The Federal Communications Commission is forming a new task force to advise the commission on how to ensure farmers and ranchers have the connectivity they need to use and benefit from precision agriculture.
The task force will work with USDA to develop policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of broadband internet service on unserved agricultural land, with a goal of achieving reliable capabilities on 95 percent of agricultural land in the U.S. by 2025.
Many of the latest yield-maximizing and environmentally friendly farming and ranching techniques require broadband connections for data collection and analysis performed both on the farm and in remote data centers, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall wrote in a letter last year urging lawmakers to support the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018, which was ultimately incorporated into the 2018 farm bill to become law.
“Today’s farmers and ranchers are using precision agricultural techniques to make decisions that impact the amount of fertilizer they need to purchase and apply to the field, the amount of water needed to sustain the crop, and the amount and type of herbicides or pesticides they may need to apply,” Duvall wrote.
While FCC data shows that 39 percent of rural Americans lack access to minimum broadband speed service (25 Mbps/3 Mbps), compared to only 4 percent of urban Americans, there is no information about connectivity on cropland and rangeland.
The 15-member task force, which has yet to be announced, will include farmers and ranchers from a variety of geographic regions and farm sizes, as well as farmers representing tribal agriculture. Also represented on the task force will be internet service providers, the electric cooperative and satellite industries, precision agriculture equipment manufacturers, state and local governments, and people with relevant expertise in broadband network data collection, geospatial analysis and coverage mapping.
The Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States will:
- Identify and measure current gaps in the availability of broadband internet service on agricultural land;
- Develop policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of broadband internet service on unserved agricultural land, with a goal of achieving reliable capabilities on 95 percent of agricultural land in the U.S. by 2025;
- Promote effective policy and regulatory solutions that encourage the adoption of broadband internet service on farms and ranches and promote precision agriculture;
- Recommend specific new rules or amendments to existing FCC rules to achieve the goals and purposes of the policy recommendations described in the second bullet;
- Recommend specific steps the FCC should take to obtain reliable and standardized data measurements of the availability of broadband internet service to target FCC funding for the deployment of broadband internet service to unserved agricultural land; and
- Recommend specific steps the commission should consider to ensure the expertise of the USDA secretary and available farm data are reflected in future FCC programs dedicated to the infrastructure deployment of broadband internet service and to direct available funding to unserved agricultural land.