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President's budget targets North Dakota and rural America

A budget is about priorities. Unfortunately, the president's budget shows the administration doesn't value North Dakota or rural America. In fact, it specifically targets both.

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A budget is about priorities. Unfortunately, the president's budget shows the administration doesn't value North Dakota or rural America. In fact, it specifically targets both.

Some increases to defense spending are needed and we should work to reduce the deficit, but we can't do either at the expense of domestic programs that keep our communities strong and safe.

In North Dakota, we understand the value of rural communities, investing in agriculture and infrastructure, and boosting local economies. We see the direct impacts of it on our families, businesses, and towns.

Without critical investments, our rural communities are at risk which could have drastic ramifications for our country, state, families and neighbors. But instead of helping lift up rural communities, the president's budget would push us down.

It would slash the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget by 21 percent, cutting $231 billion in funding from Farm Bill programs, including crop insurance which farmers rely on especially in times of low commodity prices.

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It would put flood protection projects in jeopardy by cutting the Army Corps of Engineer's construction budget by 45 percent, which our state relies on to provide flood protection in Fargo and many other communities across North Dakota.

It would put North Dakota veterans at risk by cutting cost of living adjustments for disabled veterans and survivors by $2.7 billion over the next 10 years.

It would eliminate Essential Air Service funding that helps support rural airports, communities, and jobs, including in Devils Lake, Jamestown, and Dickinson, which have generated $28 million from visitors and created 251 full-time jobs in North Dakota.

It would cut nearly $400 million in federal funds from substance abuse prevention and behavioral health workforce training programs at the same time as our state faces an opioid abuse epidemic.

It would end the Community Service Block Grants program that nearly 50,000 North Dakotans depended on for affordable housing and anti-poverty related assistance from 2014 to 2016.

It would eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program, which has helped the state of North Dakota improve housing conditions for low and moderate-income families, with over $4.9 million in investments in 2016 alone.

It would cut support for rural health care providers by $82 million, which provide needed services in rural communities particularly as doctor and nurse shortages continue across the state.

It would eliminate funding to protect water programs and infrastructure in rural areas, which have improved water and wastewater systems in more than 40 North Dakota towns, tribal reservations, and water districts since 2010. The list goes on.

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Rather than taking an axe to proven, successful programs that strengthen rural economies, we need strong investments in rural communities, jobs, and families that help support North Dakota's future.

With this budget, the administration's priorities are clear for everyone to see. It's now Congress' job to set spending priorities and fund programs, and rural America and North Dakota deserve a strong voice at the table. We'll keep fighting to make sure that happens so rural communities don't face senseless cuts.

Related Topics: HEIDI HEITKAMP
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