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American Connection Project: Why (and how) Land O'Lakes is connecting America

Awareness. Advocacy. Action. How our co-op network is putting rural broadband front-and-center

American Connection Project: Why (and how) Land O'Lakes is connecting America

https://www.landolakesinc.com/Press/News/American-Connection-Project

As a farmer-owned cooperative, Land O’Lakes has deep roots across rural America. We see first-hand how the digital divide (those that have high-speed internet access, commonly known as broadband, and those that don't) hits rural citizens. They're disconnected from the services many of us take for granted.

As life undergoes a dramatic digital shift and everyday activity goes online due to COVID-19, this divide is exacerbated -- making it nearly impossible for rural residents to keep up with schoolwork, business and even doctors’ appointments.

Using the power of our cooperative network and in coordination with many partner organizations, nearly 2,300 free Wi-Fi locations are available to our neighbors in rural communities across 48 states to use from the safety (and social distance) of their vehicles.

Explore the interactive Wi-Fi map of available locations right here.

This is a temporary patch for a much larger systemic issue. Solutions to the digital divide are needed for the communities that ensure our safe and affordable food supply.  
Jump to rural broadband advocacy | 
Jump to why rural broadband needs federal support | 
Jump to why #agtech needs rural broadband | 
Jump to how you can help | 
Jump to stories, media and podcasts about rural broadband | 

American Connection Project Broadband Coalition | 
Letters to Congress, governors + more | 

Action: A priority before (and during, and after) COVID-19

From where we sit, strengthening connectivity and rural broadband access in rural America is critical for boosting on-farm sustainability; improving health outcomes; accessing distance learning and educational resources; exploring job opportunities; and even bringing a better understanding of where our food, fuel and fiber comes from.

That’s why we’re working tirelessly to bring attention to this issue among our business partners and state and federal government leaders, encouraging creative solutions from the private and public sectors.
Sunrise Co-Op
 

Advocacy: The digital divide is unacceptable 

All Americans need vibrant rural communities and the lack of broadband access today for rural Americans is unacceptable. Research shows that the unavailability of high-speed internet access creates less opportunity for those living in rural communities.
  • Digital divide: A Pew Research Center survey from early 2019 found rural Americans are 12% and 16% less likely to have broadband at home compared to urban and suburban Americans, respectively.

  • Continued gaps in deployment: While the Federal Communications Commission’s 2019 Broadband Deployment Report showed progress in delivering broadband services in rural areas, it also reinforced what residents in rural America continue to indicate through polling and surveys: increased access to broadband is needed for rural America.

  • Farmer need: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 25% of U.S. farms have no access to the internet. The United Soybean Board found 60% of U.S. farmers lack sufficient connectivity to run their businesses, while many also indicate they would like to incorporate more technology to improve their operations.

Advocacy: Closing the digital divide requires federal support

Federal assistance and incentives are needed to ensure every corner of rural America is properly connected to the digital world. Land O’Lakes proposes the following actions be taken:
  1. Increased funding: Federal funding is needed to fill the gap in poor infrastructure by incentivizing the telecommunications industry to bring broadband connectivity to rural areas.

  2. Better mapping: Enhanced mapping of broadband coverage will enable targeted -- and accurate -- broadband deployment for those most in need.

  3. Coordination: Stronger government coordination must occur at the federal level, as well as with states and localities, to effectively deploy these limited resources.

Advocacy: Modern agriculture relies on tech-based tools

Connectivity means different things to different people, but without question it is critical for maintaining and increasing sustainable, agricultural production to feed a growing population.

With co-op members from coast to coast and across the Midwest, Land O’Lakes touches one out of three agricultural acres through our various businesses. Our co-op includes more than 1,800 dairy producers, more than 700 row-crop farmers and more than 1,000 agriculture retailers -- who are small business owners operating primarily in rural areas. The use of digital tools is essential to this network making smarter planting, harvesting, and marketing decisions.

For example:
  • Crop farmers use tools like the Land O’Lakes Truterra Insights Platform, a leading conservation solutions provider that harnesses technology and innovative thinking to drive productivity and stronger environmental outcomes. Truterra gathers satellite images and then matches them with a computer algorithm using field data to create “prescriptions” for certain plots of a farmer’s field. This process enables farmers to know how many seeds should be planted per acre and which types of nutrients are needed across the field.

  • For dairy production, a wide range of agricultural technology applications are now available. Dairy farmers can use facial image recognition and their smartphones to monitor their cows’ health/well-being, nutrition levels, and milk production.

The innovative services that farmers rely on cannot be achieved without high-speed internet access.

Action: How you can help

  1. Based on estimates we’ve seen, we believe bridging the digital divide will cost a national investment of $100 billion. Tell your representatives in Congress that the question isn’t how we can afford this, but how we can afford not to bring connection to America’s rural areas.

  2. Use the TestIT app to give policymakers a more accurate understanding of broadband gaps. You can find it here.

  3. If you’re a business located in a rural area, consider opening up your guest Wi-Fi to neighbors who may not have access.

Awareness: Media, speeches, podcasts and more

Tractor Supply Company: Joining the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition with a $1M donation initiative

WIRED: The Pandemic Is Forcing Everyone to Face the Digital Divide (August 2020)

Farm Progress: Is pressure building for better broadband? (August 2020)

Fortune CEO Daily Newsletter: Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford explains why farmers need broadband (August 2020)

Fortune The Broadsheet Daily Newsletter: A serious matter for LOL (August 2020)

TrenchlessTechnology: PCCA Joins American Connection Project Broadband Coalition (August 2020)

Fortune Leadership Next Podcast: Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford on the importance of improving rural access to technology (August 2020)

Agri-Pulse: Land O’Lakes President and CEO Beth Ford (August 2020)

Broadband Communities: Land O'Lakes and Partners Form a Coalition to Close America’s Digital Divide (July 2020)

Light Reading News: Buttering up broadband: Farmers, ranchers lobby for rural networks (July 2020)

Farm Bureau News: New Coalition Calls for Immediate Action to Expand Broadband Access (July 2020)

Brownfield AgNews: 50 organizations launch coalition to close digital divide (July 2020)

WisBusiness: Cooperative Network: Land O’ Lakes and nearly 50 partners launch growing coalition to close America’s digital divide (July 2020)

Washington Policy Center: New broadband coalition urges Congress to invest to improve high-speed rural broadband (July 2020)

Cord Cutters News: Land O’Lakes and 48 Others Form Coalition to Bring High-Speed Internet to Rural Areas (July 2020)

Agri-Pulse Daybreak: Coalition aims for one voice on rural broadband (July 2020)

Multichannel News: Land O' Lakes Pushes for Better Broadband (July 2020)

Telecompetitor: Land O’Lakes Spearheads Broadband Coalition to Close Digital Divide (July 2020)

Broadband Breakfast: Georgia’s State-led Mapping Initiative, D.C. Has Fastest Mobile Speeds, Coalition to Fight Digital Divide (July 2020)

AgDaily: U.S. ag groups come together to close digital divide (July 2020)

Farm Progress: Coalition asks for action on rural broadband (July 2020)

Feedstuffs: Coalition hopes to close rural America’s digital divide (July 2020)

DRG News - South Dakota: Coalition Comes Together to Improve Rural Broadband Infrastructure (July 2020)

The Bradford Era: Wolf leads effort calling on feds to invest in broadband (June 2020)

My ChesCo: Gov. Wolf Leads Bipartisan Effort in Calling on President, Congressional Leaders to Invest in Broadband Internet Access (June 2020)

TIME: Land O'Lakes CEO Beth Ford on Racism in Minneapolis, COVID-19's Impact on Farmers, And The Need For Rural Wi-Fi (June 2020)

Business Insider: CEOs from across food industry share their insights (May 2020) 

Spencer Signal:
Land O’Lakes offers free Wi-Fi access to help bridge telehealth and educational digital divide (May 2020)

Rochester Post Bulletin: Land O'Lakes offers free Wi-Fi at Pine Island location (May 2020)

Farm Progress: Ag tech rides on broadband tools, when available (May 2020)

KTOE Minnesota: Crystal Valley to offer free Wi-Fi in parking lots (May 2020)

KNOP Nebraska: Land O'Lakes bringing free internet to rural communities (May 2020)

Pioneer Press: Land O’Lakes offering free Wi-Fi to rural communities. Will other companies follow? (May 2020)

Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal: Land O'Lakes switches on free Wi-Fi in rural areas (May 2020)

The Tribune-Democrat: Beth Ford: An investment in Pennsylvania's future (March 2020)

Land O’Lakes’ Something Greater Podcast: Disconnected: Disparities between rural and urban broadband internet connection (February 2020)



Yahoo Finance: Rural America needs massive broadband investment (February 2020)

Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal: Land O'Lakes CEO says it's time to close the rural-urban gap with high-speed internet (February 2020)

MPR News: Land O’Lakes CEO: Close the rural-urban gap with high-speed internet (February 2020)

AgWeb: Land O'Lakes CEO warns of rural brain drain (February 2020)

Star Tribune: Beth Ford, CEO of Land O'Lakes, Inc., calls for investment in rural America (January 2020)

Beth Ford speech at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis: A different kind of labor shortage (January 2020)

Marketwatch: 'Towns are rolling up on us' says Land O'Lakes CEO Beth Ford, pushes for broadband investment (January 2020)

Western Governors' Association: "Reimagining the Rural West" a keynote by Beth Ford (December 2019)

Nevada Independent: Governors seek funds to improve broadband (December 2019)

Pulse 2.0: The importance of connecting rural America (December 2019)

Fortune: Inequity between rural and urban America can be addressed with broadband (October 2019)

Land O'Lakes, Inc.: Accessing rural broadband -- strengthened through co-operative power (September 2019):


Beth Ford Speech at the Chicago Executives Club: From Farm to Fork to the Future (October 2019):


Times-Union: Land O'Lakes CEO touts rural broadband at Ceres event (August 2019)

Fortune: Land O’Lakes CEO: Farmers Are in Crisis—and America Isn’t Paying Attention (June 2019)

Forbes: The Future Of Food Needs To Focus On Bringing Broadband To Rural Communities, Says Beth Ford (June 2019)

WHO 1040 News Radio: Gathering to celebrate our ag leaders​ (March 2019)


Action: American Connection Project Broadband Coalition is now 100 organizations strong

The American Connection Project Broadband Coalition will advocate for public and private sector investment to bring high-speed internet infrastructure to rural areas, in addition to advocating for policies and contributing their own resources to facilitate remote education, health and mental health  services, job opportunities and more, with the goal of connecting and lifting up all American communities through access to modern digital technology. 

The Coalition is continually adding members -- it's now more than 100 strong, spanning a range of industries -- who share a desire to connect the country. Read more here.

American Connection Project Coalition Logos

“All too often, farmers, business owners and even school children are disadvantaged by being on the wrong side of our country’s digital divide, a problem that has become more acute as we deal with the challenges of COVID-19,” said Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “But this isn’t just a rural issue. The American Connection Project Broadband Coalition represents a mix of companies from tech, health care, agriculture, and more who understand the ramifications of our country’s broken internet infrastructure and who have the willingness and expertise to help address this need. We are so grateful to our partners who recognize that connecting all Americans is possible and who are willing to work with us to close our country’s digital divide and invest in our collective future.”

Advocacy: Letters to Congress, governors + more

Media Contact: Natalie Long NLong@landolakes.com


About Land O'Lakes, Inc.  
Land O'Lakes, Inc., one of America's premier agribusiness and food companies, is a member-owned cooperative with industry-leading operations that span the spectrum from agricultural production to consumer foods. With 2019 annual sales of $14 billion, Land O'Lakes is one of the nation's largest cooperatives, ranking 212 on the Fortune 500. Building on a legacy of more than 99 years of operation, Land O'Lakes today operates some of the most respected brands and businesses in agriculture and food production including Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods, Purina Animal Nutrition, WinField United and Truterra, LLC. The company does business in all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Land O'Lakes, Inc. corporate headquarters are located in Arden Hills, Minn.



4001 Lexington Avenue North Arden Hills, MN 55126 | Mailing: P.O. Box 64101 St. Paul, MN 55164-0101 | 651.375.2222