Trump signs orders to expand rural broadband

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
President Donald Trump pumps his fist after speaking at the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, TN - As President Donald Trump took the stage at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention, he was the first president in more than 20 years, since George H. W. Bush spoke at the convention in 1992, to address America's farmers. 

"What happened? Where are they?" Trump questioned.

Trump applauded the nation's farmers, saying they "embody the values of hard work, grit, self-reliance and sheer determination we need to - did you ever hear of this expression? - make America great again."

While many waited to hear what Trump had to say about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the highlight of the presidential address was "two important bills" to expand broadband in rural America. 

During the address, Trump touted $5.5 trillion in tax cuts "with most benefits going to working families, small businesses, and who? - the family farmer," passing a farm bill that includes crop insurance, the elimination of the estate tax and "putting an end to regulatory assault."


NAFTA garnered a few minutes of the presidential address as Trump told farmers, "We are reviewing all of our trade agreements" to make sure they are fair and reciprocal, to "level the playing field for our exporters."  

"I am working very hard to get a better deal for our country, for our farmers, for our manufacturers. It's under negotiation as we speak," said Trump. 

Trump pointed out that negotiations aren't the easiest when Mexico and Canada are "making all that money."

"But we are going to make it fair for you people again," said Trump. "Now we want to see even more victories for the American farmer and for the American rancher."

Working to pass a farm bill "on time" that includes crop insurance, Trump said, "We are working hard on the farm bill and I think it's going to go well." 

Rural broadband

Part of the work "to bring hope and prosperity to struggling rural communities," included the two presidential orders Trump signed at the end of his speech. 

President Donald Trump holds up a signed executive order and a memorandum on rural broadband access at the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.

The executive orders were based off findings from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity commissioned last April, where farmers said broadband internet access is a vital concern to communities and businesses, Trump explained. 

The orders, "to streamline and expedite requests to locate broadband facilities in rural America" and support "broadband tower facilities in rural America," are the first step to expand broadband in rural areas. Trump said the "towers are going to go up and you are going to have great, great broadband."  

Additionally, Trump proposed infrastructure reform to ensure rural communities have the best roadways, railways and waterways in the world. 

"We're going to be spending the necessary funds and we are going to get you taken care of. It's about time," Trump added. "These projects are going to be built under budget and ahead of schedule."

Tax, regulation cuts

Trump pointed out that from the day of his inauguration "we have been working every day to deliver to America's farmers, just as they work every single day to deliver for us." 

As he talked about the American dream "roaring back to life," Trump pointed to $5.5 million in tax cuts, delivering "historic relief for our farmers and our middle class."

Under the "massive" tax cut, Trump said Americans will see lowered tax rates, doubling the standard deduction and child tax credit.

Farmers will be able to deduct 100 percent of the cost of new equipment in the year the investment is made instead of spreading it out over many years. 

"That is tremendous," said Trump. "That is something that I think is going to be the sleeper of the bill." 

Even bigger is "sparing" family farms from the estate tax, "so you can keep your farms in the family," Trump told the crowd. 

Under the recently passed tax reform bill, the exemption from the estate, or death tax, is doubled. For estates worth more than the exemption, the federal tax rate remains the same. 

As people stood to applaud, Trump added, "Obviously you love your families or you wouldn't be standing for that one."

As well as "putting money back into the pockets" of farmers and ranchers, Trump said his administration was putting an end to the "regulatory assault" of fines, paperwork and "relentless intrusion from an army of regulators," by cutting 22 regulations for every one new regulation.

Trump added that regulations "that have blocked cutting edge biotechnology" are being streamlined, "setting free our farmers to innovate, to thrive and to grow."


Some watching the livestream of Trump's speech were pleased with what they heard, calling it a "good day for the American farmer," but others were disappointed at the lack of information on NAFTA. 

One viewer called Trump a fraud saying he is "crapping all over farmers with his NAFTA fiasco."

"To be clear, he gave these farmers zero assurance that he understands the value of NAFTA, in its current form, for our industry. Unreal," said a viewer watching the speech online. 

Another viewer pointed out, "If I can't sell my crops for a profitable price, I won't care about broadband. I won't be here to enjoy it."

Others were glad that the president was "making himself part of the conversation." 

"A president speaking to farmers is more than we've seen in years," said another.

In a statement released by the National Farmers Union, President Roger Johnson applauded the Task Force on its efforts to help rural America grow and thrive. 

"Farmers Union appreciates the administration’s focus on broadband access, as its unreliability and unavailability is one of the biggest issues plaguing rural areas," said Johnson. "Expansion of broadband holds the potential to address many other rural concerns, including economic development, educational opportunities, and access to health care. We hope the President’s executive orders will reduce unnecessary regulatory barriers and encourage broadband development.

“However, these executive orders are among the first of many steps to promote prosperity in rural America. We urge President Trump and Congress to act quickly to uphold their promises by providing major federal investment in a comprehensive infrastructure package.”

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) CEO Keith Krueger welcomed the president's desire to promote broadband connectivity in America's rural areas. 

"Equipping our rural communities with access to high-speed connections, as currently defined by the Federal Communications Commission, should be a national priority," said Krueger in a statement. "“Mobile broadband, however, remains inadequate for robust learning environments in schools. To help address this challenge, we urge policymakers to support fixed technologies like fiber – and not take ‘shortcuts’ that slow broadband access and negatively impact today’s learning. Achieving the fast speeds that students in rural and underserved classrooms need for learning requires true broadband connectivity.”