Nunn Pushing To Make USDA Pilot Program For Rural Broadband Permanent

Des Moines, Iowa — Iowa Congressman Zach Nunn is hoping to insert guaranteed federal investment in broadband infrastructure in the next Farm Bill.

Nunn, a Republican from Bondurant, is co-sponsoring a proposal with lawmakers from Minnesota and Illinois that would make the USDA’s ReConnect pilot program permanent. Since 2018, the pilot program has been providing grants and loans to extend high-speed internet to rural areas.

Five years ago, President Trump’s ag secretary redirected 200 million dollars in agency funds to a pilot program and it has continued in the Biden Administration, but Congress has not voted to make these USDA loans for broadband permanent. Nunn says Iowa currently has the second slowest internet speeds in the country and that’s unacceptable.

And Nunn says slow internet speed can be a health issue, as rural Iowans who have telemedicine appointments with a doctor who is miles away can’t get reliable connections.

Nunn says broadband is also critical for precision agriculture, farm equipment that is connected to the internet so it adjusts planting and fertilizer applications based on field maps. A USDA report in 2021 found 30 percent of US farms had either no or very slow internet.