Noem: Rural areas need broadband access too

Staff reports
Farm Forum

For nearly a decade, the South Dakota Corn Growers and the National Corn Growers Associations have made expansion of broadband infrastructure a top priority for their members and rural Americans as a whole when they talk to our elected officials in Congress.

This is for good reason – the FCC estimates that more than 19 million rural households do not have access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet, and South Dakota ranked 36th in the country last year.

The COVID pandemic has made addressing this issue even more of a priority as now we must operate our farming operation from a poor internet connection. We need legislation that expands broadband infrastructure to every community across the country, especially the rural areas where internet accessibility and speed has been a lingering issue.

As president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, we hear from our grassroots membership every day and discuss the challenges that have been presented by COVID-19. There is ever-increasing pressure to be competitive and operate as efficiently as possible, but to do that we need access to high speed internet. The success of our operation should not have to contend with something as basic as having reliable internet access.

South Dakota Corn Growers is one of the largest agriculture member organizations in the state and agriculture is the number one industry. To continue to be the backbone of our state, our success will depend largely on our access to reliable internet.

As a corn farmer and resident of Bryant, I am all too familiar with the challenges of getting a reliable internet connection. In agriculture, we always say the soil is our number one tool but in order to keep it healthy and keep our operations moving forward we need access to what we are now considering our next important tool, broadband infrastructure. Just like in every other industry, technology drives success and farmers deserve access to that basic tool to operate our farms.

We are confident we will overcome this pandemic as a country and that we will be stronger after we survive this adversity. COVID-19 has highlighted many issues that we must address in the near future and I hope that expanding broadband infrastructure into rural communities across the country is near the top of the list. We urge Sen. John Thune, Sen. Mike Rounds, Congressman Dusty Johnson and their colleagues in Congress to continue fighting for rural America and all South Dakota farmers and pass legislation that increases broadband as soon as possible.