Trump promoting rural development, attending football game

(AP) — President Donald Trump is promoting his administration’s plans to boost economic development in rural communities — and reserving a seat at the national college football championship game.

Trump is set Monday to become the first president in a quarter century to address the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation. With the trip to Nashville, Tennessee, he will unveil a report the White House says will include proposals to stimulate a segment of the national economy that has lagged others.

Central to the report will be 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.

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Starling said Trump will use the appearance to highlight the impact of the tax overhaul on farmers and small businesses. The president will also take credit for working to roll back the Obama administration’s controversial interpretation of the Clean Water Act, which 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 will also highlight the importance of addressing the opioid crisis, which has disproportionately impacted rural communities, Starling said.

Briefing reporters Friday before the president’s speech, Starling said Trump will call on Congress to renew the farm bill this year. The massive federal legislation funds federal agriculture and food policy, and 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.

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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 that 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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