Increasing broadband speeds in rural Minnesota is a high priority for both Le Sueur County residents and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Klobuchar touted broadband investment and other issues facing rural Minnesotans at the Le Sueur County Township Association meeting Saturday morning. The visit was part of her 10-County Rural Economy weekend tour throughout southern Minnesota, which Klobuchar said was to help better understand the needs of rural Minnesotans.
“Our job is to make things better and not have a divide between rural Minnesota and the metro,” Klobuchar told the audience of about 40 people, including local government officials. “With the issues of interest, there is common ground with Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.”
She pointed out examples of farmers who had to visit local fast food establishments to access high-speed internet since they don’t have that capability from their farms.
Klobuchar said that 61 U.S. senators were working to get the Federal Communications Commission to change the rules on how funds to expand broadband are distributed.
Ottawa Township resident Janet Nordstrom was happy Klobuchar was working to increase broadband in rural areas, and said it’s a problem many people in the area face.
“If you live in a rural area outside of the city it’s extraordinarily expensive to get high-speed internet,” Nordstrom said. “It’s been a problem for a long time.”
Klobuchar also spoke about proposals for the 2018 Farm Bill, which is reauthorized every five years to outline agricultural and food safety net programs. The farm bill includes disaster relief, the production of advanced biofuels and infrastructure development.
One of the last topics Klobuchar touched on was the possibility of lifting the United States' embargo on Cuba, and how that would help farmers across the country. While she said Congress was still “a long ways away” from lifting the embargo, companies are starting to do more business with the island nation.
“We’ve talked to a lot of companies that look at how we treat Cuba,” Klobuchar said. "We’re hopeful about that market and hopeful we can keep exporting American agriculture around the world.”
Tyrone Township resident Ron Weyl said he was very happy that Klobuchar was touring throughout Minnesota, saying that it strengthens residents’ beliefs that Congress is looking out for the entire state instead of just the metro area.
“(Klobuchar) is really well regarded within the state. It helps a lot to hear from her (in person) to know she has the best interest of Minnesotans at heart,” Weyl said. “Now we need the two parties to try to work together.”
Klobuchar also mentioned broadband development and the 2018 Farm Bill to a group of five businesswomen in St. Peter at her first stop on Saturday. The businesswomen brought up issues that are hurdles for their small businesses, including ever-changing regulatory burdens, minimum wage and financial illiteracy among young people.
Margo O’Brien, general manager of the St. Peter Food Co-op, said, “We run into a lot of legal issues and it’s really a challenge to keep up. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re a rubber band getting stretched.”
Klobuchar said regulatory reform and exemptions for small businesses and reducing health care costs are among her top priorities. Many retailers also support the Marketplace Fairness Act, which brings enforcement to requirements that states collect sales tax on online purchases.