Biden to Travel to Minnesota to Highlight Rural Investments


The White House on Wednesday will announce more than $5 billion in funding for agriculture, broadband and clean energy needs in sparsely populated parts of the country as President Biden travels to Minnesota to kick off an administration-wide tour of rural communities.

The president’s efforts to focus attention on the domestic economy ahead of next year’s campaign come after three weeks in which his administration has been seized by events overseas following the terrorist attacks in Israel and the state’s subsequent military action in Gaza.

The trip will take place as Mr. Biden is urging Congress to quickly pass a $105 billion funding package that includes emergency aid to Israel and Ukraine, two conflicts he has described as threats to democracy around the globe.

But the president and his aides are well aware that his hopes for a second term are likely to be determined closer to home. Rural voters like the ones he will address at a corn, soybean and hog farm south of Minneapolis are increasingly voting Republican. A recent poll showed that most voters had heard little or nothing about a health care and clean energy law that is the cornerstone of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda. And the president even faces a challenge within his own party, from Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who announced his long-shot presidential bid last week.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, declined on Tuesday to speak about campaign issues, citing the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by federal officials, but said that Mr. Biden “loves Minnesota.” Administration officials have said Mr. Biden’s trip was planned before Mr. Phillips announced his candidacy.

The White House has called the next two weeks of events the “Investing in Rural America Event Series.” It includes more than a dozen trips by Mr. Biden as well as cabinet secretaries and other senior administration officials. The White House said in a statement that the tour would highlight federal investments that “are bringing new revenue to farms, increased economic development in rural towns and communities, and more opportunity throughout the country.”

Mr. Biden will be joined on Wednesday by Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary. Against the backdrop of a family farm that uses techniques to make crops more resilient to climate change, they will announce $1.7 billion for farmers nationwide to adopt so-called climate-smart agriculture practices.

Other funding announcements include $1.1 billion in loans and grants to upgrade infrastructure in rural communities; $2 billion in investments as part of a program that helps rural governments work more closely with federal agencies on economic development projects; $274 million to expand high-speed internet infrastructure; and $145 million to expand access to wind, solar and other renewable energy, according to a White House fact sheet.

“Young people in rural communities shouldn’t have to leave home to find opportunity,” Neera Tanden, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said Tuesday on a call with reporters.

She said federal investments were creating “a pathway for the next generation to keep their roots in rural America.”

Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, a Democrat, said he expected Mr. Biden to face serious headwinds in rural communities, in large part because of inflation levels.

“It is a little challenging, there’s no denying, when prices go up,” Mr. Walz said. “The politics have gotten a little angrier. I think folks are feeling a little behind.”

But Mr. Walz also praised Mr. Biden for spending time in rural communities. “Democrats need to show up,” he said.

Kenan Fikri, the director of research at the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank, said the Biden administration had made sizable investments over the past two and a half years in agriculture, broadband and other rural priorities.

“The administration has a lot to show for its economic development efforts in rural communities,” he said, but “whether voters will credit Biden for a strong economic performance is another question.”

Later in the week Mr. Vilsack will travel to Indiana, Wyoming and Colorado to speak with agricultural leaders and discuss land conservation. Deb Haaland, the interior secretary, will go to her home state of New Mexico to highlight water infrastructure investments.

Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm will be in Arizona to talk about the electricity grid and renewable energy investment in the rural Southwest.

The veterans affairs secretary, Denis McDonough, plans to visit Iowa to discuss improving access to medical care for veterans in rural areas. Isabel Guzman, who leads the Small Business Administration, will travel to Georgia to talk about loans for rural small businesses.

Miguel A. Cardona, the education secretary, will go to New Hampshire to promote how community colleges help students from rural areas. Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services, will be in North Carolina to talk about health care access in rural areas.


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