Farmers and ranchers in the United States rely on internet access to do their jobs effectively, especially as equipment manufacturers create innovative tools and technology to help farmers and ranchers reduce input costs and increase yields. It’s a double-edged sword: As many as 15 percent of farms and ranches have no access to the internet, while others lack regular or quality internet access, limiting their access to precision agriculture technologies.
This month, new bipartisan legislation was introduced by members of the House Agriculture Committee, Reps. Brad Finstad (R-MN) and Yadira Caraveo (C-CO). The legislation, aptly named Linking Access to Spur Technology for Agriculture Connectivity in Rural Environments (LAST ACRE) Act, aims to create a competitive grant and loan program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand high-speed broadband internet access to eligible farms, ranches, and farm sites.
“As a farmer, I understand the important role precision ag technology plays in increasing production and maximizing efficiency. Yet, many rural areas of southern Minnesota and across the country don’t have reliable access to the wireless connectivity needed in order to utilize these techniques,” Finstad said in a news release.
Currently, the Federal Communications Commission defines minimum broadband internet services as internet access that works at a minimum of 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 Mbps or more.
“As a farmer, I understand the important role precision ag technology plays in increasing production and maximizing efficiency. Yet, many rural areas of southern Minnesota and across the country don’t have reliable access to the wireless connectivity needed in order to utilize these techniques,” Finstad said. “The LAST ACRE Act will help drive agricultural innovation into the 21st century by bringing the latest farming technology and tools to every corner of farm country, giving farmers and ranchers – in even the most remote areas – greater ability to adopt precision ag applications and ensure optimal efficiency in their operations.”
The LAST ACRE Act is endorsed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Competitive Carriers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Farmers Union, John Deere, Ethos Connected, and Wireless Internet Service Providers Association.
“In an ever-changing marketplace, it is imperative that corn farmers use the latest in precision agriculture technology to remain competitive and sustainable, and this is only possible through access to high-speed broadband,” said Harold Wolle, National Corn Growers Association president.
As part of its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021, the USDA committed $65 billion to help ensure every American can access affordable internet service. Last year, $401 million was set aside to improve rural internet access access. This year, $700 million was promised to connect rural areas to high-speed internet as part of the ReConnect Program.