Congress must support new farm technologies
Posted Fri, Dec 02, 2022 at 8:45pm
Guest column by Henry Tews
Changes in the agricultural industry over the past decade have created numerous opportunities for American farmers, and Minnesota is at the forefront of innovation. Today, Minnesota farmers employ technologies such as driverless vehicles, robotics, satellite imagery, sensors, networking and other advanced tools to increase crop yields. Yet some lawmakers in Congress want to implement short-sighted legislation that would stifle innovation and undermine Minnesota’s economic lifeline.
In his first viral YouTube video, Zach Johnson (aka “MN Millennial Farmer”) voiced his concerns about the growing disconnect between farmers and consumers. Now, his videos educate more than half a million people around the world about the rich traditions of Minnesota farming and the unfortunate realities of modern farming. Like most successful farmers in America, Zach innovated in challenging economic conditions, and his novel farming methods are leading the way for the creative farming practices of the future.
These bills, including the AOL Choice and Innovation Act, will undermine the ability of farmers like Zack to innovate and adapt to the challenges of modern farming. Elected congressional officials in Minnesota should fight for more economic opportunity for Minnesotans, not push bills that set us back.
With massive flooding in some areas and record high fertilizer prices, Minnesota farmers can’t afford to lose efficiency and crop yields, especially when they’ve been burdened with innovation and new technologies for so long. The harvest has increased substantially over the years. Growing 50 bushels of wheat per acre was considered a success in the 1970s, but technology and farming have combined to make food production safer, more efficient, greener and more networked. If private and public R&D creates new varieties of corn that mature in 80 to 90 days instead of 120 or 130 – now is not the time to stifle innovation with misleading regulation.
Farmers across the country face a historic challenge as Minnesota continues to attract entrepreneurs and innovators, including five of the top 30 food companies in the United States. By 2050, the global population is expected to grow from 7.2 billion to 10 billion. As a result, Minnesota continues to invest in several cutting-edge agricultural technologies, including Bloom NanoBubbles, which inject nano-sized oxygen bubbles into irrigation water for extra nutrients, driverless vehicles that create 3D models of fields, Rowbots that automatically turn soil and protect plants, tell Sensors for farmers to know exactly where they are planting, among other emerging technologies.
We’ve seen how technology can improve profitability, reduce the economic impact of farming, and produce the food we need in the future. New farming technologies will allow Minnesota farmers to face more challenges head-on. As one Minnesota farmer who created a nationally recognized water conservation program put it, “Farming has changed. We’re not perfect, but we’ve been doing everything we can — using technology and precision farming — to come up to par.”
Research has found that political uncertainty significantly slows the adoption of new technologies, making new tools inaccessible to farmers. At the same time, innovation has made American farmers some of the most efficient in the world. With the help of technological advances, Minnesota farmers have multiplied the resilience of the U.S. food supply while increasing productivity; however, members of Congress continue to push misguided legislation that empowers farmers and innovates when food demand increases were handcuffed. These efforts will not only harm American companies, but also hinder American farmers from using new technologies to transform agriculture.
I urge Minnesota congressional leaders to resist these short-sighted actions that hurt American tech companies at a time when global competition is at an all-time high. Congress must pursue policies that promote new agricultural technologies and encourage their adoption. Failure to do so will hurt farmers and the Americans who depend on them.
Henry Tews was a London town resident.