Smart technology, like machines that get rid of weeds and software for picking crops, could make farming better. But, experts told senators on Tuesday that we need to make sure the computer systems are safe from attacks. The group of experts and the Senate Agriculture Committee agreed that farmers should be able to afford this technology, maybe with support from USDA funds.
Over 25% of American farmers use precision agriculture tech, like GPS steering, yield monitoring, drones for checking fields and animals, and robotic milking. AI, by looking at lots of data, could help farmers work better or do tasks automatically. Keeping data safe has been a problem since precision agriculture started. Agricultural AI, which needs to send data from the farm to the cloud, brings up concerns about cybersecurity.
“In farming, we have to make sure our data is safe,” said Jose-Marie Griffiths, who leads Dakota State University, where they study cybersecurity. “With the growth of AI, we’re adding more technology to farming, and that makes the risks higher.”
AI could assist farmers with things like deciding how much fertilizer to use, managing pests, predicting crop yields, and, in dry places, figuring out how much water to use for irrigation, according to Mason Earles, a teacher at UC-Davis. “I believe these can save farmers money, maybe around 5 to 15 percent, on average, in their operations.”
Jahmy Hindman, the chief technology officer of Deere and Co., mentioned that for AI to bring its full benefits to the farm, rural areas need good internet, especially in the fields. Hindman suggested that senators think about adding rules to the farm bill. These rules would let farmers use USDA funds to help pay for high-tech equipment. Sanjeev Krishnan from S2G Ventures added, “I think it’s crucial for public policy to step in, not just providing tools but also the money to help farmers produce more and earn more per acre.”
Lawmakers from farming areas support separate bills for two goals – making sure the internet reaches the “Last Acre” and helping with the costs of precision ag equipment. They believe these steps will make crops grow more while spending less, cut down on pollution, and stop soil erosion. Representative Jimmy Panetta from California explained in March that using USDA funds and getting payments for using eco-friendly methods “will encourage precision agriculture by getting rid of financial obstacles.” Senator Deb Fischer, who supports Last Acre, said in May that farmers “need internet that reaches beyond their homes and into their fields.”
Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman Senate Agriculture group, talked about problems like keeping our information safe online, having good internet, how much AI costs, and keeping data private when she started the meeting. Stabenow also said the U.S. has to make a big effort, like a “moonshot,” in agriculture research to stay ahead worldwide. John Boozman, the top Republican from Arkansas in the group, said, “Even though AI can do great things, we need to be careful and ask hard questions about the possible problems.”News