FARM PROGRESS, JACQUI FATKA
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., hosted USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in Amelia County, Virginia, on June 18, for a roundtable discussion with Central Virginia farmers, producers and agribusinesses. Following the roundtable discussion, Vilsack and Spanberger toured Featherstone Farm and heard directly from the farm’s operators about how they have been able to use newly available broadband internet technology to deploy precision agriculture technology.
Vilsack and Spanberger also heard from local farmers about issues facing the farm economy as it rebuilds from the COVID-19 crisis — including trade concerns, export opportunities, conservation efforts, questions about consolidation in the ag industry and broadband internet issues. During the event, they also learned more about how expanded broadband internet access has the potential to transform Central Virginia’s rural communities and go the extra mile to increase economic opportunities for area families, businesses and farms.
Spanberger says she was honored to host Vilsack in Amelia County and to have him hear directly from farmers and producers in the Seventh District.
“I would like to thank the Secretary for his continued focus on the needs of farm families in Central Virginia and across the country — and I look forward to working with him on issues ranging from high-speed broadband internet investments to expanded opportunities for climate-smart conservation projects,” Spanberger says.
“The past year and a half have been a challenging period, especially for many of our area’s farmers and producers. While there is much work ahead to support the rural economy and invest in the next generation of crop and livestock producers, I am optimistic about how this moment of economic recovery can create new opportunities for Central Virginia farmers and producers,” she adds.
In his remarks, Vilsack notes millions of rural Americans still lack access to high-speed broadband internet. “That’s why Rep. Spanberger is fighting so hard to secure funding for high-speed broadband from USDA and other federal agencies for her district,” says Vilsack. “Rep. Spanberger knows that broadband is good for jobs, and its necessity in rural communities to power everything from education and healthcare to agriculture.”
A 2019 report from USDA found that the deployment of both broadband and precision agriculture technology on farms and ranches throughout the U.S. could result in at least $47 billion in national economic benefits every year. Closing the rural broadband gap stands to not only transform farming in rural America, but also healthcare, education and small business opportunities. More than 35% of rural Americans still lack access to high-speed broadband internet.
In 2020, Spanberger secured a $28 million investment from USDA for high-speed broadband infrastructure projects in the region.
Vilsack says the American Jobs Plan will bring “affordable, reliable high-speed broadband to every Virginian” and he looks forward to working with Spanberger and her colleagues in Congress to “make the American Jobs Plan a reality.”