Trump promotes rural development before championship game

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — President Donald Trump pitched his efforts to help rural America, promoting his tax overhaul law and economic development plans on a visit to Tennessee on Monday. He’s also reserving a seat at the national college football championship game.

Trump became the first president in a quarter-century to address the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation. With the trip to Nashville, he unveiled a report the White House says will include proposals to stimulate a segment of the national economy that has lagged behind others.

Trump said most of the benefits of the tax legislation are “going to working families, small businesses, and who, the family farmer.”

The $1.5 trillion package that Trump signed into law last month provides generous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and more modest reductions for middle- and low-income individuals and families.

The president warned against voting for Democrats in this November’s midterm elections, saying they would undo the tax bill. “If the Democrats ever had the chance, the first thing they would do is get rid of it and raise up your taxes,” Trump said.

Trump also highlighted the doubling of the threshold for the estate tax — earning a standing ovation from the audience— and the ability for companies to immediately write off the full cost of new equipment. He said that “in every decision we make, we are honoring America’s proud farming legacy.”

Central to the report is the assessment that the “provider for an equalization among rural America is connectivity; that high-speed internet should remain a high priority for the administration,” said Ray Starling, the special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade and food assistance. The report calls for expediting federal permitting to allow for broadband internet expansion in rural areas and for making it easier for providers to place cell towers on federal lands.

Trump was set to make two moves on rural broadband Monday, with plans to sign an executive order and a memo that the White House described as “incremental,” but the start of an effort to make progress on the issue. White House officials said all work was in the early stages and did not offer an overall timeline. Officials noted the price tag for rural broadband expansion has been estimated at $80 billion, but said the administration had not determined a cost.

The president also took credit for working to roll back the Obama administration’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act, which had greatly expanded the list of bodies of water subject to federal regulation. The Farm Bureau ran a public relations campaign against the rule and called it “dangerous and unlawful.”

The Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force report highlights the importance of addressing the opioid crisis, which has disproportionately affected rural communities.

Trump also called on Congress to renew the farm bill this year, adding he supports providing for federal crop insurance. The massive federal legislation funds federal agriculture and food policy, and it provides for rural communities.

Trump formed the task force, which includes representatives from Cabinet agencies and independent agencies like the Federal Communications Commission, in an April executive order.

From Nashville, Trump will travel to Atlanta to watch Alabama’s Crimson Tide and Georgia’s Bulldogs face off Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship. The game is set for Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new $1.5 billion home field of the Atlanta Falcons.

ESPN, which is televising the game, said Sunday that it appeared unlikely Trump would be interviewed during the game. Stephanie Druley, ESPN senior vice president for events and studio programs, said the network had been in contact with the White House and she did not “get the sense” that an interview would be arranged.

Trump criticized ESPN in October in response to “SportsCenter” host Jemelle Hill tweeting that the president was a “white supremacist.”

A network often seeks an interview with the president when he attends a game it’s televising.

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AP writer Catherine Lucey in Washington and AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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