A couple weeks ago I pointed out sizable cuts that Donald Trump would make to USDA Rural Development programs. Those cuts would cost South Dakota tens of millions of dollars in federal economic stimulus that supports rural housing, businesses, and water and waste projects.
Agreeing with me that cutting USDA Rural Development is bad for South Dakota and all of rural America are the Center for Rural Affairs, the National Rural Housing Coalition, and 576 other organizations that sent a letter this week to key Senators urging them to protect Rural Development. They ask the Senators to at least maintain last year’s funding levels and resist the Administration’s call to eliminate the office of Under Secretary for Rural Development. The say that the Administration’s budget is a “wholesale retreat” from real problems facing rural America:
According an analysis of socio-economic well-being prepared by the Wall Street Journal, rural counties in America are in worse condition than big cities, suburbs and small or medium metro areas. 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.
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 still lags behind. The decade’s long trend of community bank closure and consolidation has hit rural areas particularly hard. The number of community banks in the United States has declined by an average of 300 per year over the past 30 years, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and a collapse in the price of agricultural commodities has added stress on many small towns and farming communities [National Rural Housing Coalition + 577 organizations, letter to Senators Cochran, Leahy, Hoeven, and Merkley, 2017.06.12].
The following South Dakota groups signed the letter:
- Dakota Resources, which received a $10 million loan from USDA last December to reduce rural poverty and which has a couple of Republican legislators on its board;
- Dakota Rural Action;
- Dakotas America, which handles New Markets Tax Credits and overlaps in staff and governance with Dakota Resources;
- Four Bands Community Fund, which received a $100K Rural Business Development Grant from USDA in 2015 to buy equipment and provide consultants for tribal businesses;
- Native American Community Board, which works on indigenous women’s health and justice issues;
- Yankton Sioux Tribe, which received almost $700K in rental assistance and other help from USDA from 2009 to 2014;
- Yankton Sioux Tribe Child Care Services.
Let’s hope our rural Congressional delegation listens to these rural constituents and ignores the harmful budget proposed by the White House rural America self-destructively voted for.