WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., today introduced legislation to promote precision agriculture and rural broadband deployment. The “Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018,” S. 2343, would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a task force to identify gaps in high-speed internet connectivity for the nation’s cropland and ranchland. The measure also instructs the agency to develop ways to help encourage broadband adoption and precision agriculture in areas where it is currently unavailable.
“Precision agriculture technologies are already changing the way American farmers do business,” Senator Wicker said. “With increased efficiencies, higher yields, and more information, producers are better equipped to compete globally and provide American consumers with high-quality farm products. Rural broadband expansion is the key to unlocking this revolutionary technology.”
“Farmers and ranchers are too often unable to take advantage of new technologies due to limited broadband infrastructure in rural areas— this is unacceptable in a 21st Century economy that demands efficiency,” Senator Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan legislation will help Minnesota farmers harness the power of broadband to improve business, reduce costs and improve crop yields.”
Precision agriculture describes the use of mobile devices, robotics, field sensors, remote monitoring, and other technologies to manage agricultural production. Farmers and ranchers who use the technology can significantly increase crop yields, streamline operations, and reduce production expenses. In many areas of the United States, reliable, high-speed internet connections are not consistently available to support precision agriculture operations.
The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Specifically, the legislation outlines these tasks for the new FCC task force:
- 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.