The 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law in December 2018, includes Klobuchar’s provision to direct the FCC to establish a task force to promote precision agriculture and target broadband deployment to the nation’s farms and ranches 

The Chair of the Task Force will be Minnesotan Teddy Bekele

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) released the following statement ahead of Monday’s first meeting of the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Precision Agriculture Connectivity Task Force. The 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 in December 2018, includes Klobuchar’s provision to direct the FCC to establish a task force to identify gaps in broadband coverage and encourage broadband deployment on farms and ranchland. The Chair of the Task Force will be Minnesotan Teddy Bekele.

“Too often, farmers and ranchers are unable to benefit from precision agriculture technologies—which help farmers streamline their operations, boost their bottom lines, and improve crop yields—due to limited broadband access. After years of legislative effort, the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Task Force, which was established in June, will finally come together to continue the work of closing the digital divide, including on our farms and ranchlands. I look forward to seeing the recommendations of the Task Force, led by Minnesota’s own Teddy Bekele, to promote broadband deployment and precision agriculture technology for our rural communities.”

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 legislation introduced by Klobuchar and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) 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 access to the internet.

In July, Klobuchar Wicker, and Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Thune’s (R-SD) bipartisan legislation to improve the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) broadband coverage maps passed the Senate Commerce Committee. The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act would require the FCC to collect more granular data from fixed, wireless, and satellite broadband providers, strengthen the accuracy of data from mobile broadband providers, consider a process to ensure data is reliable, and create a process for state, local, and Tribal governments to challenge the FCC maps’ accuracy.

In June, Klobuchar and Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s (R-WV) legislation 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.

In May, Klobuchar and Wicker’s legislation to ensure federal funds for broadband deployment are targeting unserved and underserved areas passed the Senate Commerce Committee. The Broadband Interagency Coordination Act would direct the 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.