to reduce the deficit by nearly $24 billion in the most recent farm bill. – Senator John Hoeven (2/9/16)
This week is “National Ag Week.” I wonder if Rep. Kelly Armstrong and “100% of the time” Senator Kevin Cramer will denounce these desired budget cuts to our farmers? Or will they stay silent and hope the whole thing goes unnoticed with boilerplate statements? Maybe they agree with the changes to our farmers?
It isn’t just the USDA. The DOT would see a 21.5% budget cut. Many of the major road projects in North Dakota receive 80% of their funding from the federal government. Is the state in a position to pick up the difference? Governor Burgum thought so in June of 2018 when he said he “welcomed” the federal funding changes President Trump was proposing. He then called for stepper budget cuts to state agencies. He was wrong then and the idea is wrong now.
In addition to the USDA and DOT, the Trump budget would cut $1.9 trillion from “safety net” programs. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid get cuts. Not only do residents rely on these programs, so do our rural hospitals. Is North Dakota willing to invest more in Medicaid to keeps consumers covered, and rural hospitals open?
I can go on providing examples of when Republicans have tried to have it both ways when it comes to rural America. The bottom line is they get voted in overwhelmingly in rural states. What have Democrats done to reverse it? What is their solution for workers who have felt forgotten over the years? How do they prove that their party has positions that support rural economic development? Demonstrate to farmers they won’t push erroneous rules that create barriers to their operations, but instead support them. Remind senior citizens they’ve stood by them and their healthcare since the creation of Social Security and Medicare and they’re now determined to alleviate the cost. Where is the alternative? They need something to try and regain rural America’s trust because President Trump’s budget priorities and those in Congress who enable them are bad for North Dakota.
As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, I understand the importance of providing our farmers, ranchers and rural communities with the support they need to succeed. With the challenges facing rural America – from low commodity prices to natural disasters – strong funding for USDA programs must remain a top priority. Every American benefits every day from the hard work of our farmers and ranchers, which is why I will work to maintain a robust agriculture budget as Congress moves forward on the Fiscal Year 2020 funding bills. – Senator John Hoeven (3/11/129)