In the late 1970s, radio broadcaster Paul Harvey delivered what would become a famous speech about farmers. He began by saying, “And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.” Harvey then described the hard work, long hours, strength, compassion, and resourcefulness that characterize a farmer.
Bill Offers Farmers Critical Support, More Certainty
Many years later, those powerful lines would again capture audiences as part of a popular Super Bowl commercial. They still apply today, underscoring the importance of our farmers to our nation and the world. Because of U.S. farmers, consumers here at home and in distant places have access to the nourishment they need to keep themselves and their families healthy. American farms – including the more than 36,000 in our state – quite literally feed the world. Convenient food access can make it easy to overlook the incredible challenges for our farmers, including the constant risk of extreme weather or market instability. Massive drops in net farm income shed light on the struggles that farmers have dealt with in recent years.
The regulatory reforms of the Trump Administration have no doubt helped minimize some of these challenges, but Congress can do more. I am encouraged that the enactment of a five-year farm bill, titled the “Agriculture Improvement Act,” is now within reach. The bill, which has also been passed by the House, would support programs that our farmers turn to when hurt by natural disasters or low commodity prices. It would strengthen public-private research partnerships. For rural communities in Mississippi and across the country, the bill would foster broadband deployment and better water infrastructure, strengthening local economies.
Precision Agriculture Is Shaping Farms of the Future
Broadband expansion in our rural areas is imperative to our nation’s agricultural productivity, now and into the future. When equipped with a high-speed internet connection and a drone or sensor out in the field, our farmers have the capacity to know more information than ever before about their crops and their farmland. They can then use real-time data to guide their planning and operations, taking steps to mitigate costly risks and increase the chances of a positive output.
Like any industry, unexpected circumstances are bound to happen. However, advancements in groundbreaking technology like precision agriculture can help position our farmers to be prepared and informed. I am glad my colleagues agreed and have included my “Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act” as a provision.
This measure – like the entire farm bill – recognizes the need to invest now if we want to prepare for the demands of a rapidly growing global population. Specifically, my provision would set a goal for 95 percent of cropland and ranchland to have broadband by 2025, and it would task the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Agriculture to help meet it.
The United States remains the world’s leading agricultural exporter, and major agricultural states like Mississippi help drive this success. We all share a stake in ensuring that our farmers do well, making the farm bill’s passage into law a matter of both national and international importance.