By Bill Hurley, Vice President, Aftersales, Customer Support and Distribution Development for North America, AGCO Corporation

HurleyOur national conversation about infrastructure is reaching a tipping point, as President Trump recently introduced his proposal to stimulate as much at $1.5 trillion worth of investments in American infrastructure.

A centerpiece of that plan is a $50 billion program of block grants to governors to invest in rural infrastructure – an acknowledgement that rural infrastructure needs must be addressed.  More than ever, our leaders in Washington (from both parties) are increasingly realizing the importance of making sure that our roads, bridges, rails, waterways and utilities are just as vital for rural America as in every other corner of the nation.

One increasing point of emphasis in our national infrastructure discussion is the need for expanding rural broadband access across rural America. Expanding rural broadband has obvious commercial and educational benefits for consumers. But it’s also an equally important priority for farmers, ranchers and the manufacturers who supply them with the tools they use to go about their jobs. Modern farm machinery increasingly depends on in-field internet connectivity to function at its highest possible capacity, and expanded rural broadband access forms a pillar of an improving agricultural economy.

That is why I am happy to work as a member of AEM’s Ag Sector Board to advance our policy priorities on agriculture and infrastructure. AEM works to encourage our elected leaders to both pass an infrastructure bill that addresses rural infrastructure, and to address our rural infrastructure needs in other meaningful ways.

One such way Congress can address rural broadband access in particular is to pass the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018, a milestone piece of legislation introduced earlier this year with bipartisan support in the House and Senate. This legislation would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to identify gaps in rural broadband coverage and develop policy recommendations specifically as they relate to wireless connectivity across cropland and ranchland. It’s an important step in expanding the rural broadband conversation beyond connecting anchor institutions with fiber.

That legislation and other issues related to rural broadband access will also be the topic of a panel I’m looking forward to moderating at Commodity Classic 2018. Trimble Senior Vice President Darryl Matthews, Brandon Hunnicutt from the National Corn Board and a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will join me for a discussion on how rural broadband access is important to manufacturers, growers, and our farm economy, and what our elected leaders can do to close the broadband gap.

I hope you’ll join me for that discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 1:15 p.m. on the Successful Farming main stage at Commodity Classic.

While the conversation about rural infrastructure may be reaching a tipping point, it’s up to those of us with a direct stake in the issue to keep that dialogue going.

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