The Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, legislation authored by Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) to help Northwest Ohio farmers, has been included in Farm Bill legislation agreed to by a Conference Committee. The legislation was included in the House-passed Farm Bill, H.R. 2, earlier this year. The Conference Committee was created to negotiate and iron out the differences in the Farm Bills passed by the House and Senate.
The Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act will expand access to rural broadband so more farmers can use technology that is safer, more efficient, and sustainable. 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.
The bill begins the process of identifying and recommending policies to help the agricultural community use this innovation by expanding access to rural broadband.
“I’ve talked with farmers throughout Ohio’s 5th Congressional District that are utilizing advanced technologies to improve farm productivity and sustainability, and it’s making a big difference,” 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 often have limited access to high-speed Internet. It’s critical that we close the ‘Digital Divide’ to ensure that the agricultural community can fully utilize this cutting-edge technology. I’m glad to see this legislation included in the Farm Bill compromise that was ironed out between the House and Senate.”
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 agricultural producers, 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 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 data 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.