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RD’s ReConnect Program: Supporting Agricultural Innovation by Bridging the Digital Divide

Often when we think of rural broadband, we think about how internet access has revolutionized the way Americans consume media, conduct business, learn, and receive medical care via telemedicine. Over the last two decades, USDA has been making significant progress in connecting rural communities to the same telecommunications infrastructure enjoyed by their urban counterparts. However, the untapped potential of high-speed broadband also extends into the new technologies farmers and ranchers use to feed and clothe the world.

Rural Distance Learning Gets a Tech Boost in Oklahoma and Texas

Hilliary Communications, which serves parts of Oklahoma and Texas, has reinforced its commitment to its customers and communities with a series of upgrades in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. This is especially important since students across the state will begin distance learning on April 6 as schools across the region go back into session remotely.

“Our People Are Our Biggest Asset:” Determined Coastal Community Stands Up for Broadband

The bold and rugged coast of Downeast Maine is home to a rural community of 300, where the people have made a living off the land and sea for generations. The Town of Roque Bluffs contains a state park and boasts some of the most beautiful coastline in Maine - yet it is the people who are its biggest asset. When they saw an opportunity to bring broadband to their tiny town, they were determined to make it happen.

Farming in the 21st Century Requires Being Connected

As you step onto Bebb Farms in rural Labette County, Kan., you see tractors, combines, sprayers, grain bins, and semis. All necessary equipment on a Kansas farm, but perhaps the most important equipment you don’t see is the Internet.

Connecting South Dakota’s Rural Communities to Opportunities in Business, Education, Health Care and Beyond

In early December, I had the privilege of announcing a USDA Rural Development ReConnect Pilot Program investment of more than $9.5 million to Valley Telecommunications Cooperative Association, Inc. dba Valley FiberCom in Flandreau, South Dakota. This investment will help Valley deploy high-speed broadband internet e-Connectivity to more than 1,750 rural households, 27 farms, 17 businesses and one critical community facility.

Innovation and Collaboration Bring Summer Meals to Children in Rural Texas

Children’s nutritional needs do not take a summer break. This summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service partnered with the Texas Department of Agriculture and Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative to help keep Texas children in several low-income rural areas fed during the summer through a summer meals demonstration project.

Reflecting on One Year of Innovation at Rural Development

Last year, Secretary Perdue created the Rural Development Innovation Center, a team devoted to partnership development, regulatory reform, data analysis, and risk management. With a mission of coordinating resources and providing creative solutions for our rural customer, the Innovation Center is designed to hard wire innovation into our program delivery. In recognition of the Innovation Center’s first anniversary, I’d like to share a few reflections on a year of transformation in Rural Development through innovation.