Lack of decent broadband is preventing farmers from running their businesses more efficiently, warns a survey.
More than four in 10 farmers still don’t have a fast and reliable internet connection, according to the NFU poll. The union said persistent poor connectivity and inadequate mobile coverage was hampering growth in production.
Slow broadband speeds were being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Many farmers were unable to participate in in virtual business meetings, undertaken online banking transactions or home-school their children.
NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “For too long, those living and working in the countryside have been dealt a poor hand when it comes to digital connectivity; waiting for improvements which never seem to arrive.
“It is completely unacceptable that in this digital age we have a two-tier system of haves and have nots – particularly at a time when communication has become even more important. This comes at a critical time for these food production businesses when much is changing.”
Poor mobile signals in rural areas put farmers at risk and prohibited the adoption of new technologies which had much to offer the sector, said Mr Roberts. Rural communities risked being left even further behind unless the government raised its game on rural connectivity.
“We will continue to campaign for investment in the country’s digital infrastructure so farm businesses can meet their huge potential, not only as food producers and custodians of the countryside, but to help tackle climate change and deliver on our net zero ambitions.”
Earlier this year, a report by parliament’s spending watchdog warned that the government was failing to make any “meaningful progress” in delivering policies or legal changes to achieve a rapid rollout of gigabit broadband.