The USDA has announced plans for a pilot program to bring broadband internet to all of rural America.
The plan, which Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue calls a “proof of concept,” will provide $600 million dollars in grants and loans to internet service providers to bring connection to parts of the country that are too remote, underpopulated or expensive to serve.
A dozen grassroots organizations have challenged a USDA rule change that would make medium-sized animal confinements exempt from environmental review before receiving government-backed loans from the Farm Services Agency.
The USDA wants to tighten work requirements for 2.8 million Americans receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps.
The proposed rule change was announced Thursday, the morning President Donald Trump signed a Farm Bill that notably left out changes to SNAP.
Since 2010, poultry growers have taken out more than 3,000 loans backed by the SBA, totaling $2.9 billion, according to analysis of Small Business Administration loan data by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. In March, the Inspector General released a report looking into the relationship between poultry integrators and growers. It said the rules big poultry companies placed on chicken farmers means they are not independent small businesses, calling into question their eligibility for Small Business Loans. Now, the SBA is considering revising
These are just some of the concerns contained in nearly 300 public comments on Rural Broadband Pilot Program proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a review by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found.
When nearly 300 Americans submitted comments this summer on the USDA's pilot plan to bring high speed broadband internet to rural America, they mentioned the great opportunities reliable internet connectivity could bring.
But they also voiced skepticism over the agency's proposed plans for the project, which has been in the works for nearly a year.
America has lost millions of acres of farmland over the nearly three decades to urban and rural development.
Despite conservation efforts by state and local governments and increased financial incentives for farmers, urban development and the expansion of rural residential real estate over the last 25 years has eliminated farmland across the country at levels not seen since the early 1970s.