OSU experts: Trump’s proposed cuts could hurt farmers

News Journal

COLUMBUS ­— Ohio farmers may feel the effects of proposed federal budget cuts if President Trump’s spending plan is adopted, according to agricultural economists at The Ohio State University.

Trump’s plan calls for a 21 percent reduction to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and includes cutting staff at agricultural service offices, along with statistical reports on crop prices and production levels that some farmers and others in the agricultural community rely on.

Having fewer staff at USDA offices could hinder farmers’ ability to access important services such as loans, crop disaster assistance and land conservation measures, including water quality preservation and erosion control, said Zoë Plakias, an agricultural economist with Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

“Cuts of this nature could potentially impact farmers across the commodity spectrum,” Plakias said. “The service center staff are the folks working with farmers and living in those communities day in and day out.”

Yet to be determined are exactly which offices would face staff cuts, how large the cuts would be and, most importantly, whether Congress will approve Trump’s planned cuts.

Another possible concern for Ohio’s agricultural community is a reduction in statistical reports generated by the USDA. Some Ohio farmers use these reports to help make decisions, and researchers and analysts use them in their work to inform decision makers in both industry and government, Plakias pointed out.

“It’s hard to think of any decision that isn’t touched at least indirectly by the information in the reports,” said Carl Zulauf, agricultural economist and professor emeritus, also with CFAES.

The USDA is an unbiased provider of information, and anyone can use its reports to determine trends in production, as well as supply and demand for various agricultural products, Zulauf said.

He pointed out that Trump’s proposed budget is a starting point for negotiations. “It raises the big question that we can now debate,” Zulauf said.

Additional budget cuts Trump has proposed include:

• Eliminating funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which helps keep Lake Erie clean

• Eliminating the water and wastewater loan and grant program

• Eliminating the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which supports education, child development and food security in low-income countries

• Eliminating discretionary activities of USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service, which provides business development and job training opportunities for rural residents

Besides Trump’s budget, another crucial consideration for farmers is his proposed international trade policy, which, based on statements made during the election, could include a 45 percent tax on products from China and a 35 percent tax on Mexican imports.

It is unclear whether those taxes will be imposed, but if they are, China could retaliate with tariffs against U.S. products. The U.S. exports a significant amount of corn to Mexico and soybeans to China, said Ian Sheldon, a CFAES agricultural economist.

“Hold your breath and see what happens,” he said.

An outline of President Trump’s proposed budget is available at www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf

News Journal