A recent Minnesota Senate Committee focused on broadband funding heard testimony from Land O’Lakes, Inc., a Land O’Lakes member and dairy producer and other partners of our American Connection Project.
On Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 the Minnesota Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development held an informational hearing on broadband funding for the state of Minnesota. Matthew Wohlman, representing Land O’Lakes’ Government Relations Team, along with partners of the American Connection Project -- Barbara Cox, with Health Partners, Amy Walstien, with the Minnesota Business Partnership, and Sadie Frericks, a Land O’Lakes member and dairy producer -- updated lawmakers on the state of broadband in Minnesota and the efforts of the American Connection Project to close the digital divide.
“We believe that our success, and the success of our membership, depends on a future where rural communities are vital and thriving. There is a shared destiny between rural and urban America – the health of our food ecosystem and dependability of our safe, affordable food supply, is dependent on the vibrancy of rural America,” Wohlman testified.
He also stressed that broadband connectivity is a critical enabler to help solve many issues facing our country. Those challenges include strengthening the operating environment and stability for local farms and cooperatives, and broader local and national issues such as climate change, inclusive education access for students and families, better paying jobs, and more balanced economic opportunities.
Frericks brought a producer point of view to the hearing, adding, “I cannot imagine how rural farm families without internet access are managing distance learning, let alone managing their farm businesses. Beyond basic business needs, many dairy farms need broadband for robotic milking systems, activity monitors, and other technologies. I know there are many families and farms in our community for whom the connection challenge is real.”
Wohlman continued, “Our priority is to close the digital divide. We have appreciated the strong support of this committee and the legislature over many years to invest in broadband infrastructure across our state; however, we have much more work to do to connect the remaining households and businesses that do not have access today. We urge this committee and our legislative leaders to make broadband a top priority by appropriating necessary funding to close this digital divide. We are encouraged that other states across the country are taking similar steps to provide robust investments in broadband infrastructure.”
Land O’Lakes is engaging with state legislatures and governors, as well as federal partners to advocate for broadband investment and coordination. American Connection Project Broadband Coalition members recently sent this letter to President Biden and Congressional Leaders urging continued cooperation and support for broadband issues.
The work at the state level will continue in the coming weeks: virtual advocacy days continue at the state legislature in Wisconsin on March 19 and Minnesota on March 24 through the Cooperative Network.