U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Joins Spanberger in Amelia County to Discuss Rural America’s Economic Recovery with Central Virginia Crop & Livestock Producers

Jun 18, 2021
Agriculture
Press

AMELIA COURT HOUSE, V.A. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today hosted U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack in Amelia County, Virginia for a roundtable discussion with Central Virginia farmers, producers, and agribusinesses.

At Featherstone Farm in Amelia County, Secretary Vilsack and Spanberger 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.

Following the roundtable discussion, Secretary Vilsack and Spanberger toured the 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. Click here for photos from today’s event in Amelia County.

“Millions of rural Americans still lack access to high-speed broadband internet, and 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,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Rep. Spanberger knows that broadband is good for jobs, and its necessity in rural communities to power everything from education and health care to agriculture. The Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan will bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every Virginian and I look forward to working with Rep. Spanberger and her colleagues in Congress to make the American Jobs Plan a reality.”

“The past year and a half has 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,” said Spanberger. “Today, I was honored to host Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack in Amelia County and to have him hear directly from farmers and producers here 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. I am grateful to Featherstone Farm and the Whittington family for hosting us today, and I look forward to keeping up my work to bring the voices of farmers directly to the conversation on Capitol Hill.”

Millions of rural Americans still lack access to reliable high-speed broadband internet. A 2019 report from USDA found that the deployment of both broadband internet and precision agriculture technology on farms and ranches throughout the United States could result in at least $47 billion in new, nationwide economic benefits every year. Closing the digital divide stands to not only transform farming in rural America, but also healthcare, education, and small business opportunities.

Spanberger serves on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, where she also serves as Chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee.

BACKGROUND

Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has worked to close the digital divide in the Seventh District’s rural communities.

In February 2020, Spanberger announced $28 million in federal funding for high-speed broadband internet infrastructure projects in Central Virginia — including in Louisa, Orange, Goochland, and Powhatan Counties — through the USDA’s ReConnect Program. In 2019, Spanberger successfully led the fight to protect ReConnect funding from elimination — and in 2020, she worked to strengthen funding for the program in the fiscal year 2021 funding deal signed into law by President Donald Trump.

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