Not all farm work happens in the field. On Tuesday Brian did some critical chores, not in the shop, but in Congress.
He presented information to the House Small Business Committee about new technologies in farming; mostly about the data we now create. Brian (usually known on this blog as Daddy!) explained how we use GPS and programs like Field View on our tractors, combine, and sprayer. Each of those pieces of equipment records the location and what was planted, harvested, or applied in the field. As a business owner we can then pull all of that data together and get a very detailed look at what’s going on with our farm. We can see if a certain brand of seed grew better than other brands. We can tell where more fertilizer might be needed. We can watch for patterns of problems over the course of years.
That’s pretty cool technology, and its something our lawmakers know little about.
But who cares if they know about it, you ask?
Well, Congress tends to like nothing better than to create rules and regulations. Job security and all. Naturally no one person can be an expert on everything the United States Congress does, so “expert witnesses, ” like Brian, bring real-life information and personal stories to our elected officials.
Did you know some farmers are using drones to check their fields during the growing season to watch for pests that can damage entire fields? Some people want to regulate these drones the same way we regulate planes. The cost of this kind of equipment is already high; adding that kind of regulation would make the technology pretty much unusable. You’d spend more time on paper work than the drone would save you. You might as well check the field yourself.
All the data I mentioned before is also of legal concern to farmers. Brian can pull information from the cloud right from the seat of his combine, but who else can see his data? Can the company that made the program sell that data? Can the government take it? Could the Chicago Board of Trade have access to exactly how much corn is being harvested in the US right now? Can seed companies look at the yield of their seeds and their competitors?
Both of these issues, along with many others, may be visited by Congress. Some issues we hope they’ll stay away from, allowing owners to control their own small businesses. On other issues we hope they will choose to help instead of hinder America’s farmers.
So in its own way, this work is as important as any we do here on the farm.