June 13, 2017

VIDEO: Udall Presses Agriculture Secretary on Devastating Trump Budget and Job Cuts in NM

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/hXCXR2NKW_A

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall pressed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue about the Trump administration’s devastating proposed budget cuts to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that benefit rural New Mexico and America, including deep cuts to rural development, food assistance, conservation, and research. During a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Udall questioned Perdue about the president’s proposal to slash $4.8 billion from the USDA budget — a massive 21 percent cut— and to cut the USDA staff by more than 5,200 personnel. Udall said the proposed cuts would be disastrous for rural economies in New Mexico and across the country.

Given the drastic cuts to key programs for rural America, Udall told Perdue he predicts that the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee would reject the president’s dangerous budget cuts and would instead provide much-needed funding for rural communities and farmers and ranchers. Udall asked Perdue if he would follow Congress' direction “if this committee provides funds for rural development, conservation programs, and research — which we expect to do."

"Will you commit to working with me and other members of this committee to implement these programs in New Mexico as Congress intended, notwithstanding the president’s budget request?” Udall asked. Perdue responded that he would, “in New Mexico, and in the other 49 states as well.”

Udall expressed particular concern about Trump's proposal to cut programs that protect water quality and quantity, recover watersheds from natural disasters, and ensure farmers and communities in New Mexico can access and conserve water. Trump has proposed zeroing out funding for the Watershed Rehabilitation Program, Water Bank Program, Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program, Emergency Watershed Protection Program and Conservation Security Program, all programs that are critical to promoting water security. Trump also has taken numerous steps to roll back efforts to fight global warming. "New Mexico is a water-constrained state. And climate change is exacerbating the challenges faster than anywhere else across the nation,” Udall said. "The state needs more investment in the programs slated to be cut to make our agricultural producers more efficient, while addressing New Mexico’s water shortages.”

Udall also questioned Perdue about the damaging effects of the administration's proposal to cut more than 5,200 employees from the USDA, including an estimated 100-plus jobs in New Mexico. "Making a living in rural America gets harder and harder each year. And the safety nets USDA offers are often integral to the success of small farms and ranches.” Udall said. "The majority of the staffing cuts are in the field, not in D.C. These cuts will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for rural and frontier communities to successfully access USDA’s programs at Farm Service Agency, NRCS and Rural Development.”

Udall asked Perdue, “How can we work together to avoid these cuts, and support good ‘customer service’ for USDA services across rural America, where they need these agents the most?” As a member of President Trump’s cabinet, Secretary Perdue would not expressly commit to avoiding these harmful personnel cuts, but he stated that “we do have to have the resources to do [the job]…I'm going to take what you all as the Appropriations Committee recommend…and work toward making sure that those frontline workers, which are the most important in any organization, are not the ones that are cut, certainly in those customer-facing situations."

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