The Trump administration’s budget proposal represented a direct assault on rural America in general, and rural Wisconsin in particular. Though President Donald Trump ran well in rural areas during the 2016 presidential campaign, he abandoned them upon assuming the presidency — filling his Cabinet and White House inner circle with Wall Street insiders from firms such as Goldman Sachs and developing policies that met the demands of billionaire-class investors and defense contractors. The president's actions indicate he is not the least bit concerned about diverting America’s treasure into the military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned us about.
Whenever a president surrounds himself with investment bankers and starts writing budgets that shred the social safety net in order to fund a buildup in Pentagon spending, rural areas suffer. But the threat posed by the Trump budget proposal was exponentially greater than what we’ve faced before.
The president’s budget plan called for deep cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, a vital source of support for Wisconsin’s farming regions and small towns. In 2016 alone, the program invested $556.3 million in 8,500 Wisconsin projects to sustain rural businesses and expand access to education and health care. The investments have also supported public safety initiatives. And they provide vital funding for projects that maintain the state’s water infrastructure and guarantee that free water is clean and accessible.
Trump was so determined to undermine federal engagement with farm country and small-town America that he actually proposed to eliminate the USDA undersecretary for rural development.
Baldwin recognized the threat immediately and helped to organize more than two dozen senators, who wrote a May letter to the president in which they objected to the assault on programs that benefit rural America.
“These cuts, coupled with the recently announced USDA reorganization, deepens our concern that the decisions made by this administration will harm small towns and rural America,” the senators explained. “While we applaud the establishment of an undersecretary for trade as required by the 2014 farm bill, we are concerned with the planned elimination of the undersecretary of rural development. USDA officials have made it clear that there is no legal requirement to eliminate any of the undersecretary positions at USDA in order to create an undersecretary for trade. Both agricultural trade and rural development functions at USDA deserve and require high-level, accountable, and singularly focused leadership to ensure their missions' success. We do not believe that enhancing agricultural exports has to come with a demotion for the rural development activities.”
Along with her colleagues, Baldwin promised in that letter “to fight for rural America by rejecting these budget cuts.”
Baldwin is keeping that promise.
Working with Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Baldwin and other farm-state senators succeeded in reversing Trump’s cuts. They are now advancing a bipartisan fiscal year 2018 agriculture appropriations bill that renews the federal commitment to robust investment for rural America.
“Across Wisconsin, our rural communities have put these investments to work on small business job creation, rebuilding water infrastructure, and strengthening health care, education and public safety,” explained Baldwin. “I fought against these drastic cuts because we can’t leave our rural communities behind, we need to help them get ahead. I’m proud that our bipartisan effort has saved investments that help rural communities in Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin’s greatest senators — Robert M. La Follette, Robert M. La Follette Jr., John Blaine, Gaylord Nelson, Bill Proxmire, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl — have always put aside partisan and ideological differences in order to defend the interests of this state’s rural counties. They always recognized that Wisconsin is not Wisconsin if any of us is left behind. Tammy Baldwin shares that recognition. She has carried the fight forward in these difficult times as an ardent and unrelenting advocate for rural Wisconsin. And, thanks to her knowledge, her experience and her legislative skills, she is reversing the wrongheaded agenda of Donald Trump.
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