JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – – Missouri Farm Bureau (MOFB) President Garrett Hawkins was one of four featured speakers to present before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Agriculture on Thursday. President Hawkins testified to the committee about the necessity of broadband internet in Missouri’s rural communities.
Speaking on behalf of both the Missouri Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Hawkins noted that per the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), nearly 19 million Americans lack access to broadband. That number also features uneven distribution, with 17% of rural Americans lacking access to broadband internet, compared to only 1% of urban Americans. A separate report from USDA in 2021 noted that 18% of U.S. farms have no access to the internet.
Beyond specific on-farm needs that are growing daily due to precision agriculture techniques utilized by farmers and ranchers, Hawkins relayed that rural communities need access to health care, government services and educational and business opportunities that are increasingly reliant on a strong internet connection.
Hawkins was also afforded the opportunity to showcase Missouri’s efforts to bring broadband to its rural communities, including the “Missouri Broadband Working Group,” whose recommendations eventually led to the creation of an Office of Broadband under the banner of the state’s Department of Economic Development. Missouri Farm Bureau also advocated for the Missouri Broadband Grant Program, which provides financial assistance to providers seeking to deploy broadband in underserved and unserved areas. This program has also grown over the years, culminating in 2022 with a $265 million investment into the program by the Missouri legislature using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
As the 2023 Farm Bill continues to be drafted, both MOFB and AFBF recommended close coordination with the USDA Rural Utilities Service as well as the FCC Precision Agriculture Connectivity Task Force to support the interests of rural communities and agriculture.
President Hawkins’ full testimony can be viewed via the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture website.
About Missouri Farm Bureau
MOFB is Missouri’s largest and most effective farm organization with a presence in every county throughout the state. Learn more at https://www.mofb.org/ or follow @MissouriFarmBureau on Facebook, @MOFarmBureau on Twitter or @MOFarmBureau on Instagram.