Oppose Grant Funding for RUS in Farm Bill | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

Oppose Grant Funding for RUS in Farm Bill

Letters to Officials

May 14, 2013
U.S. House Committee on Agriculture
Washington, D.C.  20515

 

Dear Representative,

On behalf of the more than one million members and supporters of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), I urge you to eliminate the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) broadband loan program.  The RUS has long outlived its original purpose and now spends lavishly on broadband expansion projects that compete with private sector providers.  

In lieu of full repeal of this outdated program, the very least the current Congress can do is oppose any attempts to further expand the program through the addition of a grant funding provision.  Taxpayers are already paying for grants through the Universal Service Fund to provide discounted services to rural hospitals, schools and libraries and high-cost regions of the country, as well as supporting the Lifeline program, which provides discounted phone service (including wireless) to those families that qualify for the school lunch program.    

CCAGW is concerned that RUS program is being used for overbuilding in areas with existing service and providing duplicative services.   A September 2005 USDA IG report noted that “RUS has not maintained its focus on rural communities without preexisting service.  Although the language of the law specifies that these Federal loans and grants are for rural communities, RUS has codified and implemented a definition that cannot reliably distinguish between rural and suburban areas… Furthermore, we question whether the Government should be providing loans to competing rural providers when many small communities might be hard pressed to support even a single company.  In these circumstances, RUS may be setting its own loans up to fail by encouraging competitive service; it may also be creating an uneven playing field for preexisting providers operating without Government assistance.”

As discussions about a new Farm Bill heat up amid the nation’s growing budget crisis, members of Congress must use this legislation and other opportunities to eliminate duplication, cut wasteful spending, and reform outdated programs.  Failure to eliminate the antiquated RUS or prevent further expansion of the program would result in taxpayers being stuck with unnecessary and excessively expensive burdens into the foreseeable future.

The RUS programs pick winners and losers in already competitive marketplaces at the taxpayers’ expense.  All votes pertaining to the RUS will be among those considered in CCAGW’s 2013 Congressional Ratings.  
                         
Sincerely,

Tom Schatz
President, CCAGW

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