Low Broadband Access Hinders Modern Producers
Just like every other industry, the agricultural industry is constantly changing and evolving with the times. Whether that be updated technology or just an overall better way to get the job done. No one could have ever imagined that the agricultural industry would one day rely on the internet. “From computer programs that regulate moisture sensors to smartphone apps that allow growers to monitor market data, most facets of agriculture continue to shift to digital platforms. This transition makes reliable internet access no longer a luxury, but a necessity.” For many farmers and ranchers, the ability to obtain reliable internet is extremely challenging and often, impossible.
Brian Mills and Devon Meadowcroft, agricultural economists based at the Mississippi State University Delta Research and Extension Center, gathered data from Mississippi illustrating the impact the lack of broadband access creates for farmers and ranchers. “Broadband is defined as internet access with download speeds above 25 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 3 megabits per second.” Brain and Devon utilized the “Federal Communications Commission broadband data and the U.S. Census population statistics to examine farm employment and population with no broadband access” in all 82 counties in Mississippi. Brian and Devon found that ” about 27% of Mississippians who live in rural counties lack broadband access. Nearly 60% of the state’s almost 3 million residents reside in rural counties and account for 80% of the state’s population without broadband. Only 17 counties were classified as urban based on USDA Economic Research Service definitions.”
In the case for Mississippi, a large majority of the state had poor access to a reliable broadband network. According to Brian Mills, “Broadband internet takes a lot of infrastructure and up-front cost to install, and rural areas don’t get the same investment that more populated ones do. Most newer precision farming technology, such as irrigation programs that allow you to see what your moisture sensors are doing in real time remotely, requires a lot of data. Without internet access, growers can’t find out this type of information as quickly as they would if they had it, and they lose out on potential profit.” Although this may not be the same situation for every state, all agricultural producers should have easy access to a good reliable broadband internet. “It’s good for policymakers to see what this situation currently looks like in Mississippi and look for ways to allocate resources toward bridging that gap. Many people is rural populations need reliable internet just as much as those in suburbs and large cities.”
This article really focused on the state of Mississippi, but this is an issue all over the country. With more equipment requiring broadband/internet access, producers need to easily access the internet. Some producers even track their whole operation with the assistance of the internet. Technology has opened new doors for the agricultural industry, but what is the use if that is not easily obtained?
This is something that I never really considered. With technology helping make producers’ lives just a little easier and more efficient I never thought that accessing internet would be an issue for our producers. On the other hand, having lived in an area with no access to internet, it makes sense how some producers are struggling with this. I believe that this in an issue that needs to be addressed nationwide. Agriculturalists produce everything humans rely on, and limiting their access to improve their operations needs to be changed. I personally believe that companies should be trying to expand their networks to more rural communities to allow producers more opportunity to access the broadband needed to improve their daily operations. Let us know how you feel regarding the lack of broadband access to rural producers!
 Robert Nathan Gregory, “Low broadband access hinders modern producers” AgUpdate, May 18th, 2021