Farmers already face plenty of challenges.
As if declining crop prices, market volatility, plant diseases and weather uncertainty aren’t enough, they also must worry about the future of an important safety net.
With the farm economy in sharp decline, producers in Kansas and beyond don’t need more undue pressure. They need hope.
The goal should be to increase spending on farm programs to weather the storm. Instead, the Trump administration’s proposed budget calls for $47 billion in cuts to agricultural programs over the next decade, to include a $26 billion reduction in crop insurance subsidies.
Crop insurance protects against losses or underperforming harvests, and can be the difference in whether farmers and ranchers stay in business.
But critics say the federal program is too generous, and provides incentives to accomplish less. While every taxpayer-supported program should be checked for abuse, it’s senseless to punish hard-working producers who suffer uncontrollable setbacks.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, vowed to battle the proposed cuts in President Trump’s budget, considered a starting point for negotiations. Still, the president’s budget presented a troubling picture of his administration’s intent.
Previous presidents also called for cuts to crop insurance. The fear now is in this president’s budget empowering members of Congress — particularly tea party politicians who slash spending without regard for the harmful fallout — to make shortsighted decisions that undermine the next farm bill and other programs.
Kansas, unfortunately, was badly hurt by such an approach, one directed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback that shortchanged many core services in the state.
Our Republican-controlled Congress has much the same reckless mindset. Add in Trump’s disturbing decision to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and threaten the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the forecast for farmers becomes even gloomier.
And to think many Kansans sustaining the greatest losses wholeheartedly supported Trump at the polls. In doing so, they voted against their own economic interests.
A president who should want to ease the pain in rural America is doing the opposite.
In an already fragile rural economy, producers desperately need good news — to include a farm bill that helps protect U.S. agriculture.