Groups express grave concerns over FCC order threatening the viability of the single most significant technological advancement for American agriculture in two decades
WASHINGTON—-Leading agriculture organizations representing farmers and interests across all 50 states have announced their support for the Keep GPS Working Coalition. The coalition was launched in June to protect GPS users from harmful interference resulting from the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to permit Ligado Networks to operate a terrestrial wireless network in the band adjacent to GPS. New coalition members include the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), American Soybean Association (ASA), Equipment Dealers Association (EDA), Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers Association, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), National Cotton Council of America (National Cotton Council) and USA Rice Federation (USA Rice).
The Federal Communications Commission’s highly unusual order puts dozens of industries reliant on GPS at risk while granting a single company and its Wall Street investors a financial windfall at the expense of farmers, businesses and consumers. In addition, Department of Defense officials have testified before Congress that GPS interference from the Ligado network would put troops and missions at risk.
As part of the Keep GPS Working Coalition, the new members from the agriculture sector join the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association and Boat Owners Association of The United States in urging the reversal of the FCC’s Ligado order.
“The FCC’s decision represents a sweeping governmental and regulatory assault on farmers who are already facing unprecedented challenges including severe weather, low commodity prices and supply chain vulnerability as a result of COVID-19,” said Dale Leibach, spokesperson for the Keep GPS Working Coalition. “The order must be stopped. The FCC’s decision must be reversed.”
To better manage farming operations during these challenging times, farmers are increasingly relying on precision agriculture applications that deliver centimeter-level accuracy that enables farmers to maximize crop yields while lowering costs and environmental impact. From precise application of seeds, water, fertilizer and pesticides, to equipment efficiencies such as lowered fuel use and safeguarding animals through tracking and virtual fencing, GPS is ubiquitous on farms and ranches, both large and small. GPS also allows farms to operate before dusk and after dawn, maximizing what is often a set period of time in which crops can be planted and harvested.
Precision farming reduces costs for consumers, delivers economic benefits for rural economies and enables the efficient production of the foods required to meet a growing global demand for food, fiber and fuel. For farmers, GPS-enabled precision agriculture provides an estimated savings of $15 to $25 an acre. That savings is not insignificant for a family farm: A corn-producing farm of 1,000 acres would save $15,000 to $25,000 in operating costs through the use of GPS technology. This is also income that rolls through local rural economies.
“Ag retailers often fill a role as trusted advisor to their farmer customers, suggesting new and emergent technologies in the precision ag space. Without the GPS location services needed for proper planning and implementation of these resources, farmers may not have the tools they need to increase crop yields, lower input loads and decrease inefficacies. ARA stands behind the coalition’s work to protect GPS as a valuable resource to farmers,” said Daren Coppock, President and CEO of the Agricultural Retailers Association.
“Our organization has been advocating for the soybean farmer for 100 years,” said Jim Kukowski, soy grower from Minnesota and chair of the American Soybean Association’s Conservation and Precision Agriculture Committee. “The arrival of GPS to farms has been the biggest technical advancement the industry has ever seen. The fact that the FCC would threaten our farmers with such a misguided decision is incomprehensible.”
“Equipment dealers continue to provide farmers with new processes they need for economic security as well as a host of environmental benefits to include water conservation and reduced use of fuel and chemicals,” said Natalie Higgins, Vice President of Government Relations for the Equipment Dealers Association. “Ligado’s plans threaten decades of innovation and must be stopped.”
“Corn farmers rely on GPS to till and plant our fields. In fact, GPS is a part of almost every field operation at this point in time. This technology has not only increased our efficiency but is also estimated to have increased yields by three to five percent,” said NCGA President Kevin Ross. “NCGA is proud to be part of this coalition to work together to ensure all parts of this technology continues to be available for our farms.”
“GPS is fundamental to the entire cotton production cycle, from the mapping of fields to efficient harvesting to the delivery of end products,” said Mark McKean, a California cotton producer and Chairman of the American Cotton Producers. “Unfortunately, it seems there is no possible way for Ligado to proceed without severely harming not just cotton farmers, but countless other industries as well.”
“The U.S. rice industry has enough challenges to overcome this year, from record temperatures to the threat of a severe hurricane season and of course COVID-19,” said Ben Mosely, Vice President of Government Affairs at USA Rice. “It is unbelievable that the FCC would permit this wholly avoidable catastrophe from happening.”
Editor’s Note: Agriculture industry leaders and a member of the House Committee on Agriculture will participate in a conversation discussing how the FCC’s decision to allow Ligado Networks to operate a terrestrial wireless network will threaten the reliability of GPS receivers used in precision agriculture on October 1, 2020 at 11 a.m. EDT. For registration details and for additional information about the Keep GPS Working Coalition, please visit www.keepgpsworking.com.