Federal Budget a Mixed Bag for Rural Priorities

The discussion on federal spending begins each year with release of the president’s budget. This year, there is both good and bad news for small towns and rural communities.

Let’s start with the bad news, because it’s on the important topic of conservation. The president proposes to cut conservation program spending by $859 million. Over half of that would come from cutting three million acres, or $486 million, from the Conservation Stewardship Program.

Conservation programs have been under attack every year, despite their mandatory funding status. This type of funding comes through the farm bill and, by rights, should not be subject to annual spending cuts.

This is an especially bad time to cut conservation support. More farmers than ever are seeking assistance. They need help addressing the challenges of shifting weather patterns and climate change. Greater investment is needed here, not less.

One the bright side, the budget includes first-time money for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account program. This program will provide matched savings accounts to help beginners get a start in agriculture.

Another boost came from increased funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program. This popular program gives money to organizations that provide loans and technical assistance to entrepreneurs. They then use the funds to directly assist rural entrepreneurs.

You can dig into more budget details here, from our partners at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. And we’ll keep you posted as debate moves forward. Your voices will be essential to help protect conservation funding.