In 2014, Mississippi farmer Marshall Bartlett applied for and received a USDA value-added producer grant (VAPG) of about $50,000 to help finance the farm’s expansion of its pork business, allowing it to supply products to area restaurants, retailers and consumers by helping to finance refrigerated delivery equipment. A year later, the farm received a second $50,000 grant to help establish its free-range lamb operation. Well, Trump has a problem with that kind of assistance and he wants to end it.
The VAPG program was created under the Clinton administration in 2000 to reward farmers, particularly beginners, who were working to diversify farm income streams by creating products and marketing opportunities that added resilience against volatile commodity prices. The program awarded $45 million in grants to 325 producers last year.
This kind of support, advocates say, is especially important when many U.S. farmers are struggling with falling income and rising debt, as well as the extreme weather challenges associated with climate change. And yet the program is on the chopping block.
Bartlett doubts the farm would be in the position it is today without the federal help.
“We were able to handle these upfront expenses without borrowing a ton of money,” he said. “Without that injection of those grants, we wouldn’t have been able to do all this.”
As part of a proposed 21 percent reduction in the USDA’s overall spending, President Donald Trump’s budget plan calls for eliminating the funding for VAPG and other rural development programs under the department’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service, the Huffington Post reports.
Wes King, policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said the elimination of these programs could be devastating for many smaller farmers.
“If this were to go away, I think you would have a number of farms that would probably end up closing up shop,” King told HuffPost.
The proposed cuts were called particularly alarming by Anna Johnson, a policy program associate at the nonpartisan Center for Rural Affairs.
Trump budget also proposes massive cuts for other initiatives aimed at rural communities, like zeroed-out funding for the Rural Economic Development Program as well as the USDA’s water and wastewater loan program, which helps fund rural infrastructure projects.
There you have it. Trump’s not only at war with women, immigrants, and Muslims. He’s also at war with small farmers who voted for him in the presidential elections.