Farmers across rural America need fast, affordable, and reliable broadband solutions to power innovative, data-driven, sustainable agriculture—and to meet the world’s rising demand for food.

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The future of American Farming—and our food supply—depends on it.

“Farmers know what they need for sustainable, data-driven agriculture that can keep pace with the world’s rising food demand,” the report's author, Jordan Arnold, concludes. “Now it’s time to hear them and deploy the broadband networks and adoption strategies they require to continue to innovate and feed the world.”

Connectivity is critical not only in farm offices, but in fields for precision farming, and to structures such as grain silos, hog barns, or even compost drums, according to a new report from the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society in collaboration with the United Soybean Board.

The Future of American Farming: Broadband Solutions for the Farm Office, Field, and Community lays out 15 actionable recommendations for delivering the high-speed internet that farmers and rural communities need.

Interviews with farmers, rural internet service providers, equipment manufacturers, and other agricultural leaders and experts brought to light a broad consensus around several key outcomes for rural broadband, such as the need forrobust upload speeds, accurate network deployment data and scalable technologies.

The recommendations are a direct response to the problems revealed in a 2019 rural broadband study from the United Soybean Board.

That study showed that 60 percent of U.S. farmers and ranchers do not believe they have adequate internet connectivity to run their businesses, and that their plans to incorporate data into their day-to-day decisions are often thwarted by slow internet speeds, high costs, and unreliable service. And many farmers do not have another viable option to change internet service providers.

Even hampered by these issues, farmers know that broadband is a necessary tool to innovate agricultural practices, allowing for more targeted and efficient resource use. Broadband access is central to sustainability because connected technologies allow farmers to measure their inputs and outputs, creating opportunities for smarter, more sustainable resource management.

Mace Thornton, vice president of communications and marketing strategy for the United Soybean Board, explains how connectivity drives sustainability: “Connectivity of land, equipment, and infrastructure drives the ability to proactively manage digital data at the farm and ranch level. Managing digital data drives precision agriculture, and precision agriculture drives many foundational aspects of measurable sustainability. That is why this issue is so vital to US Soy.”

“These opportunities are especially important as we emerge from health and economic crises that have gripped America and deeply impacted American agriculture for over a year,” said Adrianne B. Furniss of the Benton Institute. “This is the moment every tool must be made available to farmers.”

To read the full report, visit https://www.benton.org/publications/future-american-farming. For more information, contact Adrianne B. Furniss, Executive Director, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

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