Spread the word about the need for Rural Broadband

By Arthur Walsh

According to a U.S department of agriculture report, a case is being made that better access to digital broadband would benefit agricultural organizations. This is so because the majority of agriculture organizations are located in rural communities outside the highspeed connectivity the city offers. Farming is an old craft where the prevailing wisdom has been that hard labor, healthy seeds, seasonal awareness and good equipment are the only sure way to harvest. Until now this belief has never been challenged. But issues like climate change, over population, and the thought of labor shortages are causing people in the community to reexamine their approach.

The Report published by the American broadband Initiative, has stated in no uncertain terms that adoption of digital agricultural technologies would have an immediate benefit worth 18% or $64.5 billion annually, based on 2017 data. If agricultural communities succeed in giving themselves Rural Broadband, they can count on tools for improved planning such as microclimate modeling, yield monitoring, and precision seeding.

According to Megan Nelson an economic analyst for the American Farm Bureau Federation, “The USDA is absolutely jazzed about this opportunity.” They have begun outlining key priorities for strategic action planning involving improved broadband deployment, incentivizing innovative technologies and creating environments for innovation. Most importantly the USDA is reducing barriers in federal processes to access government assets for anybody looking to extend broadband.

As more pockets of the rural agricultural community tap broadband. Data keeps coming in as to supply chains being shortened as digital direct to consumer sales are starting to replace middle man. USDA estimates a revenue increase of 50% per unit of apples, 649% per unit of salad mix and 183% per unit of blueberries based on data collected from 2014 to 2017.

Live stock and dairy sectors are poised to benefit the most. Utilizing Bluetooth technology, animal wearables transmit general health data directly to the producer resulting in a reduction in medication per animal, as well as shortening of the cattle-finishing process by four to six weeks.

It’s hard to know how the USDA and other organizations have come up with the estimation that 64.5 billion annually could be saved by adapting broadband. But so far no one has surfaced to dispute it. The USDA is leaving us with a call to action. For the full benefits of High-speed broadband to be realized throughout rural areas, adoption rates of precision agriculture tools and next generation technology needs to be higher.  If that happens phone & cable companies will take a hint and start extending their service areas.

This is an issue that effects everyone who eats. So, let’s take a cue from the USDA and spread the word. If enough people are talking about it our food supply can continue uninterrupted even while the pressing issues of today begin to bare down on us.