New legislation would create a USDA loan program for this purpose
By Diego Flammini
U.S. lawmakers want to help farmers access precision ag tools.
Republican Rep. Randy Feenstra (IA-04) introduced the Precision Agriculture Loan Program (PAL) Act of 2022 in the House of Representatives on Sept. 29.
Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17) cosponsored the bill.
Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced similar legislation in the Senate.
The bipartisan bill calls for an amendment the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 to establish a precision agriculture loan program.
Under the proposed loan program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, farmers could receive loans of up to $500,000 to use to purchase precision ag equipment or retrofit existing equipment with new technology.
Loan recipients would have between three and 12 years to pay off any loans at interest rates lower than 2 percent.
Farmers need this support to ensure they can manage the production challenges in front of them, Bustos said.
“With rising fertilizer costs and environmental concerns, it’s more important than ever to promote precision agriculture,” she said in a statement. “Unfortunately, high costs make this cutting-edge technology out of reach for too many farmers in the Heartland.”
Publicly available data backs up Bustos’s sentiments.
The American Fruit Grower’s 2022 State of the Industry Report surveyed 518 industry reps and asked about precision agriculture.
The report found that 42 percent of respondents, or 217 industry reps, don’t use precision agriculture because it’s too expensive.
The USDA recently started keeping data on the number of farmers using precision agriculture.
In its August 2021 Farm Computer Usage and Ownership report, 15,000 farms nationwide answered the following question “In the last 12 months, did this farm or ranch use precision agriculture practices to manage crops or livestock?”
Only 25 percent, or 3,750 farms, indicated this to be accurate.
Ag equipment organizations are pleased with the introduction of precision ag loan bill.
Helping farmers adopt precision ag technologies helps them produce food, fuel and fiber while also navigating environmental and other challenges.
“The PAL Act will open doors for future generations of farmers, giving them the tools to adopt climate-smart agricultural practices,” Kip Eideberg, senior vice president, government and industry relations with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, said in a statement. “America’s farmers are always asked to do more with less – and precision agriculture is the exact solution that will empower our farmers to handle this demand.”