Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford General Farm Commodities & Risk Management Subcommittee: The Future of Farming: Technological Innovations, Opportunities, and Challenges for Producers
Washington, July 13, 2017
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you for joining us today.
Yesterday, the full committee held a productive discussion on how technology is influencing specialty crop production. Today, our subcommittee will explore how promising new information technologies and the increasing utilization of data in agriculture is influencing the future of farming.
It is a critical time for everyone involved in production agriculture as we face tough choices ahead. Given tight margins and a continued slump in prices at the farm gate, even routine, day-to-day decision-making can determine whether the farmer will turn an annual profit. These challenges in farm country underscore the importance of the decisions we make in the next Farm Bill, which we will have to write with fewer resources than we had the last go-round.
But as we begin to answer the tough questions, one thing's clear - for farmers and policymakers alike - technology plays an undeniably important role in how we address these challenges. The decisions we make surrounding data and agriculture technology will decide the future of farming in America and impact producers for years to come as technologies continue expanding and evolving.
This is the third hearing we've held in the last year-and-a-half related to big data and the ground is already quickly shifting. Big data is influencing planting decisions and optimizing yields, it gives farmers tools to more accurately assess soil health and water usage, and it's even cutting down on labor costs. Farmers are also quickly learning that smart investments in new technology will not only make them more efficient, but will also conserve resources and ensure their land will remain productive for generations to come. Finally, big data is making USDA farm programs more accurate, efficient and easier for farmers to navigate.
But while cutting-edge agriculture technology promises many benefits, there are also significant challenges to overcome. There continues to be considerable uncertainty in the legal and regulatory landscape. Farmers are justifiably concerned about the privacy and security of their data while questions loom over data ownership. Inadequate rural broadband access is also a significant barrier for many farmers who lack the high-speed internet needed to take full advantage of the innovations we are discussing today. And, as the industry continues making investments in its future, the federal government must keep pace to modernize and adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
Our distinguished witnesses here with us today will present some of the promising benefits of big data in agriculture, and will also enlighten us about how they are tackling the many challenges they're facing. I look forward to hearing their views as we assess the role of government in the modernization of agriculture. I believe this is key to ensuring that America remains the most abundant and affordable supplier of food and fiber in the world.