Osswald Family, Preble County

Legislation to provide funding for expanding broadband has been introduced for several years in the Ohio General Assembly and has gone nowhere – until now.
The Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 2 at the end of April, and it was was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine on May 17. The bill allocates $20 million this year for broadband and establishes the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Program.

“The need for reliable internet access to rural Ohio has been something that Farm Bureau has been stressing for years,” said Jack Irvin, Ohio Farm Bureau vice president of public policy. “We appreciate the commitment from Gov. DeWine and the General Assembly to the issue that impacts so many of our members and their families.”

The change can’t come soon enough for rural Ohioans like the Osswalds in
Preble County.

When snow forced the four Osswald children and their teacher mom to work remotely from home for a week in mid-February, it only took two days before they knew they were in trouble.

Claire, Ethan and Natalie Osswald need reliable rural broadband access for school. Their farm has no access to broadband, so to get on the internet they rely on a cell-phone company hotspot that provides 50 gigabytes a month for $50. By the second day, as mom Bambi taught her ninth grade English students online, each child was in remote learning at National Trail Local Schools and father Lane was working on his taxes, their gigabytes ran out.

Luckily, they also had hot spots on their individual cell phones they could use to access their online classes for the most part. But for Bambi, teaching students through Google Meet on her phone was taxing.

“I couldn’t even see all of them,” said Bambi, a teacher in Huber Heights City Schools.

An Ohio State University study found that 1 million Ohioans – nearly 12% – can’t get high-speed internet or are underserved where they live. Jenna Reese, director of state policy for Ohio Farm Bureau, said the cost to connect all Ohioans who don’t have internet access is estimated at $2 billion, with most of that needed to link homes and businesses in Ohio’s Appalachia.

“In the future we’re going to be more and more dependent on the internet,” said Lane, who also serves as an Ohio Farm Bureau state trustee and was recently elected treasurer. He’s online daily for research, grain marketing, recordkeeping, communication, banking and a variety of other reasons. “The other day we had to back up a cell phone and it took four hours. We’re at a competitive disadvantage without high-speed internet. Time is everything in this business.”

Pandemic brought issue to forefront

DeWine noted when signing the HB2 legislation into law that the yearlong pandemic starkly demonstrated the desperate need to expand broadband in Ohio. Kids need it as a key tool in their education both when school is remote and for homework, employees need it to work from home, farmers need it to manage their farms and everyone needs it to communicate and use telehealth.

Other efforts also are in play on the broadband front. The next two-year state budget contains nearly $200 million for the Ohio Residential Broadband Grant Program. DeWine noted the years of work from Rep. Rick Carfagna, Rep. Brian Stewart and others in the legislature to bring the broadband legislation to fruition.

“This is something for which we have a broad consensus – Republicans, Democrats, rural, urban and suburban,” DeWine said. “We must move on this in Ohio and we must move very quickly.”

I'm eternally grateful for the support Ohio Farm Bureau scholarships provided in helping me turn my dreams into reality.
Bethany Starlin's avatar
Bethany Starlin

Hocking County Farm Bureau

Available scholarships
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
Jenna Gregorich's avatar
Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Business Solutions
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Advocacy
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