Rural Issue

Farm groups concerned by USDA restructuring

A group of rural organizations including the National Farmers Union are calling on Congress to stop reorganizations within the USDA’s Rural Development agency.

Last week Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced USDA’s Under Secretary for Rural Development would be replaced with a special assistant who reports directly to Perdue.  “There’s no employee difference, there’s no changes involved other than I wanted that person adjacent to me where we can go forward and invest in rural development, rural America, to make it prosperous.”

NFU’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Rob Larew tells Brownfield rural development needs would lose a seat at the table during departmental discussions.  “If you’re not in the room, it’s really difficult to have your views and needs known and that’s our primary concern—making sure that Rural Development has the same standing as all of the other agencies and important programs down at USDA.”

He says rural development programs provide communities with water and waste services, broadband and public safety, and were heavily targeted in President Trump’s budget proposal.  “The other thing that’s underpinning all of this is that President Trump in his first, so called, ‘skinny budget’ proposal to cut USDA programs by 21 percent—the majority of that unfortunately was in the rural development area.”

USDA Rural Development currently has a $216 billion portfolio of loans with more than 40 different programs and 400 offices across the country.

AUDIO: Sonny Perdue on Rural Development changes

AUDIO: Interview with Rob Larew

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