The Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force will ensure increased broadband internet access on agricultural land 

The 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law, includes Klobuchar’s provision to promote precision agriculture and target broadband deployment to the nation’s farms and ranches

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), lauded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the creation of a new federal advisory committee. The Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force will make policy recommendations and produce public reports to ensure increased broadband internet access on agricultural land. The 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law, includes Klobuchar’s provision to promote precision agriculture and target broadband deployment to the nation’s farms and ranches.

“In a 21st Century economy that demands efficiency, and data, farmers and ranchers are too often unable to take advantage of new technologies due to limited broadband access,” Klobuchar said. “I am proud to see many years of legislative effort come to fruition with the creation of this task force. The task force will help promote broadband deployment and precision agriculture technology to help farmers streamline their operations, improve crop yields, and boost their bottom line.”

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.

The Klobuchar and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) legislation outlines the following duties 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.

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, Klobuchar has long championed closing the digital divide and expanding broadband internet connection to all corners of the U.S.

Earlier this month, her legislation with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to improve broadband connectivity passed the Senate. The Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act would require the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Technology, to conduct a study of the effects of the digital economy and the adoption of broadband deployment on the U.S. economy. While the federal government measures the economic impact of many industries, it does not produce current, reliable statistics on the economic impact of broadband on the U.S. economy. Accurate, reliable data on the economic impact of broadband and the digital economy is a valuable tool for policymakers and business leaders and many research institutions, state broadband offices, and trade associations have highlighted the need for this data.

Last month, Klobuchar and Wicker’s Broadband Interagency Coordination Act passed the Senate Commerce Committee. It would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to coordinate and share information on their broadband deployment efforts so federal funds are used effectively to target unserved and underserved areas. In March, Klobuchar, Capito, and Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband coverage maps. The Improving Broadband Mapping Act directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to consider using consumer-reported data and state and local data from government entities to improve broadband mapping accuracy while also considering ways that both fixed and mobile coverage data can be challenged. The bill will help close the digital divide by giving policymakers more accurate data on broadband coverage nationwide.