Rural America deserves better than it gets. But no matter who is in power, it seems ignored.
But that doesn't mean I won't do my best to remind people.

Budget Proposal Makes Cuts – But Who Pays?
By Russ Gifford

(Originally published in numerous newspapers, 02-17-05)

We all knew the spending spree in Washington, D.C., would come to an end sometime. And as everyone suspected, it wouldn't happen until after the election. But though there are few surprises in the President's budget, it should serve as a wake up call for rural areas.

Cuts Strike Rural America Hardest
A nearly 10 percent cut is proposed for The Department of Agriculture, and an 11.5 percent cut is proposed for Department of Housing and Urban Development. The USDA and HUD are targets of the largest reductions in federal discretionary spending.

They are also the two federal agencies with significant programs devoted to rural economic and community development.

The outright cuts will hurt rural America. For example, many effective rural and community development programs are being consolidated into the new "Strengthening America's Communities Initiative," but with 30 percent less funding.

Abandoning Rural Development
“The President’s Budget devastates rural communities," said Jon Bailey, director of the Rural Research and Analysis Program at the Center for Rural Affairs, a non-profit rural advocacy group.

The President’s budget signifies a step toward abandoning the federal role in rural development. Without rural areas enabled to provide real incomes, their states will continue to suffer. A few cities cannot carry the load for an entire state.

Limits on Farm Payment Program
“The single most effective way to strengthen family farms is to stop subsidizing mega farms to drive smaller farms out of business,” says Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director for the Center for Rural Affairs.

But the Center is calling on the president to go further. "Aggressive payment limitation reform could achieve 3-4 times the savings of the President’s proposal," said Hassebrook, "and significantly reduce the need for the damaging cuts in USDA farm and rural programs."

This budget would also take over half the funding from the Conservation Security Program, which rewards environmentally sound farming and ranching and impose a 5 percent across the board cut in farm program payments, which will hit small- and medium-size farmers very hard.

Where is the Money Going?
The budget proposal lists an increase in discretionary spending of 18 billion dollars. The Defense budget is up 19 billion dollars. And the legislative branch is to receive a 13.1 percent increase in its budget.

Short Term Profits vs. Long Term Success
Americans are not opposed to reigning in the federal deficit, and they are not against seeing cuts that affect them personally.

But they are opposed to seeing their taxes increase and their services cut. It is time to let everyone share the cost, not just rural America.

A former City Councilperson in South Sioux City, Gifford served as political commentator for Clear Channel radio station KMNS in Sioux City, Iowa from 2004 to 2005, and has written articles and essays for local, regional and national magazines over the past 10 years. This article appeared in numerous rural newspapers, and in the Center for Rural Affairs newsletter and website.

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