U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue faced tough questions from representatives on the House Agriculture Committee about the administration’s proposal to eliminate the position of under secretary for Rural Development, which oversees the agency’s rural housing programs.
Mr. Perdue claimed that the change would elevate rural concerns and allow him to be more involved in issues affecting small towns and rural communities. However, the plan comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s FY18 budget proposal to cut the department’s budget by 20% and to eliminate USDA’s largest rural development programs, including its water-wastewater loans and grants and the Rural Business service.
Mr. Perdue announced at the hearing that he will create an assistant secretary position for rural development. Although this is a lower ranked position than under secretary, Mr. Perdue argued that because he or she will report directly to the secretary, this individual will have an easier time elevating rural development issues within the administration. “You can call the assistant secretary ‘under secretary’ if you want,” Mr. Perdue told Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL).
The National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) and other advocates expressed deep concerns about the reorganization plan. “This proposal is part of a one-two punch in the gut for Rural America,” stated NRHC Executive Secretary Bob Rapoza in a press statement. “It sends a clear signal from the Administration that rural communities and those who live there are not a priority.”
USDA’s reorganization plan is at: http://bit.ly/2r4F7Wd
NRHC’s press statement is at: http://prn.to/2r50XsS