Monday, June 12, 2017

This week on the Hill

Perdue has busy week ahead in Washington

WASHINGTON- After two weeks on the road, including Idaho, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue heads back to Capitol Hill this week and he’s got a lot on his plate.

Perdue testifies Tuesday before the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee. Republican Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon joins Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan on the Senate Agriculture Committee in criticizing the rural development cuts by the Trump Administration.

In a letter to Perdue on Friday, the senators said they were not happy to see rural development programs on the cutting block along with more than 30-percent cut to the USDA budget.

“While we appreciate your comments that rural development is a personal priority of yours, given the magnitude of these responsibilities, it is essential that the Senate retain its oversight obligations to review and confirm the Rural Development mission area,” the senators wrote.

While USDA’s workforce would be reduced by 5.5 percent, or 5,263 employees, under the budget, the Research and Development staff could be cut by 20 percent, from 4,825 to 3,900. Perdue argues that the reorganization would elevate the importance of RD programs because the assistant that he plans to appoint to oversee them would have walk-in privileges with him.

Last month after the budget was released, Perdue appeared to back pedal on some of the proposals, saying that crop insurance and other farm programs are “extremely important.”

The budget would cut crop insurance by $29 billion over 10 years and eliminate the $1.7 billion Food for Peace program as well as two programs that many farm groups consider critical for developing export markets: the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program.

The House Freedom Caucus wants GOP leaders to cut welfare spending by $400 billion as a way to make up for the revenue loss from cutting taxes. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is introducing legislation that requires people to work for food stamps.

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