Rural Economy

How Slow Internet Hurts Rural Areas, Starting With Cattle Sales

Apr 8, 2019

Crawling internet speeds in rural Kansas make trying to sell cattle online exasperating.

Instead of uploading photos and videos of cattle for sale from home, farmer and cattleman Jay Young drives to his parents’ house or into the town of Tribune in far west Kansas where internet speeds are faster.

Young has a broadband connection and says he’s able to create a cattle listing from home, but the slow internet brings on additional work.

Joanthan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Swiss Meat and Sausage has been butchering animals and selling meats in a small, unincorporated east-central Missouri town for 50 years. Co-owner Janice Thomas wants to expand, and to do that, she’ll need more business from out-of-town customers.

“If there is one place that has some room, it’s with our online ordering,” she said.

The community of Swiss has minimal internet access: It’s not high speed, and it’s unreliable.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers started forming co-ops nearly a century ago, primarily to get better prices for their crops. They pooled their resources, put up storage bins and gained leverage with buyers.

Mary Hansen / Illinois Newsroom file

A new poll suggests 72 percent of voters, regardless of party affiliation, believe Congress and federal regulators “need to do more” to bring high-speed internet to rural Americans.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised to revitalize rural America, specifically through increased investment in infrastructure. And his ag secretary, Sonny Perdue, wants to modernize the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

One rural bank representative said there’s a key piece to doing that: Fixing an outdated and burdensome loan application process to make it easier to access capital.

Rural Businesses See High Costs, Slow Internet Speeds

Sep 7, 2018
Mary Hansen / Illinois Newsroom

Gary Smith has worked at the grain elevator at Okaw Farmer’s Co-op in Lovington, Illinois, for 40 years. On his desk sit two computer screens, where he tracks corn and soybean prices online at the Chicago Board of Trade.

As he explained, trade moves fast: “Just bam bam bam, and within a few seconds it could change a nickel or a dime against your favor.”

Just outside tiny Sheffield, Iowa, a modern steel and glass office building has sprung up next to a cornfield. Behind it, there's a plant that employs almost 700 workers making Sukup brand steel grain bins. The factory provides an economic anchor for Sheffield, population 1,125.

Charles Sukup, the company's president, says that even though workers can be hard to come by, there are no plans to relocate.

"Our philosophy is you bloom where you're planted," Sukup says with a smile.

For about 10 years Laura Krier has lived in Concordia, Kansas, a small town that she’s seen get only smaller.

Without some kind of economic development, she fears things it will only get worse.

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media file photo

The statistics are clear: Rural America is deeply impacted by the opioid crisis, especially farmers and farm workers. What’s not so easy is figuring out what to do about it, three national agricultural leaders said Sunday, though they all said the real onus is on local communities.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The Trump administration wants to show rural communities, which voted for him by wide margins in the 2016 election, they are still on the president’s mind. It suggested a list of broad ideas in January to spark growth and carved out rural interests in an infrastructure plan.

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