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The Digital Divide Must End

Studies estimate that precision agriculture technologies can reduce your farm operation’s costs by up to $25 dollars per acre and increase farm yields by up to 70% by 2050. These cost savings and production benefits cannot be realized without reliable access to broadband Internet service. Despite the growing demand on farms and ranches across rural America, this service is still not consistently available where it is needed. 

A bill, which was introduced in the Senate by Senators Roger Wicker and Amy Klobucher and in the House by Congressmen Bob Latta and Dave Loebsack, will help facilitate the deployment of broadband internet across rural America. This would include ranch and farmland where broadband connectivity is increasingly essential for production agriculture.

The legislation, which requires the Federal Communications Commission to create a task force for meeting the connectivity and technology needs of precision agriculture in the U.S., was recently applauded by the Agricultural Broadband Coalition. 

“Farm equipment manufacturers applaud Senators Wicker and Klobuchar and Congressmen Latta and Loebsack for working to make sure the federal government evolves along with the technology that has revolutionized modern agriculture,” says Nick Tindall, senior director for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), the chair of the Agricultural Broadband Coalition. “This legislation creates a clear mandate for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to work with other branches of government to develop a comprehensive strategy to both update our rural infrastructure and to ensure that those investments meet the needs of farmers and ranchers and the machinery on which they rely to feed the world.”

"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, to lower environmental impact, and to maximize profit," says American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. "Broadband deployment in unserved and underserved croplands and ranchlands is essential to farmers and ranchers who produce the food, fuel, and fiber across the U.S. and around the world."

The Commission will have one year after the act is enacted to bring together the task force of public and private stakeholders. The task force will be composed of no more than 15 members and include "agricultural producers representing diverse geographic regions and farm sizes, including owners and operators of farms of less than 100 acres; internet service providers, including regional or rural fixed and mobile broadband internet access service providers and telecommunications infrastructure providers; representatives from the satellite industry; representatives from precision agriculture equipment manufacturers, including drone manufacturers, manufacturers of autonomous agricultural machinery, and manufacturers of farming robotics technologies; and representatives from state and local governments."

Once formed, the task force's duties will include evaluating current programs affecting broadband internet access on ranch and cropland, identifying and measuring existing gaps in coverage, and developing policy recommendations to address that gap. The task force will also develop specific steps the FCC, USDA, and other federal agencies can take to address the gap.

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