- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 7, 2018

President Trump will highlight his administration’s efforts to help rural communities, including expanding broadband service and cutting regulations on farmers and ranchers, in a speech Monday to the 99th annual American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

Mr. Trump’s visit will be the first by a sitting president to address the Farm Bureau in more than 25 years. Presidential assistant Ray Starling the president’s trip is not only an appreciation that rural Americans helped him win the presidency, but a recognition that the agricultural sector “has to be a part of any broad-based economic success.”

Senior administration officials said the president’s address will coincide with the release of a report by the Department of Agriculture outlining policies to boost rural economic growth. The task force has found that rural America’s economy “has lagged in almost every indicator” behind the rest of the U.S. recovery.

“The administration recognizes that those challenges exist, and is committed to not overlooking them,” Mr. Starling said.

One of the president’s initiatives will be “empowering or restoring the use and access of resources” in forestry and mining, said Rebeckah Adcock, a senior adviser in the Agriculture Department who said there has been an “erosion” of local communities’ rights to control those natural resources.

“We’re releasing that back to them, letting them have the power — the reasonable power — to do the right thing, but use those resources to their advantage to help build their economies,” she said.

The president won rural voters by sizable majorities in 2016 — he defeated Hillary Clinton by an almost two-to-one margin in rural and small-town communities — and he is still popular with them. For example, he was cheered for his move to rescind an Obama-era rule that extended federal jurisdiction over small waterways.

Some of his other policy positions, including the threatened withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement and immigration restrictions that could limit the number of migrant laborers for harvesting crops, have met with opposition in the agricultural sector.

Last spring, Mr. Trump signed an executive order establishing the task force to make sure “regulatory burdens do not unnecessarily encumber agricultural production, harm rural communities, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation, or increase the cost of food for Americans and our customers around the world.”

President Obama also promoted plans to expand internet access for rural Americans. The Department of Agriculture, for example, offered millions in incentives in 2016 to rural carriers that invest in bringing broadband in rural areas. At the time, the Federal Communications Commission said 53 percent of rural Americans had no access to high-speed internet.

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