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Latta, Loebsack Introduce Legislation to Improve Connectivity for Precision Agriculture

Washington, January 25, 2018 | Drew Griffin (202-225-6405)

Congressmen Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) have introduced bipartisan legislation to improve connectivity in rural areas in order to reduce barriers to implementation of precision agriculture. The legislation, the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to form a task force in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to evaluate the best ways to meet the technological needs of precision agriculture.

Precision agriculture is the use of cutting-edge innovation like self-driving machinery, the Internet of Things (IoT), drones, and satellite imagery to more efficiently and effectively farm. Unfortunately, due to rural communities having less access to high-speed connectivity, the agricultural sector may have more difficulties than other industries when it comes to integrating new technology. Latta and Loebsack are both Co-Chairs of the House Rural Broadband Caucus.

“Precision agriculture has the opportunity to revolutionize this industry in a way that will make farming more efficient, safer, and sustainable,” said Rep. Latta. “Unlike other sectors, most farming is congregated in rural areas where there may be very limited access to high-speed Internet that is essential to using IoT, self-driving equipment, and other technology. Due to this reality, it’s essential that the FCC and USDA work together to identify current gaps in coverage in croplands and ranchlands, and reduce barriers to the deployment of broadband in those unserved communities. This bipartisan legislation will begin the process of identifying and implementing policies that will help farmers in Ohio, Iowa, and around the country use this cutting-edge technology.”

“Broadband connectivity is essential in this day and age, whether you’re trying to find a job, do your homework, or start a small business, and in rural America it is needed for more than just schools and businesses,” said Rep. Loebsack. “Many farmers are now using technology to assist in planting and monitoring their crops – getting real time readings on soil, and even using drones. This bill establishes a task force to examine the broadband needs of farmers and rural communities to be able to take advantage of these new technological advances in order to increase crop yields. I am proud to partner with Rep. Latta to help ensure our nation’s farmers have the best information available on meeting their broadband needs.”

The bill establishes the Task Force for Meeting the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States, which will operate under the direction of the FCC and in collaboration with USDA. The Task Force must be comprised of farmers and ranchers, Internet service providers, satellite industry, precision agriculture equipment manufacturers, and local and state government representatives.

The duties of the Task Force include:

•         Identifying and measuring current gaps in broadband coverage of cropland and ranchland;

•         Assembling a comprehensive guide of all federal programs and resources working to expand broadband access on cropland and ranchland;

•         Developing policy recommendations (and propose new rules or amendments to existing rules) to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of fixed and mobile high-speed broadband Internet access service on croplands and ranchlands, with a goal of achieving reliable service on 95 percent coverage by 2025;

•         Promoting policy and regulatory solutions that encourage the adoption of broadband on farms and ranches, and promote precision agriculture;

•         Recommending steps the FCC and other Federal agencies should take to obtain reliable measurements of broadband Internet access service coverage as may be necessary to target funding support to agricultural areas in need of broadband service; and

•         Recommending steps the FCC should take to ensure that the expertise of USDA and available farm data are reflected in developing Federal programs to deploy broadband and direct available funding to croplands and ranchlands where needed.

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