State directors of USDA Rural Development agencies met in Washington last week to discuss their program priorities in light of expected budget cuts.
Janie Dunning, director of Missouri Rural Development, tells Brownfield that broadband, housing, business, jobs and infrastructure remain the priorities.
“These priorities have been identified through surveys and discussions with our end users, and I don’t think it’s a priority that anybody else wouldn’t have.”
Over the last 18 months, Dunning says she’s already had to cut 22 percent of her staff. The extent of sequestration cuts this Friday, March 1 is still unknown and she says they’re also looking at the continuing budget resolution that runs out March 27.
“The best thing we can hope for,” she says, “Is that we at least have a continuing resolution that will take us for the balance of the year and let us keep operating. But those continuing resolutions always come with some cuts as well.”
Also, the lack of a full farm year farm bill could impact programs. The farm bill extension last as long as the continuing resolution does, at the end of March.
Dunning says they’ve been able to preserve a lot on the program side of rural development. Only 3 percent of their budget is for direct grants, the rest is in loan guarantee programs through local financial institutions and through the Rural Development Agency itself.