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Rural Connectivity Necessary for Agriculture

The following published in DairyBusiness on July 8, 2019

Connectivity is needed in rural areas to make the best of use technology in agriculture

Sonny 300x300 Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

The Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas in June on “The Future of Food” showcased technology, innovation and ideas that will make agriculture more efficient, productive, profitable and safe. To make these advancements accessible to all Americans, broadband connectivity must reach currently unserved rural areas, speakers said.

“We’ve got gee-whiz technology that is dependent on broadband,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the event’s keynote speaker. “Rural broadband is a huge issue with transformational capacity to bridge the rural-urban divide.”

A former farmer and governor of Georgia, Perdue said many people who now live in urban areas would welcome the opportunity to populate locations with a slower pace and lower cost of living. “If they could work from home, if they had connectivity to do their jobs there, many people would choose to live in rural areas,” he said.

Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc., a $15 billion company headquartered in Minnesota, said about 30 percent of farmers across the country have no access to broadband. “We have a shared future. Rural communities need to be vibrant,” Ford said. “That starts with broadband.”

The effort to extend broadband access to rural communities in California is a priority for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston. While it is potentially expensive to bring internet connectivity to every resident of the state – from the far reaches of Modoc County in the north to remote desert communities near the Mexican border in the south – those communities’ lack of high-speed internet is exacting a high economic, medical, social and educational cost.

Humiston was part of a Summit panel that discussed how to cultivate the next generation of leadership in farming. The panelists said future ag industry leaders will need traditional leadership skills – communicating and listening well – but with the growth of agricultural technology, digital literacy is imperative. Using these new high-technology tools will also require broadband coverage, Humiston said.

“Technologies that use artificial intelligence are increasingly dependent on high-speed internet connectivity for real-time data uploads and processing in the cloud,” she noted. “If farms cannot get affordable broadband coverage, or if bandwidth is limited, this will greatly hinder their ability to adopt new technologies.”

Click here to read the original article and learn about some highlights of the event.