Trump speech ignores rural America except for infrastructure
January 31, 2018
President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech Tuesday evening did not offer much to rural America except possibly on infrastructure.
Trump did not spend much time on trade, and his statements on immigration focused on the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program rather than the situation of farm workers.
But Trump did talk about infrastructure, offering some hope to advocates for high-speed Internet service and modernizations of locks and dams and other forms of transportation.
Zippy Duvall, president of the Republican-leaning American Farm Bureau Federation, said Trump's speech amounted to "a policy roadmap that aims to unify and strengthen our nation.
"It was refreshing to hear his continued pledge to make Washington accountable. The cost of complying with regulations takes a bite directly out of the already slim profit margins our farmers and ranchers are facing today. While much has already been done, there is still more work to do," Duvall said.
"With the more-than-$1 trillion infrastructure development package he announced tonight, it is our expectation that rural communities will be partners in what he described as a New American Moment. Infrastructure upgrades tied to our rural communities will help pave the way for economic renewal that is so badly needed," he said.
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"The bold package of immigration reform measures he put on the table tonight should prime the pump for overdue action, and we encourage Congress to take action in a timely manner," Duvall added. "While we must do more to secure our borders, the fact remains that our farmers and ranchers need access to agriculture labor they can depend on. Agriculture must be part of President Trump's proposal for merit-based immigration. We will work with the administration and Congress to ensure we get the job done."
Roger Johnson, president of the Democratic-leaning National Farmers Union, said, Trump "spoke to how our past trade agreements disadvantage the working class, family farmers and their communities. These agreements operate under a failed framework that the president can begin to fix by replacing NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) with an agreement that addresses our massive trade deficit and lost sovereignty. Unfortunately, President Trump has gone about this in a fashion that isn't conducive to positive relations with our trading partners. The administration must produce a better NAFTA and avoid massive market disruption through a NAFTA withdrawal.
"We also appreciate the president's attention to current infrastructure woes," Johnson said. "There is clearly a growing need for significant federal investment in our nation's roads, rails, broadband, locks and dams. We urge the administration and Congress to move swiftly in developing the promised comprehensive infrastructure package."
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson applauded Trump's emphasis on reducing regulations and said, "As the president puts the finishing touches on his infrastructure proposal, it's important that the package focus on more than roads and bridges in our cities. A vibrant 21st-century rural economy depends on the modernization of the electric system and expanded high-speed Internet access. We look forward to supporting an infrastructure bill that addresses the needs of rural families and communities."
Mike Toohey, president and CEO of Waterways Council, said, "We are very pleased that the president's infrastructure initiative includes waterways, and that President Trump specifically mentioned waterways as example of needed investment during the State of the Union address. Seldom are the quietly efficient, safe and lowest cost transportation arteries — rivers — discussed in a transportation world dominated by roads, runways and rails."