Future of Precision Agriculture, Other GPS

Technologies Could Hinge on FCC Decision

Lubbock, June 3, 2011                        By Mary Jane Buerkle

      If the Federal Communications Commission extends a waiver to a group attempting to implement wireless broadband nationwide, the Global Positioning System as we know it could be severely affected.

      A company called LightSquared, which is backed by the Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund, is working to launch a wireless broadband network. Their goal is to build out a nationwide 4G ancillary terrestrial component (ATC) network that would cover 260 million people in the United States by 2014.

      In January, the FCC granted LightSquared a conditional waiver, which allows them to proceed with the project in a limited fashion while a working group conducts research to determine whether the LightSquared network and GPS can coexist with no interference.

      As you can probably figure, this could have a significant impact on so many technologies, especially those in precision agriculture that rely on GPS technology for everything from planting seed to the targeted application of fertilizer and pesticides on crops. Interference with this technology could result in higher costs in seed, fertilizer, fuel and ultimately, labor.

      "As an organization that represents rural areas of West Texas, we understand the need for nationwide wireless broadband access," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said. "However, it shouldn't be at the expense of so many who could suffer negative effects."

      In addition to agriculture, others affected by GPS interference would include the United States military, emergency responders, and the aviation industry.

      "In addition to the potential implications for agriculture, we are concerned for all GPS technologies," Verett said. "While we appreciate what LightSquared is attempting to accomplish, there is not yet enough evidence that there will be no GPS interference with their technology."

      Verett went on to say that until it can be indisputably proven that there would be no interference, PCG will not support the FCC's action and currently is in the process of submitting a letter to the FCC.

      Companies such as John Deere already have sent letters to the FCC, and U.S. Reps. Randy Neugebauer, Collin Peterson, Steve Austria and Ralph Hall co-authored a letter to the FCC "requesting that the FCC only grant final approval to LightSquared if the company can indisputably demonstrate that their proposal will not interfere with GPS technology." Congressman Neugebauer's communications director, Matt Crow, said that the letter now has 57 signatures and the opportunity to sign closes at the end of the day today (Friday, June 3).

      A final report is to be submitted by June 15 after which a decision will be made by the FCC regarding the continuation of the LightSquared project.


House Letter Supports PCG Position

On Insurability Of Dryland Cotton

Lubbock, June 3, 2011                    By Shawn Wade

      A letter co-signed by House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma and Representatives Randy Neugebauer, Mike Conaway, Mac Thornberry of Texas has been sent to USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator William Murphy supporting the request of Lubbock-based Plains Cotton Growers that RMA reiterate the applicability of procedures in the 2011 Upland Cotton Loss Adjustment Standards Handbook.

      PCG's request does not ask RMA to alter any of its current procedures. Instead, PCG is asking the Agency to clarify for both growers and crop insurance providers that there are procedures in the 2011 Upland Cotton Loss Adjustment Standards Handbook that address the insurability of non-irrigated cotton planted into a terminated small grain cover crop under a conservation tillage practice when dry conditions make it difficult to fully terminate the small grain crop before heading.

      A copy of PCG's letter, as well as a copy of the letter sent by Chairman Lucas and Representatives Neugebauer, Conaway, Thornberry are available for review on the PCG website (http://www.plainscotton.org).

      As of the time of this article, efforts to resolve the issue with USDA officials were ongoing by PCG and the Congressmen whose districts are being directly impacted by the situation and are supporting PCG's request.

      In addition to the conservation tillage question, PCG also is working toward a resolution on the treatment of volunteer wheat or other small grains in a field. At this time volunteer wheat is being judged with the same zero-tolerance standard that small grain crops planted in the same calendar year are under the Upland Cotton Special Provisions for counties in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

      Further, it appears that insurance providers are being told that there is no room for common sense to prevail when it comes to the presence of volunteer small grain plants in a field, even when their presence is not representative of the rest of the field.

      The Conservation Tillage procedure, which has been in the Cotton Loss Adjustment Standards Handbook for at least a decade, instructs insurance providers to consider a small grain cover crop as "not headed out" when a conservation tillage practice is present and the grower attempted to kill the small grain cover crop in a manner which, under normal growing conditions, would result in the termination of the small grain prior to heading.



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NRCS to Host Local Work Group Meetings

      The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts will host Local Work Group meetings in June. The purpose of the public meetings is to receive input from farmers, ranchers, local agencies, organizations, local agricultural leaders, businesses, and other individuals that have an interest in natural resource concerns.

      Area meetings coming up this week are as follows:

      June 6 Littlefield, Security State Bank, 501 Phelps Avenue, 10 a.m.

      June 7 Lamesa, USDA Service Center, 109 NE 14th Street, 9 a.m.

      June 7 Post, Wells Fargo Bank Meeting Room, 216 W. Main Street, 9 a.m.

      June 7 Hartley, USDA Service Center, 811 4th Street, 1:30 p.m.     

      June 8 Bovina, Bovina EMS Building, 109 3rd Street, 9:30 a.m.

      June 8 Stratford, Happy State Bank, 100 N. Main, 9:30 a.m.

      June 8 Spur, USDA Service Center, 312 Williard Avenue, 7 p.m.

      June 9 Dimmitt, Rhoads Memorial Library, 105 SW 2nd St., 9:30 a.m.

      June 9 Follett, Follett Community Center, 102 S. Bruce St., Noon

      June 9 Brownfield, American State Bank Conference Room, 1323 Tahoka Road, 9 a.m.

      June 9 Wheeler, USDA Service Center, 1410 S. Alan Bean Blvd., 9 a.m.

      June 10 Snyder, American State Bank, Bank Meeting Room, 3610 College Ave., 10 a.m.

      June 10 Plainview, USDA Service Center, 304 S. Garland, 11 a.m.

      Later meetings will be listed in a future Cotton News. For more information, contact the local USDA-NRCS office in your county, listed under USDA in the Yellow Pages, or access the information on the Texas NRCS website at http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.