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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) today participated in a Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing entitled Technology in Agriculture: Data-Driven Farming. Today’s hearing focused on the importance of agricultural technology advancements and the benefits of data analytics to farmers and businesses.

Today’s witnesses included:

· Dr. Shannon Ferrell, Associate Professor, Oklahoma State University

· Dr. Dorota Haman, Professor and Chair, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Florida

· Mr. Todd J. Janzen, President, Janzen Agricultural Law, LLC

· Mr. Justin Knopf, Farmer, Gypsum, KS

· Mr. Jason Tatge, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Farmobile

Fischer is a member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, & Data Security, which convened today’s hearing. The hearing follows last week’s subcommittee hearing on the infrastructure needed to promote Internet of Things technologies in rural America, where President and CEO of Lindsay Corp in Omaha, Timothy Hassinger, testified at Senator Fischer’s invitation.

Below is the full transcript of Senator Fischer’s exchange with witnesses during today’s hearing:

Senator Fischer: Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you Ranking Member Blumenthal. As a cattle rancher, I thank you for your respect of my privacy. I would like to thank both of you for calling the hearing today so we can focus on managing that big data, with new technologies for our nation’s farmers and ranchers. Not only will this help boost productivity but advancements in digital analytics can improve how we feed our communities and conserve our natural resources. In fact, Tim Hassinger of Lindsay Corporation from Omaha, Nebraska noted at last week’s “Internet of Things” hearing, that the combined yield enhancement and resource savings from new technologies can increase the American farmer’s profits by an average of 40 dollars per acre. And I would like to please submit for the record follow-up materials that Lindsay has provided regarding its research on data analytics and irrigation management, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Moran: No objection.

Senator Fischer: Thank you. Mr. Knopf, in your testimony you describe your farm management operations and what benefit do you see on your farm from implementing big data technology? How do you analyze it? Do you have input from your nutritionist, your equipment dealer, your local co-op? How do you get it all put together?

Mr. Knopf: That’s a good question, there’s a lot of information to try and analyze. That answer is going to look different for every individual farm of course and the strengths and talents and passions of that individual farm operator. Some farmers are very passionate about their data, very passionate about precision agriculture, and they want to be very hands on in that process. And those are also the guys that are very passionate about the ownership and transparency of that data, they want an honest server in their office. There’s the other spectrum of farmers and we’re kind of in the middle, let me say that, there’s the other spectrum of farmers and sometimes it changes based on age demographics as well. I’ve noticed in my community and in my experience and thinking about our own farm, the older generation is much more private about their data, very unwilling to share it. The younger generation grew up with smartphones and Google is tracking them all the time and telling them things about themselves that they didn’t know already, so they’re more used to that. So there’s a generational change there as well. For us, we’re kind of in the middle of, I have an agronomic background from Kansas State, and we have one full time employee that is also an agronomist, and we do most of our data analysis in house. But our data is stored in a software system that is web based and it is subscription based and that was a big change for us three to four years ago, is transitioning our data from being stored in-house to web based which is somewhat of an uncomfortable step because you feel like you’re losing control and that’s why the transparency is so important. But we are still processing a lot of the data and analyzing a lot of it in house. But there is a growing amount of service providers dealing with that. We collaborate a lot with our land grant, with Kansas State University, a lot of their research we collaborate with and host on our farm so that’s a very important collaboration. I appreciate the two representatives here from universities as well.

Senator Fischer: And as you noted in your testimony, the ag economy is in a downward cycle right now, it’s hurting. I also know that there’s a lack of access to broadband and we have a lot of slow downloading speeds. How does that affect your bottom line when you have slow access?

Mr. Knopf: That has a very significant impact, in fact the county we live in is just now receiving fiber-optics ran 2 farms. In fact, it’s not even hooked up yet, it’s just being ran right now, being buried. Because, we have a community of about 40-50,000 within our county, but yet there are still a lot of rural parts of the county. So a lot of my colleagues that lived in rural counties in Kansas qualified for grants from the government to help build that initial infrastructure, while our county happened to not qualify because of the urban center within that county, and our broadband, we have some broadband antennas on top of elevators and towers and so forth but it is very unreliable and fairly slow. So that has limited our utilization and access of data, particularly in web-based software platforms, and been an economic disadvantage in utilization of data because we are kind of caught in the middle of that process.

Senator Fischer: Thank you. And thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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