Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Jared Bernstein, the chief economist to the Vice President, talked with reporters Wednesday, announcing expanded high speed internet access throughout the country. The broadband investment of $1.8 billion will fund 94 projects in 37 states.
"We see this as expanding opportunity for farmers and ranchers to have real-time information concerning weather and markets so they can make the best decisions for their operations," Vilsack said.
At the Illinois State Fair on Tuesday, USDA State Director for Rural Development Colleen Callahan discussed the importance of bringing broadband to rural America
"It's crucial to the rural area because it means the same thing that getting electricity to the rural area meant decades ago; it's about infrastructure," Callahan said. "Our rural communities are not going to be prosperous, they are not going to thrive, we're not going to be able to encourage our young people to come back to rural communities if we don't have basic infrastructure and today high-speed internet is basic, you don't do business without it."
Callahan says that with modern agriculture most farmers also have off the field jobs, which is another reason for expansion of high-speed internet.
"We have come to the point in time, at least in the Midwest, where we plant in the spring, wait in the summer, harvest in the fall and wait in the winter," Callahan said. "The highest percentage of people who are feeding the world in production agriculture have off-farm jobs. If there are no businesses, if those rural communities are not viable for people to stay there to feed the world, we put our food supply in jeopardy."
Callahan says there is not one rural community she visits where high speed internet access is not a concern.