President Trump’s declaration that he wants to cut 5 percent of spending from every agency was met with a mix of consternation and dismissal. Considering the budget deal he signed this year busted budget caps by $300 billion, that’s understandable. But Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Purdue enthusiastically endorsed the push for savings. With good reason. Because there’s some low hanging savings fruit in the nearly $140 billion USDA is expected to dole out next year.
Across the board cuts – that too often end up dinging the good as much as the bad – are not the way to go. Cutting the no longer needed, least efficient, or flat out corrupt programs is the way to go. We’ve been down this path before. Our lists (Supercuts for the Super Committee, Sliding Past Sequestration, and Common Sense Cuts) provided a much more sustainable path toward fiscal responsibility than the across the board cuts and budget caps Congress has routinely ignored since passing the Budget Control Act of 2011 (that created the failed “Super Committee”).
But it’s never too late to revive fiscal responsibility. At USDA, the president simply needs to drain the swamp of special interest handouts he’s identified in his budget requests to get that $7 billion (and counting) next year.
Cut the most cynical cronyism
- Restore FDA authority over catfish inspection, like every other seafood. Cordoning catfish from literally every other fish (or clam, or oyster) was done for no reason other than to prevent a handful of farmers from having to compete in the marketplace = $14 million
- Treat peanut farmers like every other farmer when it comes to government subsidies and pluck their separate payment limit. The farm bill already guarantees they get a price the market isn’t expected to generate for a decade, isn’t that enough? = $44 million
- Trim the taxpayer’s profit guarantee for subsidized crop insurance companies from 14 percent a year down to 12 percent. As things stand, we take the risk, they take the profits. Seems like a bad deal = $200 million
Veto any Farm Bill not focused on actual farmers
- Support Senator Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Meadows (R-NC) in closing the active management loophole that sends checks to “farmers” who never step foot on a farm = $100 million
- Eliminate federal income subsidies for farm businesses with incomes exceeding $500,000 a year = $200 million
- Oppose efforts to force taxpayers to reimburse special interests for “unreasonable” costs in researching and developing new subsidized crop insurance policies. = $2.0 million+
Restore certainty and fiscal accountability to the federal farm financial safety net
- Require farm businesses live within their means and stop approving deficit financed ad hoc disaster aid on top of their already generous safety net = $2.5 billion
- End the misguided tariffs and eliminate the need for additional farm state hush money = $6 billion
While the USDA looks to trim their budget, they should focus on eliminating programs that prevent individual farm businesses from navigating markets based on their own perception of market needs and individual ability. Draining the swamp of these patently parochial policies will put farmers and ranchers in a better position to make American agriculture great again.