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Senators Question USDA Emphasis on Rural Development Amid Reorganization

by Countable | 6.2.17

Democratic lawmakers reached out to the president this week to express concerns about reorganization at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Published plans eliminate key positions amidst deep departmental cuts overall. The signers fear this indicates the USDA is stepping away from rural development, but are they? Digging deeper into the background the reality is unclear.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, joined 28 Democratic Senators in a letter to President Donald Trump about USDA reorganization plans. Specifically, they raised concerns about the agency’s plan to eliminate the Under Secretary for Rural Development. According to the USDA, the Under Secretary job description has been:

"providing leadership for three USDA mission areas charged with improving the economic well-being of rural America: the Rural Housing Service, the Rural Utilities Service and the Rural Business-Cooperative Service. Together, these mission areas provide critical infrastructure investments in the form of loans and grants for rural housing, high-speed broadband access, telephone, electric and water utilities, renewable energy generation and conservation, local and regional food systems, community facilities, and small business development in rural America.”

The senators argued that eliminating the position along with other proposed cuts to rural development programs would:

"undermine the ability of local communities to support rural home ownership; provide clean drinking and waste water systems; and promote access to critical services such as rural hospitals, police, and firefighters. If enacted, these cuts would have a damaging impact on rural communities throughout the country."

They acknowledged the plan to create a new Under Secretary for Trade and applauded it, but maintained that trade cannot be pursued to the detriment of rural development:

"We do not believe that enhancing agricultural exports has to come with a demotion for the rural development activities."

At the same time, the USDA maintains that they are not de-emphasizing rural development, but "elevating" it. On the USDA website page outlining the planned reorganization Sec. of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is quoted as saying:

"The economic health of small towns across America is crucial to the future of the agriculture economy. It is my commitment to always argue for the needs of rural America, which is why we are elevating Rural Development within USDA...No doubt, the opportunity we have here at the USDA in rural development is unmatched."

This "elevation" means that the Secretary will oversee rural development directly, rather than working through an Under Secretary, as detailed in a recent USDA report to Congress.

Whether or not the Secretary directly overseeing rural development programs will be successful or not is unknown. But worthy of note, as the Senators point out in their letter, is that the reorganization is proceeding without time for the public to comment or for any of those comments to be considered:

"we are disappointed that USDA plans to implement the reorganization even before public comments are due, suggesting that USDA has no real plan to consider these comments and make any changes based on the comments. USDA must carefully consider all comments received before the proposed reorganization is actually implemented.”

There is no clear due date for comments, and the USDA is not collecting them directly. Instead, the agency directs the public to a general comment page for input on reorganizing the Executive Branch hosted by the White House.

Is the reorganization of the USDA, making the Secretary of Agriculture directly responsible for rural development, a good idea? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: USDA / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(24)
  • Ticktock
    06/02/2017
    ···

    My family lives in what is considered a rural area. Infrastructure is poorly maintained now. Access to high speed internet is non existent. It sounds like Trump is setting up a situation where these areas can be exploited without oversight. This would fit in with his heavy handed moves on public lands, the Dakota Pipeline, the EPA, the use of dangerous pesticides and generally the removal of any regulations that would protect citizens from big corporations. This sound more like his pillaging of America. Prevent Trump from making this change.

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  • Surender
    06/02/2017
    ···

    It is not just with the USDA but universal. Problem is we have an administration led and staffed with shallow minds and an impotent congress with the majority taking advantage of a weak ignorant compromised administration so they can further their bent agenda. They have no depth or understanding of the impact of their decisions short term let alone long term. What is paramount are the immediate optics and sound bites that appear congruent with the superficial campaign promises and rhetoric.

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  • Lee
    06/02/2017
    ···

    It is a travesty to implement anything without public comment. It shows nearsightedness of an administration that came in with a preset agenda and are Unwilling to listen to the communities they work with. As someone who worked in State government building infrastructure to assist communities we found when we went in to build community projects we need to get the community input to remove barriers perceived or real. This was the only way to move communities forward. We used Moving to the Future to engage stakeholders and maximize resources. Having a single point person will never be efficient and able make real change. This is what happens when you have rookies in the government. This is not a corporation. This needs to be stopped immediately. It is throwing money down the drain. It is our money that we payed in taxes. It is time to drain the swamp/

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  • Lee
    06/02/2017
    ···

    It is a travesty to implement anything without public comment. It shows nearsightedness of an administration that came in with a preset agenda and are Unwilling to listen to the communities they work with. As someone who worked in State government building infrastructure to assist communities we found when we went in to build community projects we need to get the community input to remove barriers perceived or real. This was the only way to move communities forward. We used Moving to the Future to engage stakeholders and maximize resources. Having a single point person will never be efficient and able make real change. This is what happens when you have rookies in the government. This is not a corporation. This needs to be stopped immediately. It is throwing money down the drain. It is our money that we payed in taxes. It is time to drain the swamp/

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  • KansasTamale
    06/03/2017
    ···

    From where does Trump think the food he eats comes. He has to know that farms are important to this country. Cutting the department that oversees the help for farmers is criminal and ridiculous. Cutting people out will slow everything down where farmers will be on their own. Growing what our country needs is very important. They need the Agricultural department to know what to grow, what will give them the best profit & the US what the country needs, where & when to plant or build a pond and futures for their financial wellbeing. This cutting the Ag Department is as idiotic as getting out of the environmental agreement. He must not care what kind of world his grandkids will inherit.

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  • Davis
    06/02/2017
    ···

    I don't understand why adding the undersecretary of trade means cutting out the undersecretary of agriculture. Both have a vital role, and are not bureaucratic. If Trump wants to get rid of "unnecessary" positions that's awesome, but just make sure they're not vital to maintaining a way of life for America's number one supplier of food. Go and cut unnecessary positions so it leaves room for the positions that matter to do their jobs.

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  • Marc
    06/02/2017
    ···

    This is the smaller government republican fundamentalists always talk about and this is what draining the swamp is all about. We are taking giant steps backwards.

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  • Dennis
    06/02/2017
    ···

    Another decision that defies logic and reason. Of course the decision messes with the very life blood of US citizens. Again, the demon strikes.

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  • Sofitel
    06/03/2017
    ···

    I'm not too sure what impact this bill will have on rural America but it doesn't sound good, on the surface. What bothers me is the lack of public comment. This is where feedback is really critical. Otherwise it's the politicians that make unilateral decisions without input from those who are most affected.

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  • Norm
    06/02/2017
    ···

    Republicans and my representatives, and assuming you do your collective jobs we can stop 🛑 the madness. I'm curious about the madnesses of Mr. Trump and those that joined him in power and try to keep him in power. Then there's all the other madness of getting Mr. Trump impeached, and not just for petty stuff like shaming americans, men, women, handicapped, news networks he doesn't approve of, global leaders, countries, states, and on and on. And here's what you've been waiting for - Suppose the more Mr. Trump holds us hostage by flipping his mind daily that the real story is not the flipping, but the real story is the more Mr. Trump betrays us, the more Americans collectively bind together as a group, and that's what wakes us up.

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  • Karen
    06/03/2017
    ···

    How can these lawmakers believe it's a good idea to cut rural development from the budget of the United States Department of Agriculture? Where do they think most agriculture happens?

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  • Fred
    06/02/2017
    ···

    Rural development bill, if Trump is for it, you know it is corrupt.

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  • Shauna
    06/04/2017
    ···

    We must support rural development if we want to continue to eat. It is very simple. Farmers need these supports to feed the nation. Geez. How can this be something to argue over.

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  • Vanessa
    06/03/2017
    ···

    Take away USDA involvement in rural locations and government will never hear from or care what becomes of the little guy again. Having retired from the USDA, I saw first hand how government intervention assisted small communities going through change. AARA, (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ), CFLRP ( Collaborative, science- based, ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes), approved by President Obama, are just a few programs created to assist communities. I am so tired of listening to people in small towns complain that they have been forgotten, believe me when I tell you President Obama NEVER forgot about YOU! This new assault on the small town by an inept president is a shameful display of poor judgement. It's time to wake up and realize what this administration is NOT up to. Slogans that pull at your heart strings won't put food on your table...

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  • Jay
    06/04/2017
    ···

    Once again, do the best for the American people. Get information that will help make the best, informed decision possible.

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  • VSB
    06/04/2017
    ···

    No suprises here! Everything this administration states is the opposite of the truth much like Orwell's 1984. This is just another way that this government plans to undemine rural communities and disadvantaged Americans. I don't believe this administration cares at all to improve infrastructure in rural communities. Thank you in advance congressmen for loudly stating this!

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  • Karen
    06/24/2017
    ···

    Every Departmental change proposed by this Administration seems to benefit those who would exploit America under the guise of economic development, America deserves an Administration that is better than the one we have. We need one that recognizes there are many things Americans hold more dear than the "Almighty Dollar."

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  • Ann
    06/05/2017
    ···

    Rural Development housing loans are integral to the economy of the Western Slope region of Colorado. Please oppose any cuts to rural loans at USDA.

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  • VSB
    06/05/2017
    ···

    We all should be concerned about the restructuring of the USDA and impact on rural communities. This is where our food supplies are - in rural communities. They need to be treated as the vital and important communities they are!

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  • C
    06/05/2017
    ···

    Please resist the urge to defund and downsize important agencies like the USDA, especially the Forest Service. Protect your constituents from the rapacious Trumpian oligarchy.

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