Faster broadband needed for modern agriculture techniques, UK farmers say

UK farmers have called on the government to improve rural internet connectivity to help them tackle climate change and improve their business models.

A National Farmers’ Union (NFU) report, 'Levelling up rural Britain', said that poor connectivity has put rural areas “at a disadvantage”. It calls on the government to ensure reliable coverage and connections that will benefit farming, in addition to other rural businesses.

“Better broadband will increase the potential of people being able to run other successful businesses in rural areas, which will attract more people to live and work there and boost rural economies,” the report states.

It added that improved connectivity is also necessary to take full advantage of the latest farming technologies, including those that improve agriculture’s climate impact.

In the NFU’s 2020 survey, almost every respondent said access to reliable broadband and a mobile signal was essential for their business, yet less than half felt their mobile signal was sufficient for their business needs. Only 40 per cent of farmers said their broadband speeds were good enough.

The NFU called on the government to ensure that the Shared Rural Network (SRN) is completed by 2025. The SRN is a £1bn deal between the government and the four major networks - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone - to share their infrastructure to ensure widespread coverage in rural areas.

The NFU said it wanted British farmers to become “world leaders in climate-friendly farming” and wanted to support the government’s approach to the adoption of new technologies and its “pro-science” agenda.

This requires a high standard of rural connectivity to take full advantage of new technologies, while a lack of digital connectivity “acts as a constraint to capital investment”.

The report says: “We can build a better Britain and level up the entire country, so no one is disadvantaged by where they live or where their business is based.”

Elsewhere, the NFU also called on the government to do more to tackle rural crime and improve the planning system.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently warned that the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge to deliver nationwide gigabit broadband connectivity to all homes by 2025 was “unachievable” and said that rural areas risk being left even further behind due to the lack of action taken to improve rural broadband.

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