Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) recently participated in the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin as a sponsor of three sessions focused on agricultural issues.

The festival completed, which was held Sept. 27-28, completed its ninth year with over 8,600 people registered. The 2019 festival marked the second year of TFB’s participation in the event.

TFB sponsored “Trade Off,” a session featuring former U.S. Trade Representatives Carla Hills and Ron Kirk, and “Ag in the Modern World,” a session featuring Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, State Rep. Drew Springer of Muenster and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

TFB also sponsored “Disconnected,” a session on connecting rural communities with broadband service.

The session’s panel featured Jordana Barton, senior advisor in the San Antonio Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Teresa Burnett, executive director of the Monahans Chamber of Commerce; Eric Frederick, dxecutive director of Connect Michigan and vice president of Community Affairs for Connected Nation Inc.; and State Rep. Four Price of Amarillo.

Frederick said there is a digital divide in Texas.

“Yes, absolutely. There’s definitely a great loss of economic potential for rural Texas,” Frederick said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “The number I said today was $5.1 billion for households. That’s just the economic benefit for households that are connected that we’re missing out on annually by leaving rural Texans disconnected. So, there’s lots of opportunity for Texas to get better connected and to really solve that digital divide here in the near future.”

Frederick said Connection Nation recently opened an office in Texas.

“Connected Nation Texas is going to start doing broadband mapping for the state to really help refine what the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is saying and make sure our numbers are accurate and representative of what’s going on out there in the field,” he said. “We’re actually going to be engaging with counties across the state to really help build local capacity for broadband planning and community engagement to start addressing these challenges at a local level. So, Texas is really poised to start tackling this challenge.”

This year’s Texas Tribune Festival featured more than 450 speakers and nearly 130 sessions, both records for the festival.