Mark O’Neill, Media and Strategic Communications Director
For Immediate Release:
April 17, 2018
Hundreds of Pennsylvania Farmers Travel to Harrisburg for State Legislative Conference
(Harrisburg) – Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) is urging members of the state General Assembly to support efforts to expand and improve access to high speed broadband in rural Pennsylvania. Approximately 300 farmers discussed rural broadband and other priority issues with state lawmakers in Harrisburg as part of PFB’s State Legislative Conference.
During a news conference in the Capitol Media Center, PFB announced its support for legislation that would establish a special legislative commission to recommend strategies for expanding broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the state and to examine whether state-owned assets could be leveraged to help expand broadband access.
“Rural Pennsylvanians, including farmers and other business owners, are falling further behind those who live in more urban and suburban areas of the Commonwealth,” said PFB President Rick Ebert. “Many of our farm families can’t take advantage of online banking, tax software and other technology that would greatly benefit their businesses, simply because they lack adequate rural broadband or fiber-optic services. Our farmers are small business owners and the technology they use for many facets of their businesses is run through high speed internet.”
Among the key supporters of legislative efforts to improve rural broadband is Representative Martin Causer, who is Chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
“For rural communities to grow and thrive, broadband access is a necessity. We need it to help our students and teachers, our farmers and business owners, and our doctors and patients,” said Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter). “It is encouraging to see the importance of broadband access finally being widely recognized at both the state and federal levels, and I commend the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau for its role raising awareness and calling for solutions. I am optimistic we will be able overcome the challenges and finally bring this vital infrastructure to rural Pennsylvania.”
State Representatives Kristin Phillips-Hill and Pam Snyder have been strong proponents of efforts to expand and improve high speed broadband in unserved and underserved areas of the state, co-sponsoring a variety of bills, including House Bill 1642 and House Resolutions 429, 430 and 431.
“Representative Phillips-Hill and I welcome the added heft of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which is 62,000 member families strong, in our bipartisan effort to bring modern internet to all Pennsylvanians,” said state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington. “Like us, the Farm Bureau supports the effort to improve and expand broadband access to underserved and unserved rural areas, which is critical to those residents’ ability to compete educationally and economically in the current information age.”
During the news conference, Centre County dairy farmer Bethany Coursen elaborated on how she has been limited in her ability to fully utilize the farm’s robotic milking machine, costing her time and money.
“Poor internet service has prevented me from taking advantage of all the apps, software and other bells and whistles available with the robotic milker,” said Coursen. “Additional tech support and manufacturer updates to help the robot work more efficiently are also hard to get due to poor service. Even attempts to update software overnight, when interest traffic is much lower, have failed.”
Meanwhile, farmer Corey Grove says the lack of any reliable broadband service to his poultry barn in southern York County has made it much more challenging for him to manage the facility.
“I would be able to operate my hen laying barn much more efficiently with access to high speed internet. Simply by using an app on my telephone, I could check on conditions inside the barn to ensure that the chickens are comfortable and continually have easy access to food and water,” said Grove. “In addition, high speed broadband would allow me to use an app to correct a variety of problems that could arise at the barn, even if I’m doing crop work out in the field or am located a hundred miles away.”
PFB is encouraging the General Assembly to swiftly pass legislation and support other efforts to bridge the broadband infrastructure gap between rural communities and the rest of the state.
“We need to leverage state resources that can help spark private investment in high speed broadband services and to ensure federal dollars directed for the development of rural broadband infrastructure actually are used to significantly upgrade services to consumers living and working in underserved and unserved areas of the Commonwealth,” concluded Ebert.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization with more than 62,000 member families, representing farms of every size and commodity across Pennsylvania.