ST. LOUIS – A new report, funded by the United Soybean Board and produced by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, has found that providing American farmers and ranchers with fast, affordable and reliable broadband access will increase sustainability. It will also enable more reliable and efficient food production for a growing population and strengthen rural American communities.
âData is the most valuable tool in our farm’s toolbox. Without a reliable connection to the Internet, data collection and further use is severely limited, âsaid Meagan Kaiser, USB treasurer, soil scientist, and Missouri farmer. âThe data gives us the ability to identify the nutrient needs of plants and target those nutrients only where they are needed, leading to increased yields without expanding the acreage. It all starts with connectivity.
Interviews with farmers, rural internet service providers, equipment manufacturers, and agricultural leaders and experts revealed consensus around several key outcomes for rural broadband, such as the need for robust download speeds, accurate network deployment data and scalable technologies.
The report, The Future of American Farming: Broadband Solutions for the Farm Office, Field and Community, presents 15 concrete recommendations for delivering the high-speed internet that farmers and rural communities need.
Categorized by farm center, wireless needs in the field, and the reliability of broadband that can support the interdependent relationship between farmers and their rural communities, some of the concrete recommendations include:
â¢ Establish performance standards that stand the test of time: To meet the growing demand of farmers for upstream and downstream speeds, networks must be able to provide 100/100 Mbps service.
â¢ Adopt high-performance standards: Performance standards for download speeds and latency are expected to reflect farmers’ changing needs for precision farming.
â¢ Encourage deep fiber buildup: Fiber construction in rural America, even if not directly on the farm, will be required to support capable wireless connections for higher bandwidth applications in the field.
â¢ Filling the gaps in the mapping of agricultural land: Broadband maps should include mobile coverage on farmland. The underlying data that informs these maps must be publicly available.
â¢ Support digital equity programs at state and local levels: Digital equity programs can work with communities to help people make full use of broadband connections.
âFor many farmers, sustainability integrates the economic, environmental and social impacts of agriculture – a triple bottom line,â said Jordan Arnold, associate researcher at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society and author of the report. âNow is the time to deploy the broadband networks and the adoption strategies they need. “
The recommendations are a direct response to problems revealed in a 2019 rural broadband study from USB. This initial study showed that 60% of American farmers and ranchers do not believe they have adequate internet connectivity to run their businesses and that plans to integrate data into everyday decisions are often thwarted by internet speeds. slow, high costs and unreliable service. The study also noted that many farmers have no other viable option to switch Internet service providers.
Even embarrassed by these issues, farmers know that broadband is a necessary tool to implement innovative agricultural practices and allow a more targeted and more efficient use of resources. Broadband access allows farmers to measure their inputs and outputs more efficiently, which creates smarter and more sustainable resource management.
âThe connectivity of land, equipment and infrastructure allows for the proactive management of digital data at the farm and ranch level. Digital data management drives precision farming, and precision farming drives many fundamental aspects of measurable sustainability, âsaid Mace Thornton, vice president of communications and marketing strategy for USB. “This is why this issue is so vital for soybeans.”
To read the full report, visit tinyurl.com/2tzdm5ap.