According to USDA’s “A Case for Rural Broadband,” if access to broadband and adoption of digital agricultural technologies matched producer demand, U.S. agriculture would realize benefits amounting to nearly 18% of total U.S. market production, or $64.5 billion annually, based on 2017 levels. The report, published by the American Broadband Initiative, analyzes the possible economic benefits of bringing e-connectivity to the heartland and, more importantly, what needs to be done to make it happen.
From the way producers store and ship commodities to the way consumers purchase their food, the introduction and widespread usage of the household refrigerator has irrevocably changed the food supply chain system. A similar shift is upon us with the advent of digital technology and next generation precision agriculture, resulting in ever-increasing productivity with fewer inputs, better market access and healthier rural communities. Just as electricity allowed for refrigeration, to realize the benefits of this new digital technology, high-speed broadband service must be available everywhere.
USDA’s report puts the hypothesized potential benefits that broadband technology and infrastructure could bring to rural areas at $64.5 billion annually. Increasing the availability of broadband to all of rural America, coupled with increased precision agriculture adoption are estimated to increase the gross economic benefits to row crop agriculture by 4%, adding up to $5.9 billion, increasing 19% for specialty crops, or up to $8.6 billion, and 7%, or up to $23 billion, for livestock.
One limitation of the report is it does not incorporate the implementation costs, which will inevitably be incurred by rural residents, service providers and/or state and federal governments. As such, this report should be seen as a tool to illustrate the potential of broadband technology, rather than the only source for future investment-related decision-making.
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Continue reading at the American Farm Bureau for analysis of impact on row crops, specialty crops, and livestock, and dairy producers.