MPR News reports…
[Beth] Ford, who has headed the 99-year-old cooperative [Land O’Lakes] since 2018, called on more investment in broadband, education and health care. She said her company was even planning to launch a half-dozen rural “service centers” to aggregate high-speed internet, telemedicine and other amenities.
“Every business is a digital business now, every business is a technology business, and agriculture is one of the last sectors to be disrupted,” Ford said. “Especially by e-business and technology.”
She mentions agriculture and mental health…
Networked technology can help bring farming and food production back to profitability, she said, but it isn’t sufficiently available. She said that of the 24 million people who lack access to broadband technology, 19 million are in rural America.
That’s putting food producers at a disadvantage: not just in terms of the technology in their tractor cabs, but in the schools their kids attend, the clinics where they seek medical and mental health care and in the markets where they could find innovations in marketing and distribution, Ford said.
She talks about how big business can help in the community…
She called broadband access a $150 billion problem, and suggested it should be a national priority like rural electrification in the 1930s.
Ford also said Land O’ Lakes was talking to leaders from Microsoft, Amazon and other companies about direct action in some of the more than 7,000 communities where her cooperative has a presence.
“What we want to do is to directly be a convener. To take over a storefront if we can,” she said. “Drop a line in, get some high-speed internet. Have some boosters, have four or five work stations, where kids can access technology to do their homework… take Advanced Placement courses. Where they can pick up fresh groceries.”