Friday, March 24, 2017

Perdue tells senators he has concern about Trump's proposed 21 percent cut to USDA's budget

Sonny Perdue (from video via DTN)
"Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, President Trump’s pick to lead the Agriculture Department, faced pointed questions about the administration’s proposed cuts to rural assistance programs during his otherwise friendly Senate confirmation hearing Thursday," reports Jose DelReal of The Washington Post.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the Senate Agriculture Committee’s top Democrat, said Perdue needs to be a champion for rural America President Trump’s first two months have made “clear that rural America has been an afterthought.”

Still, Perdue "seemed to reassure every senator on every issue," Jerry Hagstrom reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer, in a story that focuses on agricultural issues. But she told Hagstrom in an email afterward that she "plans to support him so long as his responses to her remaining questions for the record do not raise concerns." Hagstrrom notes that the National Farmers Union, "the most Democratic-leaning farm group, called for Perdue's 'swift confirmation'."

Trump's proposed budget would cut USDA 21 percent, and Perdue voiced “some concern” over the cuts "and said he would manage those priorities alongside the cuts, though he didn’t specify how," and said he had no influence on the budget because he isn't secretary yet, the Post reports. "He also said he would advocate for expanding broadband development in rural areas and committed to maintaining the Rural Utilities Service program, which supports development of water and waste treatment, electric power and other infrastructure in rural areas." Hagstrom writes that Perdue "said he would treat the budget as he did a lower-than-expected revenue estimate when he was governor of Georgia," saying, "I didn't like it, but I managed within it."

Perdue said "he supports several programs that could face cuts under Trump’s budget, including programs that fund agricultural research, develop infrastructure in rural communities and help landowners preserve soil and water quality," the Post reports. "He said he also supports making it easier for dairy farmers to employ immigrant workers." He "pledged to revamp forestry policy and even promised to try to make it easier for low-income children who get free school meals to get access to summer meals," Hagstrom reports.

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