New Markets, New Tools, New Revenue: VA farmers voice their broadband concerns to Secretary Vilsack

Virginia farmers got a seat at the table with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack as he talked about broadband.

In Amelia County, Virginia, Sec. Tom Vilsack heard from local farmers about their concerns for broadband. He says that a key takeaway is the need to have the right tools in place to advance conservation.

According to the Ag Secretary, “As we get into climate-smart agriculture, as we get into basically paying farmers for the ability to sequester carbon, broadband and appropriate broadband speeds-- uploads and download speeds-- will be absolutely essential to verify, certify, and quantify the carbon sequestration capacity of farms like this that in turn create the opportunities for markets, in turn, create new revenue sources for farmers.”

Vilsack was joined by Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, who says that it is time to move past the patchwork effort of funding.

“Utilizing grant programs, making use of rural electric coops, having communities come together to try and move forward, and we have to move past that patchwork effort because when there is a patchwork, there are holes and many of those holes are in communities I represent,” Rep. Spanberger states.

Vilsack sees the American Jobs Plan as the historic funding needed to close the digital divide.

“It does contain sufficient resources to really address this issue of broadband in a full and complete way,” Vilsack states. “We have really, over the past 20 years, talked a lot about it, we’ve provided resources from time to time, but the reality is we need a very, very large amount of capital to be able to finish the job because about a third of the country still needs improved broadband access.”

The roundtable was hosted at Fetherstone Farm, which recently partnered with the local internet company to install a broadband tower on top of their grain bin, helping expand signal reach in the community. Farm owner Colin Whittington says that the connection is vital for business.

“Everything is online... all the technology that we use in our equipment is internet-based. Technology is not going backward, it’s going forward, and so, this is just a step forward to continue using what we are using and as new things come out it’s going to be necessary,” Whittington explains.

The signal boost also allowed his wife, Robyn, to help their kids with virtual learning during the pandemic.


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