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Rep. Peterson: Ag cuts in Trump budget harmful for rural communities

Rep. Collin Peterson said Thursday that President Donald Trump’s proposed budget represents a lack of understanding of how agriculture works.

Trump’s budget is expected to cut $4.7 billion dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Peterson, a DFLer from Minnesota's Seventh District, criticized Trump's budget, saying it "demonstrates a lack of understanding of farm programs and their impact on rural America."

Peterson said getting a Secretary of Agriculture in place would be helpful.

“I urge the Administration to spend more time in rural America to gain an understanding of how things work and I hope that once an agriculture secretary is in place that he will be able to explain the value of these programs and services,” he said of Sonny Perdue, Trump’s choice to head the USDA.

Trump's reductions also includesa reduction of $498 million by eliminating a rural water and wastewater loan and grant program, which helps fund water and sewer systems in rural communities. It also calls for staff reduction at the county level.

Peterson said reductions to the water and wastewater loan grant program "are wrongly portrayed as duplicative when they are the only ways for small rural communities to update their water systems.”

He also said county offices are "already understaffed and further cuts would mean private organizations would be tasked with helping farmers navigate farm programs."

Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota who chairs the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a statement farmers and ranchers are doing their part to reduce debt, and it’s unfair to ask for more from producers in light of low commodity prices and reductions in the Farm Bill.

“The president’s proposed budget reduction for agriculture does not work,” Hoeven said in the statement.

“Given the challenging times in the farm patch -- from low commodity prices to natural disasters -- we need to prioritize and maintain our agriculture budget. While we support more funding for our military and defense, we must maintain support for our farmers and ranchers.”

The Trump Administration also wants to eliminate Community Development Block Grants, a $3 billion program that helps families with low incomes by providing financial assistance for public facilities, housing rehabilitation and economic development projects.

Essential Air Service funds, which allow small communities to support airports, also are on the chopping block.

Peterson said in his statement that he did not think the cuts would go forward.