Five major ways that the Trump budget would hurt rural North Carolina

Cameron, NC. Photo by Gerry Dincher.

If your budget is a reflection of your priorities, it’s clear that President Trump does not prioritize the well-being of rural North Carolina and connecting more people to opportunity.

1. The plan cuts 21% of USDA, which is critical to rural North Carolina.

Trump’s plan proposes a cut of more than 21 percent to the USDA—a $4.7 billion dollar reduction to its funding of various initiatives that support the development of rural America and the food systems that support our country. This would directly harm rural communities and agriculture across the heart of North Carolina. Moreover, Trump’s budget would decimate rural infrastructure, even as communities seek to remain attractive to business and residents, new and old.

2. Budget threatens rural development dollars that are key to thriving rural communities.

More than 3 million North Carolinians live in rural regions of the state. Since 2009, the Old North State received $12 billion dollars in rural development funding from the USDA. From these awards, North Carolina received 54,747 Single-Family Housing Loan Guarantees totaling $7.5 billion dollars, 62 Electric Direct Loans and Loans Guarantees ($1.5 billion dollars), 3,537 rental assistance cases ($500 million dollars) and 372 Community Facilities Direct Loans ($710 million dollars), to name just four programs. According to Trump’s budget, these programs would be threatened with cuts. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery is being completely eliminated, which represents 21 percent of grant dollars to rural and tribal communities.

3. Trump’s budget threatens critical food & housing programs that help rural North Carolinians.

Photo by Gerry Dincher

Food aid programs are especially important for rural communities in North Carolina for two reasons: They give assistance to millions of Americans who struggle to buy groceries for their families, much like low-income Americans in cities, and they also help ensure a steady demand for the food that farmers sell. The budget proposal eliminates the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program, which distributes food aid to children living in poverty abroad. Trump’s budget proposes a cut of $200 million for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants, and Children also known as WIC in 2018. Rhetoric from Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price seems to indicate a willingness to make steeper cuts to the food assistance programs in the future. Any change is detrimental to rural North Carolina, as the state is the 8th most food insecure in the nation and farmers rely on these programs to provide reliable markets for their products. With the farm economy entering its fourth consecutive year of diminishing incomes and mounting debt, due to low commodity prices, farm incomes are down 50 percent. Rural North Carolina can ill afford less demand for the goods they produce.

Trump’s budget calls for more than $6 billion dollars in cuts that would eliminate programs and funding for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). This program helps preserve rural residents’ access to affordable housing, clean water, and protection from toxic waste. Trump’s budget cuts to the USDA, while vague, could threaten USDA rental assistance. A 10 percent cut could put an estimated 27,000 families at risk of homelessness. The budget proposal eliminates NeighborWorks America, which supports neighborhood organizations that build and maintain affordable housing. This would negatively affect rural North Carolina, as 2 in 3 community development groups rely that rely on NeighborWorks America funding serve agricultural communities.

Additionally, the plan eliminates regional economic development programs such as the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority, which fosters federal, state and local partnerships to support the workforce and economies of 15 states, including North Carolina.

4. Rural business will suffer under this proposal.

The budget proposal also targets the Rural Business Cooperative Service for $95 million in cuts. This program was designed to generate jobs and provide training in small, rural communities.  Further county-level Cooperative Extension staffing would be reduced, forcing farmers to rely on private organizations to assist in navigating emaciated farm programs. The USDA operates more than 2,100 farm service centers nationwide, offering a presence in almost every rural county in the state. The elimination of $175 million dollars of Essential Air Service (EAS) funding for small and rural airports will further isolate rural businesses from larger commercial connections to major hub airports.

5. Rural water infrastructure funding would be eliminated.

Photo by Gerry Dincher

The elimination of funding to water programs would suddenly encumber local governments with the financial burden of updating their water systems. In combination with the outright elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program at the federal level, North Carolina’s rural communities would have little to no option to maintain these systems. In 2016 alone, the USDA awarded North Carolina $41 million dollars in Water and Waste Disposal Loans and an additional $10 million dollars in Water and Waste Disposal Grants.

Not only does Trump’s budget does not make rural North Carolina a priority, but its cuts to critical investments will hurt our rural communities.

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