Pai Names Ag Task Force Members

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has named the members of the FCC's Precision Agriculture Task Force and announced the first meeting will be Monday, Dec. 9.

The FCC was directed by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill to create the task force "to explore ways to enhance the productivity and efficiency of the nation’s farms and ranches through broadband-based technologies," which has the official title of "Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture."

Pai just this week announced that he is proposing a $1 billion fund (part of a $9 billion 5G fund) to support rural broadband deployment for precision agriculture.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who backed the Farm Bill provision creating the task force, released a statement in advance of the first meeting.

“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," said Klobuchar. "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.”

The members are:

Chair: Michael Adelaine, Ph.D., vice president for technology and security, South Dakota State University   

Vice Chair: Sreekala Bajwa, Ph.D., vice president, dean & director; college of agriculture & Montana agricultural experiment station, Montana State University

The working group for Examining Current and Future Connectivity Demand for Precision Agriculture will help identify the current and future connectivity needs for precision agriculture applications and identify how those needs may vary for different agricultural producers.

Chair: Daniel T. Leibfried, director advanced technology, Intelligent Solutions Group, John Deere   

Vice Chair: Blake Hurst, president, Missouri Farm Bureau

The Encouraging Adoption of Precision Agriculture and Availability of High-Quality Jobs on Connected Farms working group will explore how to promote adoption of precision agriculture technologies and how such technologies will affect demand for skilled labor in the farming and ranching sectors. 

Chair: Mike McCormick, president, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation   

Vice Chair: Julie Bushell, president, Paige Wireless, Irrigation Association

The Accelerating Broadband Deployment on Unserved Agricultural Lands working group will help identify barriers to infrastructure deployment on agricultural lands and how to promote continued investment in networks serving those areas.

Chair: Jeff Pettit, president and CEO, Noash Construction, Inc., National Association of Tower Erectors  

Vice Chair: Heather Hampton Knodle, vice president, Knodle Ltd. Farms, American Agri-Women

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.