Biden to Tout Rural Investments in Trip to Minnesota
WASHINGTON — President Biden is traveling to Minnesota on Wednesday, where he will announce more than $5 billion in funding for agriculture and other pressing needs while also kickstarting his outreach to rural America ahead of the 2024 election.
Biden, who is being accompanied by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the trip, will make the funding announcement at Dutch Creek Farms, a corn, soybean and hog farm located in the town of Northfield, Minnesota, which is just south of Minneapolis.
The funding includes:
- $1.7 billion for climate-smart farming through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- $1.1 billion for rural infrastructure through 104 loan and grant awards for things such as water and electrical systems.
- $2 billion to support rural-led economic development, through 99 economic development projects in USDA’s Rural Partners Network in nine states and Puerto Rico.
- $274 million for rural high-speed internet, most of it through USDA’s ReConnect Program.
- $145 million to expand access to renewable energy and lower energy costs through loans and grants from the Rural Energy for America Program.
A more detailed breakdown can be found here.
During a call with reporters on Monday, Vilsack said the new funding is intended to meet the needs of farmers seeking help to incorporate conservation practices into their operations.
To illustrate the scope of the need, the ag secretary noted that when the administration made $840 million available to support such practices during the last fiscal year, it received over $2 billion in requests for such funding.
The event series is expected to include about two weeks’ worth of events, including more than a dozen trips by the president, cabinet secretaries and senior administration officials.
The president’s renewed focus on rural America — today marks the beginning of what the White House is billing as the “Investing in Rural America Event Series” — comes after the daily news cycle was dominated for weeks by the paralysis in Congress due to the Republican’s House speaker crisis, and the terrorist attacks in Israel and its subsequent military action against Hamas in Gaza.
It also comes just a week after the president learned he’ll have a challenge for the 2024 nomination from a member of his own party, Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn.
Asked on Tuesday whether there was any correlation between the president’s visit and Phillips’ entry into the race, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment, citing the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by federal officials.
“Look, Minnesota is an important state that the president wanted to go and visit,” Jean-Pierre said. “Obviously, going to rural America … the president is the president for everyone, right?”
Later, Jean-Pierre said the trip will afford the president the opportunity to hear directly from residents of Minnesota and to explain how his policies, including legislation like the bipartisan infrastructure law and Inflation Reduction Act, is making a difference to their communities.
“I’m not going to get ahead of the president. He’ll lay out why it’s important for him to be in that particular community. But, you know, the president loves Minnesota,” she said.
As for Phillips all she would say was that “We are very proud — or very thrilled and thankful to — the congressman for voting with the president almost 100% of the time in the last two years.”
Vilsack took his own stab at the “Why Minnesota?” question during his conference call with reporters.
To begin with, he said, and regardless of whatever else is going on, the administration is concerned about economic opportunity in rural America.
At the same time, he said, farmers in Minnesota are already “embracing opportunity” and “a new future” and the administration wants to put a spotlight on them.
Vilsack went on to note that Minnesota has been a heavy promoter and user of conservation programs like the federal Clean Water Initiative and has been a strong proponent of biofuels.
The trip then, he said, is based on the “totality of needs and rate of adoption of various past White House initiatives in the state.”
In the end, Vilsack said, it will be about putting a spotlight on how a difference is being made.
Among other things, the president is expected to tout the fact that legislation, including the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, are spurring economic development, ensuring that rural Americans do not have to leave their hometowns to find opportunity.
In the evening, Biden will attend a campaign reception in Minneapolis before flying back to Washington.