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Rural America and farm sector to take a hit with Trump's budget plan

215 d ago

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President Trump's plans to gut the Agriculture Department's discretionary funding is getting criticized by key lawmakers.
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will propose deep cuts for foreign aid and environmental protection and a steep increase in military spending in a budget plan to be released on Thursday, a congressional source said.
The budget plan for fiscal 2018 will call for cuts of 28 percent for the State Department, the source, who was briefed on the outline of Trump's plans, told Reuters.
Trump is proposing a 10 percent increase in defense spending, equivalent to $54 billion, and a 6 percent increase in funding for homeland security, the source said.
To fund those increases, he is seeking deep reductions in programs such as public broadcasting, funding for the arts and science, and heating subsidies. Those programs have been targeted by Republican politicians before, but in many cases the proposed cuts have failed to make it through Congress.
The blueprint highlights Trump's priorities for government spending and sources say it includes a funding cut of up to a third for the Environmental Protection Agency. But it is ultimately up to Congress to decide how to allocate funds.
Even though Trump's Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the budget is likely to face resistance. Some moderate Republicans have already expressed unease with some of the proposed cuts.
"They're really going to be cutting into bone," said Kenneth Baer, a former associate director at the Office of Management and Budget who helped draft former Democratic President Barack Obama's first four budgets.
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Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will be phased out under the plan, the source said.
'Emaciated' plans
The document will begin months of debate on government spending, with Democrats and moderate Republicans worried the budget could force tough decisions on popular programs such as aid for disabled children and hot meals for the elderly, and conservatives pushing for more cuts down the line.
New administrations typically submit to Congress what is known as a "skinny budget," a broad outline of spending proposals, in their initial months in office. Lengthy volumes of fiscal plans and projections follow a couple of months later.
But the Trump budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, 2017, may be more truncated than usual, said three budget experts interviewed by Reuters.
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WASHINGTON — Military spending would get the biggest boost in President Donald Trump's proposed budget. Environmental programs, medical research, Amtrak and an array of international and cultural programs — from Africa to Appalachia — would take big hits, among the many parts of the government he'd put on a crash diet.
The budget proposal out Thursday is a White House wish list; it'll be up to Congress to decide where money goes. If Trump gets his way, there will be more losers than winners among government departments and programs.
Some programs would tread water: WIC grants — money to states for health care and nutrition for low-income women, infants and children — are one example. Money for states' grants for water infrastructure projects would be held level as well.
Some others would lose everything: Trump proposes to eliminate money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the national endowments for arts and humanities, and more than a dozen other independent agencies financed by the government.
A sampling:
—The Pentagon. Trump proposes a 10 percent increase in the massive defense budget, adding $52 billion in military spending in one year to expand personnel, equipment and capability. Another $2 billion would go to nuclear weapons.
—Veterans Affairs. Up 5.9 percent. That's an additional $4.4 billion, driven by ever-increasing health care costs.
—Homeland Security. Up 6.8 percent, or $2.8 billion more. Most of the increase, $2.6 billion, would be to help kick-start Trump's promised border wall. The president has repeatedly said Mexico would pay for the wall; Mexican officials are adamant that they won't. Trump also wants an extra $1.5 billion for more immigration jails and deportations, and $314 million to hire 1,500 immigration enforcement and border patrol agents.
—The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the maintenance and safety of the nuclear arsenal and its research labs. The agency would grow by 11.3 percent, or $1.4 billion, so that it takes up more than half the Energy Department's budget, which would shrink overall.
—Opioid prevention and treatment. The proposal includes a $500 million increase in the Health and Human Services Department to counter the epidemic and more money for the Justice Department to combat the problem.
—School choice. The proposal includes $1.4 billion more to expand school-choice programs, bringing spending in that area to $20 billion, even as the Education Department's overall budget would be cut by $9 billion, or 13 percent.
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—The Environmental Protection Agency. It faces a 31.4 percent cut, or $2.6 billion. The plan would cut 3,200 jobs at the agency, eliminate a new plan for tighter regulations on power plants, and "zero out" programs to clean up the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay.
—Health and Human Services. It faces the largest cut in dollar terms: $12.6 billion, or 16.2 percent. The plan would cut $5.8 billion from the nearly $32 billion National Institutes of Health, the nation's premier medical research agency, bringing its total to $25.9 billion. It's not clear what research on diseases or disorders would lose the most money, although the budget plan specifically calls for the elimination of a division that focuses on global health. Already, the NIH's budget hasn't kept pace with inflation over the last decade, making it dramatically harder for scientists around the country to win money for research projects into potential new treatments or better understanding of disease.
—State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. Down 28 percent, or $10 billion. Foreign aid would be reduced, as would money to the U.N. and to multilateral development banks including the World Bank. Some foreign military grants would be shifted to loans.
—Labor Department. A more than 20 percent cut, or $2.5 billion. To be eliminated: a $434 million program that has helped more than 1 million people 55 and older find jobs, according to the department. The blueprint says the Senior Community Service Employment Program is inefficient.
—Agriculture Department. A nearly 21 percent cut, or $4.7 billion, achieved in part by cutting land acquisition in the National Forest System, rural water infrastructure, and statistical capabilities at the department. Trump also proposes a reduction in staff in county USDA offices, an idea that fell flat in Congress when President Barack Obama proposed a similar reduction.
—Transportation Department. Trump proposes a cut of nearly 13 percent, or $2.4 billion. Amtrak, local transit agencies, and rural communities that depend on federal subsidies to obtain scheduled airline service would take the brunt. Trump would eliminate subsidies for Amtrak long-distance train routes, which would most likely mean the end of those routes since they are generally not profitable. Money for the Federal Transit Administration grant program for new light rail and subway construction would be eliminated except for multiyear projects the government has already committed to help fund.
—Internal Revenue Service. After years of cuts, the IRS budget would be cut again — by $239 million from this year's spending levels. The IRS budget is down about $1 billion from its height in 2010. Since then, the agency has lost more than 17,000 employees. As a result, the chances of getting audited have rarely been so low.
—Commerce Department. A 16 percent or $1.5 billion cut. The plan would eliminate more than $250 million in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants, including a program that helps coastal communities adapt to climate change, deal with invasive species and maintain healthy water and fisheries. Also on the chopping block: the Economic Development Administration, which provides federal dollars to foster job creation and attract private investment; and the Minority Business Development Agency, which is dedicated to helping minority-owned business get off the ground and grow. The Trump administration says the two agencies duplicate work done elsewhere.
—School programs. The plan would eliminate a $1.2 billion initiative that supports before- and after-school programs, as well as summer programs.
—Independent agencies supported by tax dollars. If Trump prevails, a hefty contingent of entities will lose all federal money and be shut. Among them are the Public Broadcasting Corporation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Chemical Safety Board, the United States Institute of Peace, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for National Community Service, and the African Development Foundation. That foundation was established by Congress and provides seed money and other support to enterprises in some 20 countries on that continent.
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Lauran Neergaard, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher, Joan Lowy, Laurie Kellman, Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking, Alicia A. Caldwell and Evan Berland contributed to this report.
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A budget proposed by the Trump administration, if accepted, may represent a hit of nearly half a billion dollars to NASA's future funding.
The White House document , which covers discretionary spending (about 27% of the national budget), calls for a $200 million decrease for the space agency, for a total of $19.1 billion.
This represents about a 1% hit to NASA's current funding level of $19.3 billion per year.
President Trump's proposal would also steamroll a 1% budget increase that's part of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 . That bill — the first major revision of the space agency's funding and mission passed by both the House and Senate in nearly 7 years — endeavors to give NASA some $19.508 billion.
This makes the discrepancy between what the White House and Congress is proposing for NASA's future funding more than $400 million.
Over the past year or two, presidents have been less generous than Congress with NASA's budget. For instance, former President Obama in 2016 requested the space agency receive $19 billion, a difference of $300 million compared to congressional plans. Congress mostly rejected Obama's budget, giving NASA $19.3 billion.
In Trump's newly proposed budget, NASA's Earth science program — a decades-old foundation of the space agency that helps predict weather forecasts, warnings, and long-term climate shifts — would take a $102 million cut compared to actual 2017 funding levels.
Specifically, the president hopes to terminate the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE), Orbital Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DISCOVR), and CLARREO Pathfinder missions.
These four satellites allow scientists to monitor and predict the behavior of Earth's weather, shifting climates, ocean ecosystems, and other vital aspects of our planet. They help save peoples' lives, protect wildlife, and prepare America and other nations for long-term changes.
NASA's Office of Education may also be axed to save $115 million a year. That program is designed to attract and retain "students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines" among other goals, according to NASA .
NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center
About $3.7 billion of funding is proposed for NASA's crewed exploration of deep space — ostensibly the moon and Mars — using a giant upcoming rocket, called the Space Launch System , and its Orion spaceship.
It also sets aside $1.9 billion a year for planetary science, making for an increase of about 20% compared to what Obama requested for 2017, according to The Planetary Society .
The budget also calls for NASA to launch Mars 2020, a nuclear-powered rover designed to search for signs of ancient life on Mars, and the Europa Clipper, a probe that'd study Europa — Jupiter's largest icy, ocean-hiding moon .
However, these funding levels aren't yet in effect.
A long and complex process remains before NASA knows its actual budget for fiscal year 2018, which runs from October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018.
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Donald Trump's proposed budget fits a familiar pattern for the president: When backed into a corner, go for the jugular.
This time, the victims would be federal government programs aimed at some of the neediest Americans, many of whom voted for Trump last year in the hopes that he might improve their lot.
Trump's plans are in keeping with his promise to make the government smaller, with one very large caveat that would be paid for with those essential-services cuts: a $54 billion increase in defense spending.
His priorities also say a lot about the likely composition of any future budget expenditures — including proposed fiscal stimulus and infrastructure programs that have been much discussed but on which few details are available.
What sorts of massively wasteful government functions would Trump cut? Try a 30% wallop to funding for the State Department, which his own secretary of defense, James Mattis, has said is crucial to American national security by helping to project the sort of diplomatic power that prevents conflict in the first place.
Trump's support among members of the military and veterans should have him looking to avoid wars, not start new ones. Instead, the president's hawkish tone is derided by the same former military officers Trump has placed in positions of power in his Cabinet.
What about his support among poor white voters? They stand to lose big from massive cuts to anti-poverty programs , without counting the strong likelihood that "Trumpcare" would deprive millions of healthcare.
"It stands beyond reason that a president who claimed to be concerned with working Americans, expanding the American economy, and keeping Americans healthy would author a budget that makes sweeping cuts to all these critical areas," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley said in a statement. The proposal "amounts to an assault on working families and the poor," he added.
It's not just Democrats . Many Republicans are fighting back, with Sen. Lindsey Graham saying the proposal would be "dead on arrival" in Congress .
Sharp cuts to environmental programs, seen as a progressive cause, may actually hurt many Republican-dominated states the most. By gutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, which would lose 3,000 workers, Trump would be leaving states with weak environmental agencies most vulnerable.
"Look to have a lot more situations like the one in West Virginia a few years ago where people didn't have clean drinking water or even water suitable for bathing because a local mining operation had dumped waste in the river that was their water source," said Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.
But even if Trump's budget, like his healthcare bill, stands little chance of becoming law in its current form, Wall Street should be playing closer attention to what the president's priorities say about the chances of a future spending boom of that sort that underpins stronger economic growth and productivity. After all, economists on both sides of the political divide agree that stimulus policies aimed at the neediest segments of society are more effective, because the money gets spent right away and the positive momentum feeds on itself. Tax cuts for the rich or giveaways to big corporations, on the other hand, tend to get stashed away in an uncertain economic environment.
Trump's budget breaks another key vow of the campaign — that Mexico would pay for the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Instead, it turns out, American taxpayers will be footing the multibillion-dollar tab.
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The Trump administration has released its budget blueprint [PDF], and it’s a bloodbath for everything that’s not defense spending. In keeping with the budget’s general hostility to cities, transit would be hit especially hard.
The Trump budget would eliminate funding for transit expansion projects unless a funding agreement is already in place, the Washington Post reports. For transit projects that have yet to reach that stage, funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program — currently budgeted for $2.3 billion annually through 2020 [ PDF ] — would no longer be available.
Many cities have lined up local funding for rail and bus rapid transit projects under the assumption that it would be complemented by federal support. Without the New Starts funding, these projects will be in jeopardy as cities and transit agencies fend for themselves, either raising taxes, cutting other local priorities, or abandoning the expansion projects altogether to compensate. Dozens of projects would be affected:
Tweet Embed:
List of all transit projects in line for federal funds in the next few years, but which would have their funding cut with Trump budget.
The New Starts transit program only accounts for about 5 percent of federal surface transportation spending. The Trump budget outline doesn’t touch the lion’s share of those funds, which go to state DOTs to spend as they wish — mainly on roads.
Trump’s budget would also eliminate funding for TIGER, a smaller $500 million program initiated by the Obama administration to provide direct access to federal transportation funds for cities, transit agencies, and other local entities. Relative to overall federal spending, TIGER has paid for more walking, biking, and transit projects, such as Indianapolis’s Cultural Trail and Tampa’s Riverwalk. At Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s confirmation hearing in January, she said Congress members told her it was their favorite program.
Eliminating federal subsidies for transit has long been a goal of hard-right ideologues — but in the past these attempts have failed in Congress. Swing votes in the suburban ring of major cities that count on transit — including some Republican districts — have helped fend off the worst attacks. They will have to be mobilized again to stop this one.
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The $4.7 billion in cuts would leave USDA with a budget of $17.9 billion after cutting some statistical and rural business services and encouraging private sector conservation planning. Farm groups warned that farmers and rural communities could suffer.
The budget proposal would save $498 million by eliminating a rural water and wastewater loan and grant program that helps fund clean water and sewer systems in communities with fewer than 10,000 people.
Other areas targeted for cuts include staffing at county-level USDA service centers.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the country's largest organization representing farmers, said cuts to statistical services could hurt members.
"That's a big concern because a lot of farmers and growers rely on USDA's statistical capabilities to make a lot of marketing and risk management decisions and planting decisions," said John Newton, AFBF director of market intelligence.
The budget proposal did not give details of which services could be cut.
Greg Fogel, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said cuts to rural development work could harm businesses in rural areas as these programs had created jobs and helped businesses survive.
The White House also said it would eliminate the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, which donates U.S. agricultural commodities to food-deficit countries. The program, which had $182 million earmarked in the fiscal-year 2017 USDA budget, "lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented to reduce food insecurity," the document said.
The plans for USDA spending were part of Trump's budget blueprint, a broad outline of spending proposals for the fiscal year ahead.
The blueprint does not cover "mandatory" spending established by law, like farm subsidies, only "discretionary" programs where lawmakers can adjust spending.
The Trump White House has said it plans to release a traditional full budget in mid-May.
The budget plan calls for $6.2 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, about $150 million less than budgeted in fiscal 2016. Under former President Barack Obama, the program was reduced by $273 million between fiscal 2015 and 2016.
The USDA oversees agriculture, rural communities and nutritional programs, including funding for school lunches. The agency also publishes closely watched global farming production statistics.
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The White House mistakenly recommended a Washington Post opinion piece satirizing President Donald Trump's newly proposed budget in Friday's "1600 Daily" newsletter.
The press staffer tasked with putting together the newsletter clearly did not read beyond the headline, "Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why." 
The op-ed's author, Alexandra Petri, criticized the administration's proposed boost in military spending and cuts to federal agencies, including the state department and the environmental protection agency, and to arts and anti-poverty programs. 
She wrote: 
"This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate."
"Environmental Protection Agency: We absolutely do not need this. Clean rivers and breathable air are making us SOFT and letting the Chinese and the Russians get the jump on us."
Upon noticing the mistake, Twitter users immediately attacked the White House, calling the incident an example of the administration's "sloppiness": 
Tweet Embed:
White House press sloppiness extending beyond typos: included biting satire piece in daily brief bc didn't read beyond its headline...yikes. Tweet Embed:
The White House just promoted @washingtonpost 's Alexandra Petri's article about the budget in the daily email
No one is proofing over there
 Petri, alerted to the mistake, tweeted, "REAL NEWS REAL NEWS" and: 
Tweet Embed:
*sigh* no one reads any more
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