What a treat it was on Friday to reconnect with Billy Tiller, former board member for Five Area Telephone Cooperative in Muleshoe, Texas, who served on the board when he was right out of school for 12 years – during some really informative times in this industry. Billy then went on to not only run a large ranch in Texas, but he also started AgPro Exchange, a company that uses data to manage agriculture interests in the 21st Century. With the acknowledgement that IoT has come to the agriculture industry, the need for a cloud-based platform controlled by growers and open to all industry serve partners seems to be a pretty genius idea. Grower centric data systems? It’s agriculture in our high-tech world.
Billy is a frequent visitor to Washington, D.C., as his counsel and thoughts are valued by policy makers and their staffs so it was fun to see him testify before the House Agriculture Committee last week. I could only catch a portion of his statement but was impressed at his ability to testify without notes (why harder than it looks!) as well as the fact that he mentioned how very important Rural Broadband networks are to making sure that Smart Ag can be successful. He even cited the need for a strong USF program and I might have whooped it up in my office in front of my computer monitor! Someone who understands the challenges of building these networks in rural America as well as the strong need for them….perfect!
NTCA Director of Government Affairs Scott Lively and I enjoyed a robust conversation with Billy – who is a big thinker as well as a big personality. I was really struck when he talked about the millennial generation (Scott’s, not mine) and the real desire for consumers to know more about their food and how it’s sourced. It was when he said that “we need to make the dirt talk so these consumers get the information they are desiring on where their food comes from” was pretty powerful and given my own family millennial who shop at Whole Foods and the like, he’s spot-on about this generation’s demands on producers. As a consumer for Five Area, he noted how critical the telco’s services were to his growing agri-business and that he simply could not do the things he does for his business, his staff and his growth plan, without the high-capacity services the cooperative offers to him. Always nice to hear a success story!