President Trump will travel to Iowa on Wednesday to highlight the need for Internet connectivity in rural areas and to promote the administration’s technology agenda, as the White House takes its policy push outside of the frenzy of the Beltway.
Trump will visit Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, home of the nation’s largest two-year agricultural college program, to view the school’s cutting edge “agricultural geo-spatial technology and precision farming” techniques.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will join the president at an event that will also act as an unofficial send-off for former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who will soon take up residence in China as the U.S. ambassador.
The trip hits a number of sweet spots for the administration.
Trump will be surrounded by supporters in Iowa, a swing state he carried by 10 points over Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe dangerous erosion of Democratic Party foundations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket MORE in 2016. There, the president will “reiterate his commitment to agriculture and rural America” at a time when the administration says many farmers are struggling.
“We are entering a crop year that, frankly, is one of the toughest farm economies we’ve had in recent history,” Ray Starling, a special assistant to the president for Agriculture, said on a conference call with reporters. “Net farming income is expected to be down again this year, the fourth year in a row. … In just four years, our farmer’s economy has been cut in half.”
Furthermore, Kirkwood is a two-year school, and the administration has sought to incentivize young students to consider apprenticeships and technical skills-based programs over traditional four-year universities.
And the focus on cutting edge agricultural developments comes during “technology week” at the White House. Self-driving tractors and new GPS technologies that help farmers maximize their yields will be among the advancements the president hears about.
“The next generation of farmers will need to know how to turn a wrench, but also how to write code and rewire circuit boards,” Starling said.
“That’s where agriculture is headed as a industry.”
Still, many of the administration’s proposals are only in the early stages of development.
Starling acknowledged that the White House did not have a specific proposal to bring the Internet to rural areas where connectivity has been lagging.
“The president is committed to working with whatever Congress views as the best solution,” Starling said.