Rural Broadband

Current Situation

Like any business, farmers depend on a reliable broadband connection to be successful in their day-to-day operations. Unlike other businesses, farmers access the internet across acres — anywhere from their shops to the seat of their equipment in the field. Their work requires reliable internet access to use soil fertility data, yield maps, weather forecasts and autosteer. However, a study conducted by the United Soybean Board found that nearly 60% of U.S. farmers and ranchers do not believe they have adequate internet connectivity to run their businesses. Only 32% consider their office internet reliable, and 78% of farmers do not have a viable option to change service providers.1 

Unreliable connectivity limits farmers in the daily tasks required to run their business. Farmers alone contribute nearly $133 billion to U.S. gross domestic product. Limited access, unreliable or slow internet connections places a heavy burden on the farms responsible for nearly $80 billion in the U.S. gross domestic product.2 The unavailability of reliable broadband directly impacts farmers, their region and the U.S. economy.

Why the Checkoff Cares

Limited internet connectivity can be detrimental to a farmer’s livelihood. A secure connection helps farmers with purchasing decisions, banking, equipment, farm improvements and much more. Without reliable internet, U.S. soybean farmers are not able to reinvest in their businesses or run them to full potential.

Key Points

  • U.S. farmers in rural America feel the impact of limited broadband connectivity, including limitations on improving farm economic and environmental sustainability and reinvesting in their businesses.
  • There is a critical need to improve rural broadband access, which has implications far beyond quality-of-life concerns. Improved internet reliability impacts the livelihood of rural communities.
  • Farmers’ needs for internet access are projected to grow. The value they bring to the U.S. economy could multiply significantly with fast, reliable broadband access.

Facts & Figures

  • Slow, unreliable internet handicaps an industry segment worth nearly $133 billion in U.S. GDP. That segment is the foundation of agriculture, food and related industries that contribute $1.05 trillion, or 5.4%, to GDP.1
  • According to Rural Broadband and the American Farmer, lack of internet access has affected 33% of farmers’ equipment purchases, and lack of rural internet impacts $13 billion in annual farm equipment purchases.1
  • Today’s farmers access the internet in the middle of their fields. There they rely on connectivity to process data such as yield and soil fertility maps, identify and treat crop and livestock problems, and find solutions to fix machinery. Farmers continue to use technology innovations such as autosteer, drones, sensors and more. With that, 67% of farmers believe it’s important to be able to transfer data wirelessly from the field.1
  • Farmers get online with multiple devices. The study found that 92% use smartphones, and 59% use tablets. In their offices, 66% use a laptop, and 58% use a desktop computer.1
  • While many farmers rely on satellite connections, 40% of farmers have a fixed internet connection.2
  • Over 50% of farmers want to incorporate more data in their operations, but slow internet speed, high costs and unreliable connections are barriers to using that data.1

Citations

1 United Soybean Board. (2019). Rural Broadband and the American Farmer. api.unitedsoybean.org/uploads/documents/58546-1-ruralbroadband-whitepages-final.pdf.

2 United Soybean Board. (2019). Study Reveals Ramifications of Limited Rural Broadband Service on American Farmers. unitedsoybean.org/article/study-rural-broadband-ag-technology.