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More Farmers Logging Onto The Internet

Luke Runyon
KUNC and Harvest Public Media
Tom McKinnon with Boulder-based agriculture drone company Agribotix, uses in-field technology to program a drone's flight path over a corn field.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that farms across the country are increasingly gaining internet access. As it stands, 70 percent of U.S. farms and ranches have access, an increase of three percentage points since 2013. But even while rural America becomes more connected, a large percentage of farms still aren’t able to go online.

One big impediment is infrastructure, says Lu Nelsen, a policy associate at the Nebraska-based Center For Rural Affairs. Huge swathes of land without any, or extremely limited, internet connectivity are common in rural areas of the Midwest and Great Plains.

“There is something that people like about living in small towns and rural communities,” Nelsen says. “But that doesn’t mean that they want to sacrifice some of the essential services that they could get in a larger city.”

Federal communications officials say more than half of all rural Americans lack fast, reliable broadband internet connections. For contrast, only 8 percent of Americans in urban areas lack access to faster broadband internet. That difference only deepens the urban-rural divide, Nelsen says.

“Maybe you like not having to deal with traffic and maybe you like living in a small farmhouse, but you still want to be able to get on the internet and connect to potential customers or communicate with family who might live in another state,” Nelsen says.

The USDA report also showed that the more money a farm made, the more likely it was to have faster internet service, and to use the internet in the course of running the operation.

As KUNC’s managing editor and reporter covering the Colorado River Basin, I dig into stories that show how water issues can both unite and divide communities throughout the Western U.S. I edit and produce feature stories for KUNC and a network of public media stations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada.
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