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Rural Broadband a Top Priority for Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue

On Wednesday, April 18, the 2018 Cap-to-Cap Food & Ag policy team had the opportunity to meet with Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. The meeting, secured through the leadership and persistence of Linda Budge, mayor of the City of Rancho Cordova, was held Wednesday morning at U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters, located in the historic Agriculture South Building in Washington, D.C.  Mayor Budge and Secretary Perdue are former high school classmates, having attending high school together in Georgia, Purdue from a local farming family and Budge from a military family. The two have remained in contact over the years.

The Food & Ag team was there to talk about several policy priorities for the greater Sacramento region including rural broadband, forest management, conservation, and expanding support for and access to healthy foods for the hidden hungry, including college students and working families.

On the issue of rural broadband, Secretary Purdue noted that the lack of “e-Connectivity” is the top issue he hears about wherever he visits, most recently Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. Purdue believes “e-Connectivity is the number one issue holding the [U.S.] ag industry back.” In fact, after meeting with our team, the Secretary was launching the first of a series of national listening sessions on improving e-connectivity in rural America, along with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and a coalition of industry leaders. (The Food & Ag team held a meeting with the Chairman’s office earlier in the week on the same topic).

Relaying to Purdue the challenges from a California perspective were third generation Clarksburg farmers, David and Phil Ogilvie. David shared his personal story of his ability to apply modern farming techniques to drive efficiencies in water use on several of his fields through sensors and remote irrigation management with an iPhone app. Due to lack of broadband access, he isn’t able to deploy the technology on all of his fields. His farm in Clarksburg is located is a community less than a fifteen-minute drive from the California State Capitol. Unfortunately, lack of broadband access in rural areas of California is not an issue unique to Clarksburg. In fact, as a whole, the region has relatively poor grades for broadband infrastructure.

The world views California as leader in technology and innovation. However, we are not leading in terms broadband speed and access. Many rural residents are disconnected from the many benefits of e-connectivity, including opportunities for distance learning, expanding global markets for small businesses, connecting to information on employment and job applications, and accessing telemedicine for improved health.

Fortunately, there is growing awareness of the importance of broadband as a critical utility for 21st Century competitiveness. As affirmed by Secretary Perdue, it’s time to build a 21st Century Highway of Connectivity. We can look to models from the past that have expanded utilities such as electricity and telephone service to all for ideas. Solving the problem will require creative partnerships between federal, state, local government and private partners.

The Connected Capital Broadband Consortium is working with partners and stakeholder across the region to elevate the importance of this issue and to help fill our broadband infrastructure gaps. Together, we can envision the future-ready e-connectivity infrastructure we need for regional prosperity and competitiveness. Let’s work together collectively tackle the challenge!

Tammy Cronin was a Valley Vision Project Leader working in the 21st Century Workforce and Healthy Communities strategies.

Partnering to Craft an Inclusive Economy

Today over 200 leaders gathered from 28 cities and counties at the Regional Futures Forum hosted by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to hear from a national expert about how our region’s economy has restructured since the global downturn nearly 10-years ago.

“The Sacramento region benefits from an educated workforce, world-class research institutions, and the presence of the state government, but our research shows that the region also faces significant challenges, including lagging growth of its export industries, stark educational and earnings disparities between white, black, and Hispanic residents, and investment needs in transportation and broadband infrastructure to connect residents to opportunity,” said Amy Liu, Vice President and Director of of the Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

“In an age of rapid technological changes and an ongoing demographic transformation towards a majority-minority future, existing disparities will be exacerbated without deliberate action,” continued Liu.  “Now, leaders across the region must do the hard work of creating a shared vision for inclusive growth, mobilizing people in government, business, and the broader community to tackle these challenges and make the Sacramento region truly inclusive and prosperous in the years ahead.”

Earlier this year, Valley Vision, the Greater Sacramento Economic CouncilSacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments partnered to engage the nationally recognized Brookings Institution to conduct a market assessment of the six-county Sacramento region. The study examines the economic drivers of successful economies in regions and benchmarked Sacramento against national markets with similar characteristics.

The findings from the Brookings Institution informed the full-day Regional Futures Forum that included breakout sessions and group conversations to dive deep into topics and to develop priorities and actions to take the region to new levels of economic growth, prosperity and inclusion.

“This report shows just how important it is that we build an inclusive economy that provides opportunities for everyone in the Sacramento region,” said Jay Schenirer, Sacramento City Council Member and SACOG Board Chair. “Together, our region needs to provide — among other investments — more workforce development and job training opportunities for youth and young professionals. Investing in digital skills training and connecting young workers to in-demand occupations and industries will help our industries grow while creating access to jobs for more people.”

The full Brookings Institution Sacramento Region Market Assessment can be accessed at: