Yesterday, Michael Daniels (one of our many rock star advocates on the team and former USDA staffer) and I attended an event at USDA that was hosted by the Wall Street Journal. While the details of the event were a tad fuzzy, I’m never one to turn down an invitation to hear what is top of mind for Secretary Perdue. It wasn’t until we were in the cab and the latest iteration of the invitation was sent that we saw it was now being billed as a Global Food event. Well…we were in the car, Secretary Perdue was going to be there and frankly, I like food, so we carried on.
As we mixed and mingled with the folks that were also invited, the food emphasis showed through – we sat with the wheat farmers (who love broadband and to support anything we needed) and dairy industry folks (who shared way more than I needed to know about the different yogurt recipes in different countries) and other typical USDA types. But how delighted were we to see that at every single table at the event, there was a “hot off the press” USDA report entitled A Case For Rural Broadband – Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies, in addition to a number of our broadband contacts within the Administration also in attendance – A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies
I haven’t read through the report but one of key drivers behind the effort, Jannine Miller, who has headed up infrastructure for Secretary Perdue (and is still transitioning to Dept. of Transportation) was quick to point out page 24 of the report which highlights the annual potential gross economic benefit of precision agriculture technologies derived from broadband e-connectivity. Their conclusion is that 36 percent of next generation precision Ag benefits will depend on broadband out of a total annual value total of U.S. market production of $340 billion. A simpler way to say that is that a whole lot of agriculture future revenues will be derived from the ability to utilize connectivity!
So with all of the food growers and producers in the room – I was not surprised when Secretary Perdue headed right to the critical importance of broadband connectivity for rural America right out of the box in his remarks. He is passionate about the need for ubiquitous broadband and how it will impact lives, services and even the Internet of Food (IoF?). His voice is a strong one in the Administration and while I am a tad nervous at how complex the Re-Connect rules are and how short the deadlines are for such a complex program, I think that there is so much collaborative work to be done in the days ahead with USDA and their broadband team.