By DOUG SCHMITZ
WASHINGTON, D.C. — During a briefing with the U.S. Senate Global Positioning System (GPS) Caucus on Capitol Hill Sept. 12, southwestern Iowa farmer Jeff Jorgenson told legislators how much precision-based technology in America agriculture is “important” and “a necessity.”
Hosted by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who co-chairs the caucus, the briefing offered a platform for sharing practical, real-world insights into the role of precision agriculture in feeding the world. Jorgenson, a Sidney farmer and president-elect of the Iowa Soybean Assoc. (ISA), was a “first adopter” of precision and GPS technologies, which he called a game-changer.
“Twenty years from now, the most important tool for putting food on your table won’t be a tractor, planter, or even a combine,” he testified. “It will be a satellite and a piece of software.”
Today, he said, drones and satellites are giving farmers an unprecedented overview of crop health, while ground-level sensors provide real-time data on soil and climate. “On the farm, more information – more accurate information – leads to better decisions, which help us grow more from less. GPS and precision technologies deliver that critical information in real time.”
Jorgenson and ISA Chief Operations Officer Karey Claghorn visited with Ernst and her team to help highlight the importance of technology in agriculture and rural America. He said the need for such sophisticated tools and technology is growing – especially given today’s unpredictable weather and market volatility.
In fact, Jorgenson knows firsthand since he raises soybeans, corn, and cattle with his family adjacent the Missouri River, which, with its persistent flooding, creates challenges for farmers who need to increase production – and their bottom lines.
“It takes the right tools to get the job done, and done right,” he said. “Farming is highly land- and labor-intensive. Farmers like myself are driven to use precision tools to increase efficiency, boost production, and to not only manage costs, but also nutrients. My livelihood depends on it.”
He said the future of precision agriculture is moving toward cloud-based information sharing, which allows farmers to work together to identify growing-condition patterns in their area and solve community-wide farming challenges more effectively.
“This underscores the importance of GPS and other precision technologies for the future of agriculture and feeding a growing population,” Jorgenson explained. “GPS and precision technologies are the key to growing better, high-yielding crops, all while taking better care of the land. Technology on the farm isn’t just an advantage anymore; it’s a necessity.”
During the briefing that same day, Ernst and David Grossman, GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) executive director, met with farm industry associations to further discuss precision agriculture.
According to Via Satellite magazine, GPSIA and its member organizations, including John Deere, have been lobbying in Washington, D.C., “to give U.S. farmers the advanced technology that would help increase crop yields, lower operational costs, protect animal health, and promote environmental sustainability.”
“Our concern is not just the integrity of GPS spectrum, but also the integrity of the physical satellite system,” Grossman said in the briefing. “We are also working with regulators to improve infrastructure for broadband and close the digital divide.”
Brendan Carr, Federal Communications Commission member, told attendees that smart agriculture tools help American farmers make precise, “inch-by-inch” adjustments.
“Our job is to make your jobs a little easier,” he noted. “Today, we can extract 15 to 20 times the amount of data from a single U.S. farm plot than we’ve been able to in the past and store it in the Library of Congress. This enables us to plan for the future and to ensure that American farms remain the most sustainable in the world.”
Jorgenson, who manages one of the largest soybean plots in southwestern Iowa, said he’s been using precision agriculture tools since the mid-2000s.
“We’ve dramatically increased our crop yields in recent years, and that’s mostly because of the data we have at our disposal. This technology is moving agriculture – literally. GPS-guided tractors alone are saving billions in seed by preventing overlap and waste.
“The next big thing that we see is incorporating infrared, thermal imagery, to layer data tools so that we can plan for planting next year,” he added.
John Rauber, director of Deere’s Washington affairs in Potomac, Md., who also spoke at the briefing, said “the world’s population will go from 7.5 to 9 billion people in 30 years.”
“Because of this, American farmers are tasked to increase food production by 80 percent to 100 percent over a very short period of time, and for purposes of sustainability, they have to use less seed, less land, and less water,” he said. “The only way we’ll be able to meet that is through increased technology.”
AT A BRIEFING with the U.S. Senate GPS Caucus on Capitol Hill Sept. 12, Iowa farmer Jeff Jorgenson tells members how important and necessary precision-based technology is.
(Courtesy of Iowa Soybean Assoc.).