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Rural America Deserves
A Champion

By on May 11, 2017

Center for Rural Affairs asks Sec. Perdue not to eliminate the position of Undersecretary for Rural Development

Lyons, Neb. (May 11, 2017)  – Center for Rural Affairs Policy Associate Anna Johnson today said rural America stands to suffer as a result of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s reorganization as announced by U.S. Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue this afternoon.

“The Center for Rural Affairs has fought on behalf of rural communities for nearly 45 years. We are heartened that Sec. Perdue is making strong efforts during his early days in office to express support for rural communities. However, we are concerned about the path he has chosen. Sec. Purdue has proposed eliminating the position of Undersecretary for Rural Development and moving oversight of Rural Development agencies to the Deputy Secretary, USDA’s second-in-command. If he makes this change, Sec. Perdue will be removing the position of the most significant rural advocate within USDA. Rural America stands to suffer as a result.

“While USDA has a broad mission to promote and support our country’s food and agriculture, Rural Development is the only part of USDA that has the explicit directive to support rural communities.

“USDA’s Rural Development Agencies – the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, the Rural Utilities Service, and the Rural Housing Service – have complex, broad, and deeply important responsibilities in rural communities. These include providing loans for treating wastewater and for the construction of single and multi-family homes.

“Other Rural Development programs, such as the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program and Value-Added Producer Grant Program, facilitate innovation and encourage success. We’ve seen that 21st Century jobs being created in rural communities are driven by entrepreneurship. For rural communities to thrive, we particularly need to support the job-creating mission of this agency.

“Each of the other mission areas within USDA has similarly complex and important responsibilities, including natural resource conservation, nutrition assistance, and food safety. By removing the position of Undersecretary for Rural Development, rural communities will no longer have a dedicated advocate or an equal seat at the table at USDA.”

Sec. Perdue’s reorganization announcement follows a request by the Trump Administration to cut the USDA budget by more than 20 percent. That proposal includes eliminating the Rural Business-Cooperative Service and Water and Wastewater Loan and Grant Programs.

Johnson continues:

“If Sec. Perdue truly wishes to support rural America, we ask that he not eliminate the position of Undersecretary for Rural Development nor support deep cuts to the budget of Rural Development. Instead, we ask him to appoint a strong advocate for rural communities as Undersecretary for Rural Development, and to support a budget that allows Rural Development to carry out its mission.

“Rural America deserves a champion who is not distracted by the other demands of managing the diverse responsibilities of USDA. By retaining the Undersecretary position, USDA will be better positioned to work with rural people and achieve a vision for America that includes thriving rural communities and economic opportunity for all.”

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Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.