Government

Trump calls for rural internet expansion at Kirkwood Community College

Wednesday's speech also served as a send off for former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad

CEDAR RAPIDS — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he will push for increased rural internet access in his proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

His speech to a crowd of about 250 at Kirkwood Community College also served as a send off of sorts for former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who will leave Iowa Friday to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China.

Branstad “loves the state and the people so much, and together we all join to express our deep gratitude to Terry for everything he has done for Iowa and for its people. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much and have a good time in China,” Trump said.

Branstad, in turn, thanked Trump for his leadership and congratulated him for a deal between the United States and China that will allow the exports of United States-made beef into the country.

The two countries reached an agreement last month that would allow for the sale. China had said last September it would look at re-allowing the entry of U.S.-produced beef.

In his address, Trump hailed American farmers and said his administration will work to “eliminate the intrusive rules that undermine your ability to earn a living.”

“I’m not a farmer, but I’d be very happy to be one. It’s a very beautiful world you live in,” the Republican president said, flanked by a red combine and a green tractor.

Trump’s visit to Kirkwood came as a part of Technology Week for the White House. Before his remarks, a Kirkwood student showed Trump a John Deere Combine Simulator, used to train students on how to use the equipment.

“On our visit to Kirkwood Community College, President Trump and I saw the high-tech equipment used in the school’s precision agriculture program,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement. “Precision agriculture optimizes yields while conserving resources. Each advance made in technology is another step in the right direction for both farmers and the environment.”

The president advocated that better infrastructure, including broadband, is needed to “usher in a new era of prosperity for American agriculture.”

“That is why I will be including a provision in our infrastructure proposal — $1 trillion proposal that you’ll see very shortly — to enhance broadband access for rural America also,” he said.

Bruce Rastetter, a Republican and agribusinessman, said he liked that Trump “recognized the importance of U.S. agriculture” and the need for improved broadband.

“Rural broadband, we’ve seen in our farming operation, is critical for technology to be able to work out in the fields. When you have gaps in that, the software on that technology doesn’t work ,” Rastetter told The Gazette.

A Federal Communications Commission report in 2016 found 37 percent of rural Iowans were without access to high-speed broadband, compared to just 4 percent of urban residents.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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