MICHIGAN NEWS – LAUREN GIBBONS – As talks on preparing the latest iteration of the Farm Bill for Congressional approval continue ahead of a September expiry date, there’s at least one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on: bringing better internet to rural areas.
During the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Nashville this week, President Donald Trump praised farmers and said he’d act on issues brought up in an agriculture task force he created last year.
He signed presidential executive orders to “provide broader and faster, and better internet coverage,” and promised to support crop insurance, roll back regulations negatively impacting farmers and work to get the Farm Bill through Congress.
“I’m looking forward to working with Congress to pass the Farm Bill on time so that it delivers for all of you,” Trump said in the speech.
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, said broadband was a priority when addressing members of the agricultural community this week, speaking to members of the Michigan Agri-Business Association in Lansing Monday.
“If we want to truly expand and create jobs all over Michigan and the quality of life that we want in small towns as well as big cities, you have to have high speed internet,” Stabenow said.
Speaking to reporters following her speech, Stabenow said she’s hopeful the Farm Bill negotiation process will remain a “partisan-free zone” that can get through Congress in an election year.
Other focuses for Stabenow in the Farm Bill include strengthening protections for the dairy sector and keeping existing protections that were put in the previous legislation.
The last Farm Bill was signed in 2014 in Michigan, with President Barack Obama visiting East Lansing’s Michigan State University to sign the legislation.
U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, commended the president’s focus on rural broadband, calling broadband access a growing need for farms and businesses in Michigan that contribute more than $101 billion to the state economy.
“Michigan’s First District is largely rural in nature and connectivity is one of the greatest inhibitors of economic growth, not only for our farmers, but for all of our residents,” he said. “As we seek to attract and retain our next generation of professionals in communities throughout Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, broadband connectivity is essential in achieving this goal.”
U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said in a statement that he looks forward to helping fund rural broadband in the year ahead.
“Increasing broadband Internet access is crucial to helping residents of Michigan’s rural communities take advantage of today’s economic opportunities,” he said. “I have heard from residents about how important this issue is to them and I support the president’s decision.”
During his speech this week, Trump also addressed ongoing negotiations of NAFTA, another issue the agricultural community has been watching with interest.
Trump said he is “working very hard to get a better deal for our country and for our farmers and manufacturers.”
It was a more optimistic view of negotiations than Trump has had in the past – in August of last year, he told a group in Arizona that the deal would probably be terminated. But the trade deal is popular among farmers, many of whom believe NAFTA has been key to economic growth.
Updated Jan 10, 4:10 PM; Posted Jan 10, 8:55 AM
Posted By: Lauren Gibbons
Photo: MICHIGAN NEWS File Photo