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Biden kicks off a fresh appeal to rural Americans in Minnesota

President Joe Biden traveled to Minnesota Wednesday to kick off a series of events by the administration aimed at connecting with rural America, a visit to the home state of a political rival where he will appeal to a voting bloc often ignored by Democrats.

During a visit to a family farm in Northfield, Minnesota, Biden announced “over $5 billion in new investments from his Investing in America agenda – including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act – to advance rural prosperity, economic development, competition, and sustainability,” which the White House previewed prior to the visit.

The investment includes funding for climate-smart agriculture techniques, rural infrastructure awards, rural economic development projects, an expansion of high-speed internet infrastructure and other efforts to boost access to renewable energy and lower energy costs, the White House said.

Speaking from Dutch Creek Farm, Biden lauded the investment in rural communities from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“It’s about basic fairness. Right now, the farmers and ranchers who actually grow the food only see a small percentage of the profit when the food is sold,” Biden said. “…So we’re strengthening local food systems so rural communities have better access to affordable, locally grown food, so the farmers who provide that food actually benefit through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It’s a fancy name, but it’s about rebuilding America’s bridges, roads, highways, etc.”

He called on Congress to continue funding the infrastructure law programs that assist with things like high speed internet in rural communities.

“We need your help – that program’s running out of funds. I sent Congress requests for more funding, and they should act now act on it now,” he said.

The choice of Minnesota to kick off the rural outreach is notable; Biden was in the home state of Rep. Dean Phillips, who recently announced a long-shot presidential primary campaign against the president.

Over the next two weeks, Biden, Cabinet members and other senior officials will travel across the country as part of this event series, the White House said.

Biden’s message in these rural parts of the country, the White House said, is that “rural Americans do not have to leave their hometowns to find opportunity.”

Biden is also set to attend a campaign fundraiser in Minneapolis later Wednesday.

The trip comes amid inflamed tensions as Israel launches deadly strikes in Gaza. There has been frustration in the Muslim American community over the White House’s handling of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and Minnesota has a sizable and growing Muslim population.

Biden addressed the suffering of Palestinians, promising to continue to press Israel to adhere to international laws protecting civilians in conflict and to push for increased aid to Gaza. He also touted the opening of the Rafah gate to wounded Palestinians and foreign nationals.

“Israel has the right to respond and a responsibility to defend its citizens from terror. And it needs to do so in a manner that is consistent with international humanitarian law, that prioritizes protection of civilians,” Biden said. “We’ve all seen the devastating images from Gaza, Palestinian children crying out for lost parents.”

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the US. The state elected the first Muslim member of Congress, former Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison in 2006, and he was succeeded by one of the first two female Muslim members of Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar, also a Democrat.

Omar, who represents a district that includes parts of Minneapolis, is among a group of progressive Democrats in the House calling for a ceasefire and has been vocally critical of Israel.

“Make no mistake: these human rights abuses are being carried out with U.S. weapons, U.S. funding, and with ‘no red lines.’ And now we are set to vote on an additional $14 billion with no restrictions or conditions. The United States Congress should not fund violations of U.S. and international law,” she said in a post to the social media platform X following a strike on Gaza’s largest refugee camp this week.

And Ellison, who is now Minnesota’s attorney general, was present at a private meeting last week where a group of Muslim-American leaders told Biden he and his administration needed to show more empathy toward Palestinian lives and pushed back on his comment this week casting doubt on civilian death figures in Gaza provided by the health ministry there, according to two of the attendees. The meeting, described as frank and productive, also included calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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