By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins tells a Congressional hearing many farmers are using the Internet to grow their operations while others are stuck in the past, because they have no broadband access.
Hawkins gives members of Congress a slice of life story to illustrate how access works and doesn’t work in rural America.
“There are farmers who have access to high-speed Internet who are clearly at the head of the curve in terms of adopting cutting edge technology,” Hawkins tells members of a subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Washington, D.C. “Then you have folks like my grandfather growing up that still use the spiral bound shirt pocket notebook that would do his data collection in that notebook and then crunch the numbers on back of a Post Toasties box.”
Hawkins says too many rural residents don’t want to use the Post Toasties box, but don’t have access to the latest technology.
Hawkins says rural America needs a reliable connection to the Internet to meet the needs of a changing society.
“Broadband connectivity is critical in stimulating and revitalizing the rural economy,” Hawkins testifies. “It’s essential to modern agriculture, the farmers and ranchers who grow our food, and the quality of life for those of us who live and work in rural America.”
Hawkins, who is from Appleton City, says he sees the need for broadband access every day in Missouri.
“One family I know operates a soil lab with customers worldwide. Until recently, they struggled to find an affordable, reliable broadband service. They were paying hundreds of dollars a month for sub-par Internet. However, with broadband investments made in Missouri, they now have reliable service at the farm and at the lab, which has boosted their global business.”
Hawkins calls access to high-speed Internet the “thread of life” to rural America.
Hawkins says farmers need broadband access.
“Last month, I visited a fellow farmer in southern Missouri who was thrilled to see a fiber optic line being installed a few miles from this farm,” Hawkins says. “His comment to me was, maybe they’ll come my way in a year or so.”
Hawkins says expansion of rural broadband access isn’t just an economic issue. He says it is vital to the educational needs of rural America as well as for the health of its residents. Hawkins says as doctors leave rural America, residents rely more and more on telemedicine, which isn’t possible without a reliable Internet connection.