Today, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology approved H.R. 4881, the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, legislation authored by Congressmen Bob Latta (R-OH) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA), to reduce barriers to the implementation of this cutting-edge technology. The bill establishes a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) task force, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to evaluate the best ways to meet the technological needs of precision agriculture. Latta and Loebsack are both co-chairs of the House Rural Broadband Caucus.
Precision agriculture is the use of technology like the Internet of Things (IoT), self-driving machinery, drones, and satellites to farm in a more effective and efficient manner. Because rural communities often have less access to high-speed broadband connectivity, the agricultural community has more difficulty integrating the new technology that could make their work easier, safer, and better for the environment.
“I’ve talked with farmers throughout Ohio’s 5th Congressional District that are utilizing advanced technologies to improve farm productivity and sustainability,” said Latta. “However, it’s clear that the agricultural community is at a disadvantage compared to other sectors because they are in rural areas that have limited access to high-speed Internet. It’s important that we’re proactive to ensure that farmers are able to integrate cutting-edge technology into the work they are doing. The bipartisan Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act will begin efforts to identify and recommend policies that will improve access to broadband on rural, agricultural lands and help farmers increase crop yields, reduce operating costs, and promote environmentally sustainable practices.”
“Broadband connectivity in rural America is needed for more than just schools and businesses,” said Rep. Loebsack. “I’ve traveled across Iowa to meet with farmers who are now using advanced technology to assist in planting and monitoring their crops. The task force established by this bill will examine the broadband needs of farmers and rural communities so they can take advantage of these new technological advances in order to increase crop yields. I am pleased this bipartisan bill is moving forward in order to help ensure our nation’s farmers have the best information available on meeting their broadband needs.”
The bill establishes the Task Force for Reviewing 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, and representatives from the satellite industry, electric cooperatives, 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 on agricultural land;
• Developing policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of broadband Internet access service on agricultural land, with a goal of achieving reliable service on 95 percent of agricultural land by 2025;
• Recommending steps the FCC should take to obtain reliable and standardized measurements of broadband Internet access service availability as may be necessary to target funding support to unserved agricultural land in need of broadband Internet access service; and
• Recommending steps the FCC should consider to ensure that the expertise of USDA and available farm data are reflected in developing future programs of the Commission to deploy broadband Internet access service and to direct available funding to unserved agricultural land where needed.