The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 4881, the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, to reduce barriers to the implementation of cutting-edge technology on America’s farms. The legislation, authored by Congressmen Bob Latta (R-OH) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA), establishes a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) task force, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to evaluate the best ways to meet the broadband connectivity and 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 operate farms 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 advanced technologies that could make their work easier, safer, and better for the environment.
“Precision agriculture provides farmers with the ability to improve productivity and sustainability,” said Latta. “Unfortunately, many rural areas lack high-speed broadband which is needed to utilize this cutting-edge technology. By having the FCC, USDA, and private stakeholders work together, we can reduce barriers to the implementation of innovation like self-driving equipment, the Internet of Things, and satellite imagery. I want to thank Congressman Loebsack for working with me on this important piece of legislation for our agricultural community.”
“As I travel across Iowa meeting with farmers, I am continuously impressed with the advanced technology they are using to assist in planting and monitoring their crops. I am pleased the U.S. House passed the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, which will establish a task force to examine the broadband needs of farmers and rural communities so they can take advantage of these new technologies in order to increase crop yields. I am pleased to work with Rep. Latta on this legislation, which passed the House by a large bipartisan vote, to help ensure our nation’s farmers have the best information available on meeting their broadband needs.”
Video of Rep. Latta speaking in favor of the bill on the House floor is available here.
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, broadband mapping experts, 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.