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A tractor stops on Jones Angus Farms near Kingdom City. | Zhihan Huang/Missouri Business Alert

Lack of broadband costs farms tens of billions in unrealized potential, USDA reports



Precision agriculture techniques are used now to make planting, management of crops and harvesting more efficient. Modern technology and broadband connectivity are components of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls next-generation precision agriculture.

The problem: Swaths of rural America lack sufficient access to broadband internet. In Missouri, 15% of people don’t have access to wired internet speeds of 25 megabits per second or faster, according to BroadbandNow, a website that specializes in information about internet service providers. In counties like Bollinger, Grundy, Schuyler and Adair, less than 10% of the population has broadband access.

That lack of connectivity is limiting the benefits of next-generation precision agriculture, according to the USDA, costing American farmers tens of billions of dollars of unrealized potential. If that potential were unleashed, it could boost the annual production value of row crops, specialty crops and livestock by a combined $64.5 billion, according to the USDA.

The data here come from a USDA study of how much of these next-generation technologies rely on broadband connectivity.

The precision agriculture and broadband figures are extrapolations. The study covered some of the U.S. market and used those figures to estimate impact on the whole U.S. market.

The potential benefits from broadband are the maximums listed in the report, which provided a range for each category.

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