Daines, Tester Introduce Bill to Promote Precision Agriculture, Rural Broadband

Bipartisan Legislation Targets High-Speed Internet Deployment to Nation’s Farms & Ranches

U.S. SENATE — Montana U.S. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester today introduced legislation to promote precision agriculture and rural broadband deployment. The Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018, S. 2343, would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a task force to identify gaps in high-speed internet connectivity for the nation’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.

“Montana farmers and ranchers need access to the farming tools of the 21st century to compete on a level playing field,” said Daines. “We must close the rural digital divide for Montana’s top economic drivers.”

“Montana’s farmers are the backbone of our economy,” said Tester, a farmer from Big Sandy. “Precision agriculture has the ability to make Montana’s farms more efficient, but only if they have good, reliable and affordable internet access. By expanding broadband Montana’s farmers can look forward to higher crop yields and a thriving future.”

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 internet connections are 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;
  • Assemble a comprehensive guide of all federal programs or resources dedicated to expanding broadband access 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 high-speed 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 can take to ensure that available farm data from the USDA is reflected in developing Federal programs to deploy broadband to croplands and ranchlands; and
  • Submit an annual report to Congress 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 high-speed broadband on croplands and ranchlands and the limitations of current measurement processes.