IFB disappointed in Trump's fiscal 2019 budget

Proposal would close Peoria Ag Lab, which IFB President Guebert says contradicts Trump's commitment to supporting investments in rural America.

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Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. expressed concern at a proposed per-vessel fee to use U.S. inland waterways. “If costs are shifted to users – including farmers – the impact on the agricultural trade balance could be negative,” he said. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Farm Bureau vowed to fight to keep open Peoria’s National Agricultural Utilization Center and retain a strong crop insurance program.

President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget released this week cuts crop insurance by $26 billion over 10 years and reduces the rate of return for crop insurance companies, including COUNTRY Financial.

The $4.4 trillion request also called for eliminating funding for the Peoria Ag Lab for the second year in a row. Lawmakers last year successfully restored funding for the lab, which provides more than 250 jobs and contributes $100 million a year to the local economy.

“Illinois Farm Bureau appreciated comments President Trump made recently supporting investments in rural America,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. “However, I’m disappointed his budget proposal doesn’t reflect these priorities. The budget proposal is a good reminder that IFB members need to stay vigilant in protecting crop insurance, our top priority in the farm bill. The president’s annual budget request merely serves as a starting point. We look forward to working with members of Congress to address these concerns.”

The proposed budget, which requires congressional approval, requests $19 billion for USDA – 16 percent less than 2017.

It cuts average risk premium support for farmers from 62 percent to 48 percent and lowers the commodity program Adjusted Gross Income eligibility limit from $950,000 to $500,000, saving about $1.125 billion.

The budget also proposes lowering the rate of return for approved providers of crop insurance to 12 percent. The farm bill currently caps the rate at 14.5 percent. IFB and the crop insurance industry fought against similar cuts in 2015. After two months, they were restored in the highway bill.

The federal government administers the crop insurance program, but it’s delivered, sold and serviced by private insurance companies. The federal government sets premiums and caps how much insurance companies can charge. 

Trump’s budget proposal also includes:

- $50 billion for rural infrastructure, including broadband internet and inland waterways. The federal funding would require state, local and private funding matches and would be distributed to states based on a formula. States could receive additional funding through a “bonus competition.”

The administration also proposed charging an annual per-vessel fee for commercial waterway users. The money would help pay for future capital investments on waterways and some operation and maintenance costs. “The current diesel fuel tax is insufficient to support the users’ share of these costs,” according to the budget.

Related: Official hopes financing doesn’t derail infrastructure improvements. Read more here

Guebert expressed concern, saying the proposal appears to eliminate the federal government’s role in operating and maintaining the nation’s waterways.

 “If costs are shifted to users – including farmers – the impact on the agricultural trade balance could be negative,” he said.

- Less money for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Trump proposes cutting EPA’s operating budget by $2.8 billion or 34 percent from fiscal 2017. The budget request largely focuses on funding drinking water and clean water infrastructure, as well as Brownfields and Superfund projects, among other things.

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