Farm Bureau President: Broadband is Path to Prosperity for Rural Virginia

The president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation said he’s proud of the accomplishments of farmers and his organization during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that much more needs to be done to give farmers and rural Virginians access to high-speed internet service.

“Just like farms needed electricity and phone service a century ago, rural Virginia will not fully thrive without broadband internet,” Wayne F. Pryor told farmers from across the state on Dec. 5 during the VFBF 2020 Annual Meeting of Voting Delegates. “The nation’s modern economy is totally dependent on this essential service, and anyone offline is missing connections to buyers, suppliers, news, educational resources and vital medical services.”

Millions of dollars in federal grants have boosted efforts to expand broadband internet into rural Virginia in 2020, and farmers are grateful for that, Pryor said.

Despite about 85% of Farm Bureau employees being forced to work from home during the pandemic, he reported that quick and efficient service to members has continued. One mark of confidence was reached at the end of October, when the organization reached 129,985 members, several hundred above this year’s goal.

One way Farm Bureau works to support all Virginians surfaced this past spring, when the Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom program moved quickly to enhance its video resources. “When local school systems began sending students home last spring, Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom stepped up and did a tremendous job of offering online resources for educators, as well as parents thrust into the role of teaching at home,” Pryor said. “AITC’s efforts quickly became a social media success story, and they have continued to share resources this fall for home and classroom use.”

Pryor also noted that while the 2020 State Fair of Virginia was canceled, Farm Bureau, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia 4-H and the Virginia FFA Association all pitched in to hold youth livestock competitions this fall.

“Sadly, we were unable to hold the fair this year. That was one of the hardest decisions our state board had to make during the pandemic,” Pryor said. “But we were able to host about 300 4-H and FFA members over two weekends for a modified youth livestock show. We’re very grateful to all our sponsors of the State Fair Sale of Champions, who made it possible for this year’s sale to raise a record $90,000 for the fair’s scholarship program.”

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