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Trump seeks $4.7 billion in cuts to USDA discretionary spending

The U.S. Department of Agriculture entrance facing the Mall in Washington. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Trump administration is seeking to cut $4.7 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s discretionary spending budget, according to a budget outline obtained by The Washington Post, but the administration so far has provided little information about how it will carry out the cuts.

The White House Office of Management and Budget’s 2018 spending blueprint requests $17.9 billion in funding for the USDA, down $4.7 billion from its 2017 funding level, or a reduction of about 21 percent. The programs facing cuts fall under “discretionary” spending, which includes food safety, rural development and conservation funding, research grants and international food aid. The cuts will not affect mandatory spending programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP, also known as “food stamps” — and crop subsidies for farmers.

The administration plans to eliminate its water and waste-disposal loan and grant program, which helps with rural water and waste infrastructure, for a savings of nearly $500 million. It also will seek to eliminate aspects of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, which supports business development and job opportunities, because the administration called it “duplicative.” That cut would save $95 million.

“Rural communities can be served by private sector financing or other Federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Funds,” the budget document states.

President Trump just released his budget plan for the next fiscal year, which proposes some big changes in government spending. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The administration plans to spend $6.2 billion on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, down from $6.4 billion in 2017.

The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program, which distributes food aid to children living in poverty abroad, would be eliminated under the budget proposal, saving about $200 million. The document says the program — named after former U.S. senators George McGovern (D) and Bob Dole (R), who pushed for it — “lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented to reduce food insecurity.” The program estimates that it helped feed more than 2 million people in developing countries in fiscal 2016, including in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Laos, Malawi and Tanzania.

The document says funding for the National Forest System will be reduced, but it does not indicate by how much; the administration is focused on “maintaining existing forests and grasslands” rather than pursuing new land purchases.

The Agricultural Research Service might also face cuts to focus departmental research on “the highest priority agriculture and food issues, such as increasing farm productivity, sustaining natural resources . . . and addressing food safety and nutrition priorities,” the document says. The budget also says the USDA will reduce staffing by an unspecified number at various service centers.

What's getting cut in Trump's budget