WASHINGTON, May 11, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced plans for a proposed reorganization that establishes an Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs and eliminates the Under Secretary for Rural Development. Rural Development organizations and experts strongly criticized the elimination of the only subcabinet position with the sole focus of assisting America's small town and farming communities at USDA, which sends a clear signal from the Administration that rural communities and those who live there, are not a priority.
"This proposal is part of a one-two punch in the gut for Rural America," said Bob Rapoza, president and founder of Rapoza Associates and the executive secretary for the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC). "First, the Administration released a budget proposal that decimates important rural development programs. Then they move on a reorganization plan that downgrades rural development as an important function for USDA."
In the proposal, the USDA claims that by eliminating the Under Secretary position, it will "elevate" Rural Development by directly reporting to the Agriculture Secretary. However, this proposal was released after the President's "skinny" budget" for Fiscal Year 2018 proposed to eliminate USDA's water and wastewater loans and grants, as well as the Rural Business Service—all of which fall under Rural Development. Further, the "skinny budget" contains a 20 percent proposed reduction to USDA overall, which is expected to heavily impact Rural Development programs.
"Understanding these facts, the commentary from Trump Administration's USDA surrounding the elimination of the Under Secretary position and statements that this plan would elevate Rural Development is a clear feint to quell the very communities that have come out in support of the Administration. It will absolutely lead to a downgrade in the position of already burdened rural communities in need of development and revitalization," adds Rapoza.
Rural America was an important element in the coalition that elected President Trump. Rural communities, and the people who live in them, have higher poverty and unemployment rates as well as a higher incidence of substandard housing and rent overburden when compared to metropolitan areas.
Rapoza notes, "Virtually every community in the country with inadequate drinking water has a population of 3,300 or less. Although much of the country has seen recovery from the financial crisis, rural America and rural economies still lag behind."
"For many rural families and communities, the assistance offered by USDA is an essential tool for improving housing conditions and achieving adequate water and wastewater facilities," said Marty Miller, President of NRHC. "The funding for these programs, which makes up a very small share of federal domestic discretionary spending, increases rural homeownership, maintains and preserves affordable rental housing, accelerates improvements to rural community facilities and boosts rural economies."
About Rapoza Associates RAPOZA ASSOCIATES is a lobbying and government relations firm specializing in federal community development policy, with 40 years of experience in legislative strategy, public policy analysis and action-oriented research. The firm supports its clients' work by providing them with a range of key services, including representation before Congress and federal agencies, in addition to consultation on federal policy and programs.