USA Rice joined 16 other agriculture groups in a letter to Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Committees on Budget and Appropriations yesterday to express their concerns over budget cuts to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the need for more resources to help farmers throughout America.
The letter explains how many farmers across the country – young farmers in particular – are feeling the pains and anxieties brought on by low prices and high costs of production. Net farm incomes are down 50 percent from where they were four years ago, leaving producers no choice but to dip into capital reserves.
This poses a major obstacle for young farmers who have not had the luxury of time to build sustainable reserves. On top of domestic issues, a strong U.S. dollar and discouraging trade rhetoric has decreased export potential, making hard times even harder.
“The average age of the American farmer, currently 58 years old, should be of major concern to this Administration, equal to concern over the country’s aging infrastructure,” said Blake Gerard, Missouri rice farmer and chairman of both USA Rice Farmers and the USA Rice Government Affairs Committee. “Without needed funding during difficult times, the future of the next generation of farmers is uncertain.”
The letter was sent to Congress hours before the administration released their “skinny” budget proposal which calls for steep cuts to discretionary spending at USDA. President Trump is proposing a 21 percent cut to USDA, primarily in the form of reduced staffing in USDA’s local service centers. Also concerning is the call to eliminate the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, which often sources U.S. rice to be used for international food aid efforts.
Since FY 2016, the share of U.S.-grown rice shipped through international food aid programs has increased substantially. The budget proposal threatens to reduce many years of progress and investment in developing a highly nutritious fortified rice, recently approved for use in food aid.
“The letter we sent urges those on the Budget and Appropriations Committees to consider the 2018 Farm Bill as an opportunity to respond to the troubling condition of the current agricultural economy by providing safety nets to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture in America,” said Ben Mosely, vice president of government affairs for USA Rice. “However, this cannot be done without providing additional funding to current Farm Bill resources.”