Politics over People: Scott Walker Cozies Up to Trump Even Though His Budget Would Decimate Rural Wisconsin

While President Donald Trump headlines a high-dollar fundraiser for Scott Walker’s re-election campaign, you likely won’t hear him go into detail about his severe budget cuts to the Department of Agriculture. And you definitely won’t hear Scott Walker talk about them. The truth is that those cuts would be disastrous to Wisconsin businesses.

Trump’s budget proposed gutting the U.S. Department of Agriculture by 21 percent – eliminating discretionary funding for the Rural Business and Cooperative Services programs and USDA water and wastewater grant and loan programs that rural Wisconsin communities rely on. In 2016 alone, the Rural Business and Cooperative Program invested more than $28.9 million into rural Wisconsin businesses.

As Walker makes money off of Trump’s appearance today, his budget would eliminate:

  • Value-Added Producer Grants – provided a $22,530 grant to Leffel Roots, LLC in Eau Claire to develop and market bakery and cider products and $250,000 grant tomarket,process and ship shredded bark and sawdust to Bee Forest, LLC in Nelson.

  • Rural Energy For America Program (REAP) – dozens of agricultural businesses in Wisconsin used to upgrade equipment such as grain dryers and lighting systems to improve energy efficiency.

  • Water And Wastewater Direct Loan And Grant Program – through which the city of Abbotsford utilized a $8.58 million grant and loan award to finance the construction of a $9.424 million wastewater treatment plant.

American Bridge spokesperson Lizzy Price made the following comment on the Trump/Walker fundraiser:

“The fact that Scott Walker is trying to make money off of Trump while his proposed budget cuts would send shockwaves through rural Wisconsin is revolting. Scott Walker would rather pad his campaign war chest by cozying up to Trump than stand up for Wisconsin’s farmers and businesses, proving once again, that he puts politics over his own people.”

BACKGROUND:

March 2018: Trump Budget Proposed Cutting Discretionary activities of the Rural Business And Cooperative Services

President Trump’s Budget Cut The U.S. Department Of Agriculture’s Funding By $17.9 Billion. According to The Hill, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is facing a $4.7 billion budget cut under President Trump’s federal spending blueprint. His proposed budget slashes USDA funding by 21 percent, to $17.9 billion. The programs targeted for cuts are in the ‘discretionary’ spending category. That includes food safety, rural development and conservation funding, and international food aid, The Washington Post reported.” [Hill, 3/16/17]

  • President Trump’s Budget Cut The Rural Business And Cooperative Services Programs. According to The Hill, “The Budget request supports core Departmental and mission critical activities while streamlining, reducing, or eliminating duplicative, redundant, or lower priority programs where the Federal role competes with the private sector or other levels of government,’ the president’s budget says. The budget ‘reduces duplicative and underperforming programs by eliminating discretionary activities of the Rural Business and Cooperative Services, a savings of $95 million,’ it adds. It also says the National Forest System will face cuts, with the budget instead focusing on ‘maintaining existing forests and grasslands.’” [Hill, 3/16/17]

Rural Business Cooperative Service Programs Injected Capital And Enhanced Economic Opportunities Into U.S. Rural Areas

The Rural Business-Cooperative Service Has Provided A Lifeline To Rural Areas, Injecting “Much Needed Capital” And “Enhancing Economic Opportunities.” According to the US Department of Agriculture, “Through its Business Programs, Rural Development helps provide much-needed capital in rural areas, often in partnership with private-sector lenders and community-based organizations. The capital may be in the form of loan guarantees, direct loans or grants to individuals, rural businesses, cooperatives, farmers and ranchers, public bodies, non-profit corporations, Native American Tribes and private companies. The funding is intended to help improve the quality of life in rural communities by enhancing economic opportunities.” [USDA, accessed 3/16/17]

Specific Programs That Would Be Eliminated Under Trump’s Budget Included The Rural Energy For American Program (REAP), Water And Wastewater Programs, And Value Added Grants Program

USDA Budget Proposed Eliminating The Rural Business-Cooperative Service, The Water And Wastewater Direct Loan And Grant Program, And Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program. According to 2018 USDA Budget Summary, “The Budget proposes the elimination of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, the Water and Wastewater Direct Loan and grant program, the Single Family Housing Direct Loan program, along with other proposals to reduce duplication. Rural communities can be served by private sector financing or other Federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Fund.” [U.S. Department Of Agriculture, FY 2018]

USDA Budget Proposed Elimination Of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, The Rural Energy For America Program, The Market Access Program And Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. According to 2018 USDA Budget Summary, “In addition, the Budget proposes to eliminate all funding for several programs including the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the Rural Energy for America Program, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program, the Market Access Program, and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The Budget also proposes to transfer the responsibility for Siluriformes inspection back to the Food and Drug Administration to avoid potentially duplicative efforts and costs.” [U.S. Department Of Agriculture, FY 2018]

Trump’s Budget Proposal Sought To Eliminate The USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG). According to Huffington Post, “In 2014, Bartlett applied for and received a USDA value-added producer grant (VAPG) of about $50,000 to help finance the farm’s expansion of its pork business, allowing it to supply products to area restaurants, retailers and consumers by helping to finance refrigerated delivery equipment. A year later, the farm received a second $50,000 grant to help establish its free-range lamb operation.[…] The VAPG program was created under the Clinton administration in 2000 to reward farmers, particularly beginners, who were working to diversify farm income streams by creating products and marketing opportunities that added resilience against volatile commodity prices. The program awarded $45 million in grants to 325 producers last year.[…] And yet the program is on the chopping block. As part of a proposed 21 percent reduction in the USDA’s overall spending, President Donald Trump’s budget plan calls for eliminating the funding for VAPG and other rural development programs under the department’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service.” [Huffington Post, 5/28/17]

Rural Development Programs Invested Millions In Wisconsin Rural Businesses

FY 2016: Rural Business And Cooperative Program Invested More Than $28.9 Million In Wisconsin Rural Businesses. According to the USDA Rural Development 2016 Progress Report, “Rural Business And Cooperative Programs […] In Fiscal Year 2016, USDA Rural Development invested $28.9 million in Wisconsin’s rural businesses, supporting 89 projects.” [USDA Rural Development 2016 Progress Report, 2016]

Value-Added Producer Grants Helped Wisconsin Business Owners To Process Their Raw Products Into Marketable Goods, Such As Apple Cider And Sawdust

Value-Added Producer Grants Offered Funding To Help Independent Producers Bring Their Raw Products To Market. According to USDA, “Value-Added Producer Grants from USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) offer funding to independent producers to process their raw products into processed products, such as making applesauce from apples. Grants may be used for planning activities and for working capital, as well as for farm-based renewable energy.” [USDA, accessed 3/20/17]

  • Leffel Roots, LLC In Eau Claire, Wisconsin Received A $22,530 Value-Added Grant From The USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service To Develop And Market Bakery, Cider And Hard Cider Products. According to USDA, “USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers announced the grants on Vilsack’s behalf during a visit to Leffel Roots, LLC in Eau Claire, Wis. Leffel is receiving a $22,530 value-added grant to develop and market bakery, cider and hard cider products. Another Wisconsin recipient, Bee Forest, LLC, a logging and sawmill company in Nelson, is receiving a $250,000 grant to market, process and ship shredded bark and saw dust.” [USDA, 10/27/16]

  • Bee Forest, LLC, A Logging And Sawmill Company In Nelson, Wisconsin Received A $250,000 Grant From The USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service To Market, Process And Ship Shredded Bark And Saw Dust. According to USDA, “USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers announced the grants on Vilsack’s behalf during a visit to Leffel Roots, LLC in Eau Claire, Wis. Leffel is receiving a $22,530 value-added grant to develop and market bakery, cider and hard cider products. Another Wisconsin recipient, Bee Forest, LLC, a logging and sawmill company in Nelson, is receiving a $250,000 grant to market, process and ship shredded bark and saw dust.” [USDA, 10/27/16]

REAP Program Helped Farmers Improve Energy Efficiency

Rural Energy For America Program Provided Loan Financing And Grant Funding To Agricultural Producers And Rural Small Business To Develop Renewable Energy Systems Or To Make Energy Efficiency Improvements. According to the U.S. Department Of Agriculture, “Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Loans & Grants […] What does this program do? Provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Who may apply? […] How may the funds be used? Funds may be used for renewable energy systems, such as: Biomass (for example: biodiesel and ethanol, anaerobic digesters, and solid fuels) Geothermal for electric generation or direct use Hydropower below 30 megawatts Hydrogen Small and large wind generation Small and large solar generation Ocean (tidal, current, thermal) generation Funds may also be used for the purchase, installation and construction of energy efficiency improvements, such as: High efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) Insulation Lighting Cooling or refrigeration units Doors and windows Electric, solar or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots Switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor Replacement of energy-inefficient equipment” [U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Accessed 6/12/17]

Rural Development’s Water Development Helped Finance The City Of Abbotsford Construct A Wastewater Treatment Plant.

USDA’s Rural Development Water And Environmental Programs Provided An $8.58 Million Loan And Grant Combination That Lead To Construction Of The City Of Abbotsford’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. According to a USDA press release obtained via USDA, “The City of Abbotsford celebrated the completion of construction of the City’s new state-of-the-art Wastewater Treatment Plant with a community celebration and open house event today. Area residents joined City Leaders; and Federal Officials and Local Representatives for an open house event marking the commencement of operation of the new facility. The project was made possible with the help of an $8.58 million loan and grant combination through USDA Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Programs. The total cost of the project was $9.424 million.” [USDA, 8/24/16]