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Land O' Lakes CEO Beth Ford on lack of internet for farmers

Land O' Lakes CEO Beth Ford weighs in on the lack of aid farmers have recieve during the pandemic.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Are you looking for any more aid to come from the government? You know, we're still waiting for this next stimulus deal to materialize. And when it does, are you hopeful? Do you have reason to believe that there will be some aid in there for our country's farmers?

BETH FORD: Well, the administration, and I think the House and Senate, reallocated some funding to a funding area that provides funding or support to farmers, as well as support programs or insurance programs will be critical. The farmer has to sign up for insurance. And same thing for the dairy side.

So are we looking for support? Well, we're going to see. I mentioned the food box program. Actually, funding had run out for that food box program. But it looks like they're re-upping for maybe another $1 billion is what we're hearing.

Do I expect we're going to see something? We all don't know what's going to happen in that round four. My government affairs team-- and certainly, we are connected through our government affairs team into both the administration, the House, and the Senate to get a view and then advocate appropriately for some level of gap payments for farmers as we move through this pandemic.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, something that farmers have had to deal with even pre-pandemic has been access to connectivity and to the internet. And the pandemic has really just exacerbated that need. I know that you are a huge proponent for internet access in rural areas. You've backed legislation regarding this. Where do things stand right now, and what else can the public and private sector do and come together to help aid the farmers?

BETH FORD: Thank you for phrasing it that way. This is about coming together. 18 million-plus Americans lack access to broadband. The majority of them are in rural communities.

One in four farmers or rural community citizens lack access to broadband. This has exacerbated, or this has highlighted this digital divide that we have. You know, oftentimes on a farm the teachers are having to drive out with this paper homework so these kids can do homework, because you don't have enough technology on the farm, or you've got to run farm equipment.

I mean, it's really unacceptable. And this isn't a rural issue. This is an American issue. Food security is a national security issue. We see this front and center, right? We all see this, where we're working from home. We're connecting with doctors from home.

And there's a shortage of 40,000 doctors in rural America. There's a lack of hospitals. And now we see COVID going into these areas. So what are we doing? We are advocating.

We started a coalition called the American Connection Project. We've got over 120 other companies-- Microsoft, Cargill, Polaris Tractor Supply-- any number of company partners who also see this as a need. We must fix this lack of access to broadband. It needs to be like a 1930s rural electric initiative going across the country.