Broadband Expansion Essential to Rural Prosperity


ARA Applauds Trump Administration's Emphasis on High-Speed Internet Access

President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will highlight the need to expand broadband availability to rural communities in speeches Monday at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville. The comments will help set the stage for the administration's coming infrastructure initiative.

The Trump administration's task force recently released a report on rural prosperity, which called expanding broadband essential to improving rural America. "High-speed internet access and robust wireless networks are essential to fully utilize the tools and technology of precision agriculture," said Daren Coppock, President and CEO of the Agricultural Retailers Association. "The administration's focus on expanding broadband networks in rural communities will help farmers, ranchers and agricultural retailers further unlock the power of these tools, as well as help maintain America's competitive advantage in the global ag economy."

The 44-page report, which identified more than 100 recommendations, including improving the quality of rural life, expanding the rural workforce and encouraging technological innovation, calls for establishment of a permanent commission to carry out its recommendations, an advisory committee and a director-level staff position within USDA. To encourage broadband network expansion, the report recommends steps to promote development, including the use of transmitting towers on federal lands. The task force calls for encouraging "free-market policies, laws, and structures at federal, state, tribal, and local government levels to create an environment conducive to investment, including public-private partnerships."

Grace Kho, the White House's special assistant for technology, telecommunications and cybersecurity cautioned that expanding rural broadband will take time. "This is not going to be a sprint. This will be a long time of -- a long process of figuring out how to exactly move the federal government in the right place in order to be able to get broadband to rural Americans."

The report touches on critical technology issues including recommending the federal government get involved in planning for the use of big data in agriculture. The National Science and Technology Council's subcommittee on food and agriculture "should develop best practices for big data management in agricultural applications," the report says.

The report also pushes the government to promote public acceptance of biotechnology and to update the regulatory process for genetically engineered products.

"ARA looks forward to working with other agricultural organizations and the Trump administration to implement these recommendations," Coppock added.