A new bill introduced in the House and Senate would support efforts to advance rural broadband and precision agriculture across the country.
The Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018 would require the Federal Communications Commission to set up a task force to evaluate the effectiveness of existing rural broadband programs, identify gaps in coverage, and develop policy recommendations to address those gaps.
The task force also would have to come up with specific actions the FCC, USDA and other agencies can take to fill the coverage gaps.
Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., introduced the bill in the Senate and Reps. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, introduced it in the House.
The Agricultural Broadband Coalition lauded the lawmakers, calling the bill “a milestone piece of legislation that will help to revolutionize farming across the United States.”
“This legislation creates a clear mandate for the FCC to work with other branches of government to develop a comprehensive strategy to both update our rural infrastructure, and ensure that those investments meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, and the machinery on which they rely to feed the world,” said Nick Tindall, senior director of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.
And Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that "bringing together the USDA, the FCC and public and private stakeholders to address the needs of precision agriculture ensures current and future generations of farmers and ranchers will have the necessary connectivity to achieve optimal yields, lower environmental impact and maximize profit."
Wicker and Klobuchar said that without high-speed internet connectivity, farmers cannot take advantage of precision agriculture techniques that can help them save money and boost yields.
“With increased efficiencies, higher yields, and more information, producers are better equipped to compete globally and provide American consumers with high-quality farm products,” Wicker said. “Rural broadband expansion is the key to unlocking this revolutionary technology.”
Specifically, the legislation would require the FCC task force to:
- Identify and measure current gaps in broadband coverage on cropland and ranchland;
- Assemble a comprehensive guide of all federal programs or resources dedicated to expanding broadband access on cropland and ranchland;
- Develop policy recommendations, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of fixed and mobile high-speed broadband on cropland and ranchland, with the goal of achieving service on 95 percent of croplands and ranchlands in the United States by 2025;
- Recommend specific steps the FCC can take to ensure that available farm data from the USDA is reflected in developing Federal programs to deploy broadband to croplands and ranchlands; and
- Submit an annual report to Congress detailing the status of fixed and mobile broadband coverage on croplands and ranchlands; the projected future connectivity needs of agricultural operations, farmers, and ranchers; and the steps being taken to accurately measure the availability of high-speed broadband on croplands and ranchlands and the limitations of current measurement processes.
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