Minnesota farms to benefit from federal funding for broadband expansion

MN farms to benefit from federal funding for broadband expansion

MN farms to benefit from federal funding for broadband expansion

Millions of dollars in federal funding are coming to Minnesota to help farms connect to high-speed internet.

This week, the Biden administration announced $714 million in new grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funding is specifically aimed at bringing broadband internet to rural and remote parts of the country.

The funding, allocated across 19 states, including Minnesota, will help farmers in particular.

In Minnesota, nearly $50 million will go to providers to use for projects in five counties: Cass, Fillmore, Kandiyohi, Meeker and Stearns. The projects are expected to connect 285 farms to fiber-optic broadband.

“The reality is farmers across this country rely every single day on broadband to provide us the food that makes us a food-secure nation,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who made the announcement Monday.

Last year, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reported on the struggle facing many Minnesota farmers who want to incorporate the latest technology into their operations but can’t due to unreliable internet and nonexistent broadband infrastructure.

RELATED: Minnesota farmers hope broadband funding finally brings fiber to the farmland

Joe Sullivan, who runs a family farm outside of Franklin, Minnesota, was an early adopter of technology. Three years ago, a local provider built a fiber-optic line to his property.

“It’s a complete game changer once you are connected and can actually utilize all the tools that are out there,” Sullivan said during an interview in November.

But one of the biggest barriers to broadband expansion continues to be the cost. In Minneapolis, a mile-long fiber-optic line can connect a hundred homes to high-speed internet, while in rural areas, it may only reach a handful of properties.

“It is a huge, huge disadvantage if you’re the ‘have-nots’ in this because your playing field is artificially very hard for you,” Sullivan said.

That’s why the federal funding is so crucial, Secretary Vilsack said, and why this money is targeted specifically at areas that do not have access.

“The expansion of broadband is essential,” he said.