RICHMOND—A recent study found access to broadband internet continues to be a major obstacle for farmers and others living in rural America.
Findings published by the United Soybean Board indicate 60% of U.S. farmers don’t have enough broadband to operate their businesses.
The study also found that a lack of connectivity costs the U.S. economy $80 billion in lost gross domestic product. Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the need for expanding broadband access to rural America is urgent. “Broadband access for today’s farmers is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity. Farmers use broadband access to reach customers and track markets, but possibly the most important use is related to the equipment they use. With broadband access farmers are able to produce more while using less, which is a benefit not only for their environment but also for their bottom line.”
The USB study also found 78% of farmers do not have a choice of internet service providers. For those rural farmers who do have access, 60% said their service is slow, with most relying on cell signals or hot spots. Additionally, the study found that 40% of farmers have a fixed internet connection, while others get access via satellite.
Rowe said the effort to increase broadband access should mirror the effort to bring electricity to all parts of the country. “Just like rural electrification in the 20th century, we must all work together to ensure that rural residents enjoy the same internet access as those in urban environments.”
More than 2,000 farm operators responded to the USB survey, which was conducted in partnership with the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Illinois Soybean Association and North Carolina Soybean Producers Association.