Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Ranking Member Doug LaMalfa Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Public Hearing: “Realizing the Conservation Benefits of Precision Agriculture”

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Washington, October 22, 2019 | comments
Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon, and thank you Chair Spanberger for holding today’s hearing to examine the benefits of precision agriculture on conservation, one of the many tools we have at our disposal to improve conservation practices on farms and ranches.

With the rapid advances in technology over the past several years, precision agriculture has become increasingly important because of the conservation benefits it provides.

Precision agriculture has increased productivity for farmers, with fewer inputs such as land, water, fertilizer, and pesticides. In fact, between 1948 and 2015, farm inputs only slightly increased while farm productivity increased by nearly 270%.

Using precision agriculture practices such as GPS guidance systems and autosteering reduces overlap when working in the field. In turn, this reduces the amount of fuel needed while saving time and labor in the field. Reducing the amount of overlap in the field also improves soil health – another important issue – by minimizing the amount of soil compaction.

In a challenging period when farmers face downward price pressure for their production and upward price pressure for many inputs, the capacity of precision agriculture to improve productivity and reduce input use is even more critical and allows some farmers to improve their profitability.

While there are several benefits to using precision agriculture that we will talk about this afternoon, there are also several challenges that prevent farmers from adopting these practices that we cannot ignore.

Much of the technology used in precision agriculture requires a connection to the internet; however, many rural areas lack the broadband access needed to fully utilize precision agriculture.

The 2018 Farm Bill included several provisions to extend broadband networks so we can bring broadband access to Americans in the most rural areas of our nation.

Another barrier producers face when deciding whether to utilize precision agriculture practices is the cost of equipment. Much of the technology is either too expensive or is not compatible with the equipment they already have.

We also worked to address this issue in the 2018 Farm Bill by adding “precision conservation management planning” to the definition of a conservation practice under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The 2018 Farm Bill also included “precision agriculture technology” as a new or innovative conservation approach under the newly created On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials – a program to support the adoption of innovative conservation activities.

Many farmers and ranchers in California have already adopted precision agriculture practices, and I am proud to have one of those producers here today.

Since 1981, Mr. Don Cameron has been the Vice President and General Manager of Terranova Ranch in Helm, California where they currently grow over 25 different crops. In addition to his work at Terranova Ranch, Mr. Cameron owns Prado Farms in Fresno County, California.

Mr. Cameron, it is an honor to have you here today representing California and I look forward to your testimony.

We have a great panel of witnesses in front of us today, and I would like to thank them for travelling here to discuss this important topic with us.

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