USDA: House Republican Proposals Hurt Rural Communities

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2023 — Congressional Republicans are holding the nation’s full faith and credit hostage in an effort to impose devastating cuts that would hurt rural communities, raise costs for hardworking families, and set back economic growth. And they demand these cuts while separately advancing proposals to add over $3 trillion to deficits through tax cuts and giveaways skewed to the wealthy and big corporations.

Congressional Republicans have put forward an extreme proposal that would increase food insecurity by taking food assistance away from older Americans who rely on SNAP by adding burdensome, bureaucratic requirements and limiting states’ flexibility to protect especially vulnerable people who are already subject to work requirements, like veterans and individuals experiencing homelessness. These harmful proposals increase the likelihood that Americans and their families go hungry and jeopardize their long-term health and well-being. The changes proposed would also hurt American agriculture and the broader economy since SNAP benefits translate into demand for the food that American farmers produce and jobs for the people who work throughout the food supply chain from farmworkers and truckers to the people who work at manufacturing facilities and in grocery stores especially in rural areas where a greater percentage of households receive SNAP benefits.

While the President’s Budget details a plan to strengthen rural economies, increase resiliency, and support rural health, House Republicans’ proposal to cut a broad range of critical programs by 22% will:

  • Raise Prices at Grocery Stores and Restaurants. The proposal would mean as many as 1,800 fewer food safety inspectors, leading to a lost production volume of more than 11.5 billion pounds of meat, an additional 11.1 billion pounds of poultry, and over 590 million pounds of egg products. The industry would experience a production loss of as much as $416 billion and consumers would face shortages and higher prices for meat, poultry, and egg products at grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Eliminate Housing Support for Rural Tenants. The proposal would cause as many as 63,000 current recipients of USDA-funded rental assistance in rural communities to lose their unit contract, putting these families at increased risk of homelessness and undermining the supply of affordable housing.
  • Limit Households from Getting Connected to Broadband. The proposal would mean approximately 125,000 fewer households would be connected to high-speed internet services that are crucial for job creation, accessing telehealth services, closing the digital divide between rural and urban students, and supporting rural economies.
  • Cut Technical Assistance for Rural Communities. The proposal would cut critical technical assistance for rural communities through the Rural Partners Network (RPN), which currently supports 36 rural communities in ten states and Puerto Rico, with proven results connecting these communities to job- and infrastructure-generating resources. Rural communities in at least two states would no longer be supported by full-time federal staff through RPN, reducing access to assistance and resources across the federal government for families, homeowners, seniors, veterans, small businesses, agricultural producers, and more.
  • Impair Water Quality Improvements and Conservation Efforts. The proposal would mean 84,000 fewer farmers and ranchers would receive conservation planning assistance, impacting up to 54,000,000 acres and undermining conservation efforts and water quality improvements.

Beyond the direct impact on USDA programs, these proposed cuts would negatively impact rural communities who access critical services across the federal government. Specifically, these proposed cuts will:

  • Reduce Access to Health Centers. Community health centers provide comprehensive services regardless of ability to pay to one in five rural residents. The proposal would mean an estimated 630,000 patients in rural areas would lose access to health centers and their critical health care services.
  • Weaken Response to Wildland Fires. The proposal would mean up to 2,700 fewer full-time fire fighters, including federal and tribal wildland firefighters, weakening the response to wildland fires.
  • Cut Funding for Regional Commissions. The proposal would mean $67.2 million in cuts to infrastructure and economic development grants for distressed communities across the United States that are served by the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority, the Denali Commission, the Northern Border Regional Commission, and the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission. These cuts would mean fewer workers receiving job training and fewer projects to improve transportation, water and sewer systems, and other critical infrastructure.

In addition to the devastating impacts these cuts have on priorities from safe, affordable housing, to public safety and food assistance, Congressional Republicans’ plan would also take Medicaid coverage away from people in rural communities by imposing new bureaucratic work reporting requirements. People living in rural areas, where jobs are scarcest, can have the hardest time finding enough work to meet already stringent requirements. Expanding those failed work requirements to more people will make it even harder for individuals and rural communities to recover from periods of job loss, like the pandemic. The Congressional Republican proposals will lead to increases in poverty, health consequences, and food insecurity in these communities, and state experiences show they will lead many people to lose health coverage.

The bill would also claw back critical funding designated for rural communities, including:

  • Cut payments to farmers facing natural disasters, and farm loan borrowers in financial distress. The pandemic caused significant disruptions to the U.S. agriculture sector, including a decline in commodity prices. USDA already provided $23.5 billion to farmers that faced market disruptions, increased production costs, and reduced prices. USDA is still trying to reach impacted farmers. Rescinding these funds would mean farmers who are in the process of applying for the assistance to make up for pandemic losses won’t receive payments.
  • Undermine Meat and Poultry Supply Chain Resilience. The pandemic revealed weaknesses in our national food system, particularly in the meat and poultry industries where production capacity is concentrated in a few geographic areas. Rescinding $1.4 billion in balances will undermine the progress to build a more resilient supply chain and increase local processing options for producers.
  • Slow Renewable Energy Production. The bill repeals sections of IRA that would allow for elective payments for renewable energy production. This will slow the transition to clean energy and disproportionally impact rural areas.
  • Halt USDA investments in the Next Generation of Food and Agriculture Professionals. USDA has invested $250 million into minority-serving institutions in order to create career development opportunities in agriculture for Next Gen Scholars. When government reflects the makeup of this country, it is able to better serve all Americans. Removing support of a program designed to funnel the best and brightest into agriculture limits the long-term ability of USDA and its programs to provide the food, fuel, and fiber for the country and world.



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