Every candidate running for Governor and for South Dakota’s lone House seat should be ready to answer this question: How will you protect South Dakota from Donald Trump?
The White House’s “Major Savings and Reforms” budget document says Trump would eliminate funding for the USDA’s Rural Business and Cooperative Service, Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Account, and Single Family Housing Direct Loans.
Rural Business and Cooperative Services, says the White House, “lack program evaluation” and “have not been able to demonstrate that they meet the broader goals of reducing rural poverty, out-migration, or unemployment.” The White House says its “tax, regulatory, and infrastructure policies are expected” [passive voice—by whom? witch doctors?] “to be more effective at improving rural economies and job growth.
The Trump budget says USDA’s Rural Water and Waste Disposal program can go because it duplicates the EPA’s state revolving funds. Trump thus cuts $498 million from USDA and hopes an agency he’s cutting by 31% can fill the gap.
The Trump budget eliminates USDA’s direct loans to single-family homebuyers because, says the White House, private lenders can float all the loans rural homebuyers need. The White House also says that “rural areas once isolated from easy access to credit have shrunk as broadband internet access and correspondent lending have grown.” Of course, six million rural Americans got broadband thanks to USDA Rural Development programs.
USDA’s Rural Development office in South Dakota offers this report of funding activity in South Dakota over the past several years:
$423 million in federal investment in South Dakota via USDA in 2016, part of $3.12 billion total during the Obama Administration. That’s not even farm subsidies, disaster payments or crop insurance; that’s just Rural Development.
I’ve placed red stars next to the items that appear to be under the Rural Business and Cooperative Service, the Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Account, and the Single-Family Housing Direct Loans. I invite corrections from readers more knowledgeable about USDA’s Rural Development efforts, but by my count, the Trump budget approach to Rural Development would have meant $87 million less in federal dollars for South Dakota in 2016 and $528 million less over the last eight years.
If we thought that these Rural Development investments were good for South Dakota but Trump took them away, we could try to fund them ourselves. But $87 million a year would wipe out the sales tax dollars we struggled to raise for teacher pay last year. We’d have to come up with a significant new stream of revenue for a budget already groaning against sluggish economic activity, or we’d have to do without. Either way, the Trump budget would deny us a significant chunk of external, federal economic stimulus.
So, Billie Sutton, Kristi Noem, Marty Jackley, and fellow candidates—if the Republican Congress does adopt the Republican President’s anti-rural budget priorities, what will you do to protect South Dakota homebuyers, business owners, and communities from losing tens of millions of dollars in federal rural development funding?