Many people in farming already know the benefits of precision agriculture but Curt Blades, Senior Vice President of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) says a new study by the association aims to help the public understand.

“What we attempted to do at AEM was to quantify those numbers to put them in a way that really would show the true environmental benefits,” he said. “We communicate those to environmental groups, those stakeholders that maybe don’t completely understand agriculture, and they have a negative opinion. So, we want to show that this technology can really make a difference in both a farms’ economic benefits, but also when you add them together, societal benefits.”

AEM worked with the environmental groups to identify five areas with the most potential to impact the environment. The study shows that farmers consistently using various precision agriculture technologies achieved the following:

  • 4% increase in crop production
  • 7% increase in fertilizer placement efficiency
  • 9% reduction in herbicide and pesticide use
  • 6% reduction in fossil fuel use
  • 4% reduction in water use

AEM says those practices lead to:

  • 2 million acres of cropland avoided due to more efficient use of existing land
  • 30 million fewer pounds of herbicide
  • 100 million fewer gallons of fossil fuel
  • Enough water saved to fill 750,000 Olympic-size swimming pools

Two acts up for inclusion in the farm bill would advance precision agriculture around the U.S. and both are supported by AEM, including the Precision Ag Loan Act and the PRECISE Act. Both would help farmers with funding for precision ag equipment.

The Precision Ag Loan Act establishes a loan program within the Farm Service Agency to assist agricultural producers in purchasing precision agriculture technology, such as geospatial mapping, data management and analytics software, and network connectivity products and solutions. It is bipartisan legislation that would establish the first-ever federal precision agriculture loan program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. The legislation would offer loans up to $500,000 and create a list of acceptable precision agriculture technologies approved by the Farm Service Agency and covered by the USDA. It would also allow farmers to retrofit existing equipment with new technologies.

The Producing Responsible Energy and Conservation Incentives and Solutions for the Environment (PRECISE) Act is bipartisan legislation that will expand farmers’ access to precision agriculture tools through existing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. It incentivizes private sector financing through programs like the Conservation Loan and Guaranteed Loan Programs and increases cost share and practice payments under EQIP and CSP for the purchase of precision agriculture technology. The PRECISE Act will also fund precision agriculture projects through joint participation of conservation cost-share programs and the Conservation Loan Program.

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