President Donald Trump's effort to boost defense spending while cutting other parts of the budget has Iowans and others in the Midwest concerned about cuts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Some of the cuts will hit home in Iowa. Among the targets for cuts are rural development and conservation programs. Ironically, former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had prodded Iowa state officials to do more on water quality, offering big buy-in by the federal government in matching programs — though it was unclear whether a Congress that already was bent on cutting farm support would follow through.
Now, The Washington Post reports that Trump's budget calls for $17.9 billion in funding for the USDA, down $4.7 billion, or 21 percent, from the current level. The programs that would be cut include food safety, rural development and conservation funding, research grants, and international food aid, the Post reported.
The Agricultural Research Service, which includes the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, also may be cut, the Post reported, so it can focus 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. And the USDA service centers spread across Iowa could lose unspecified numbers of employees.
The cuts would not affect mandatory spending programs such as food aid and crop subsidies, according to the Post.
Trump's budget would eliminate a water and waste-disposal loan and grant program, which helps with rural water and waste infrastructure, a $500 million item important to Iowa.
The Quad-City Times reported that the cuts have drawn concerns from both sides of the aisle in Iowa's congressional delegations. The lone Democrat, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, said, "This budget cuts investments in programs that have a proven record of creating jobs and growing the economy." Sen. Joni Ernst, a member of the majority GOP, said she's glad Trump is focusing on cost-cutting, but she was "troubled by how dramatic his proposed cuts are to programs across the USDA that our rural communities rely on."
The Des Moines Register explored the trickle-down effect of the EPA cuts, which could directly affect environmental programs at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The DNR enforces many federal regulations on behalf of the EPA, which supports the work.
"The cuts will result in our state retreating and regressing" in its clean water efforts, Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, told the Register.
"States cannot tolerate additional cuts. We've seen the federal share has been slowly declining for a long time," said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, executive director of the Environmental Council of the States, a nonpartisan group representing state environmental agency leaders.