The 2018 Farm Bill text was recently released and included several of Klobuchar’s priorities for Minnesota

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill to promote precision agriculture and target broadband deployment to the nation’s farms and ranches. The amendment, based on Klobuchar and Senator Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a task force to identify gaps in broadband connectivity for the country’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.

“We have a good Farm Bill in front of us, but we can do more to expand internet access to our rural and farming communities so they can take advantage of modern technologies like precision agriculture,” Klobuchar said. “Our 21st Century economy demands efficiency, and this legislation will help Minnesota farmers streamline their operations, improve crop yields, and boost their bottom lines.”

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 broadband is not consistently available to support precision agriculture operations.

Specifically, the legislation outlines these tasks for the new FCC task force:

  • Identify and measure current gaps in broadband coverage 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 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 should consider to ensure that available farm data from the USDA is reflected in the development of future FCC programs dedicated to the deployment of broadband infrastructure to croplands and ranchlands; and
  • Develop a public report 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 broadband on croplands and ranchlands and the limitations of current measurement processes.

The amendment has been cosponsored by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Steve Daines (R-MT), and John Thune (R-SD).

As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a 2014 Farm Bill Conference Committee member, Klobuchar successfully pushed for key provisions in the last Farm Bill – including measures to support rural development projects, conservation programs, agricultural research, and the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program. The 2018 Farm Bill includes several of Klobuchar’s priorities, including provisions that would provide certainty to farmers and ranchers, create an animal disease and disaster program, and support dairy farmers. The bill also protects and expands crop insurance to improve access for beginning farmers, and preserves a strong safety net for farmers and maintains important access to food assistance for families in need while saving millions of taxpayer dollars by cracking down on fraud and abuse.

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, Klobuchar has been a leader in pushing to expand and improve communications infrastructure in rural areas. In May, Klobuchar, Wicker and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the bipartisan Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017 to expand broadband deployment using accurate coverage maps. In April, Klobuchar and Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) led a bipartisan group of 56 senators in urging the FCC to continue advancing broadband deployment in rural communities. Last year, Klobuchar and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced legislation to measure the economic impact of broadband on the U.S. economy. Klobuchar, Capito, Senators Angus King (I-ME), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and John Boozman (R-AR) also led 48 senators in urging the Administration to include broadband in any infrastructure initiative.