America’s Supply Chains
A Digital Agriculture Program for America’s Small Farmers
Comments: President Biden’s Executive Order 14017: “America’s Supply Chains”
Docket Number: AMS-TM-21-0034
Federal Register: pages 20652-20654
The Impact of Globalization - Globalization has transformed the world economy. Globalization encourages the free flow of goods worldwide, a tremendous benefit to international trade, particularly as food demand steadily increases worldwide, and food production ramps up in many parts of the developing world.
US Position Declines - At the same time, the position of US producers has declined in recent decades. For example, the Congressional Research Service (Dec 2016) reports that, while US fruit and vegetable exports totaled $6.3 billion in 2015, imports totaled $17.6 billion – a trade gap of $11.3 billion. In the 1070s, the US was a net exporter of fruits and vegetables. Today, the US is a net importer of fruits and vegetables.
Lack of Information - Farmers often have little or no idea of the market variables that affect their operations. They lack information about historic production levels and pricing of the crops they grow, compared to production levels and prices in farming areas throughout the world. As a result of the lack of information on these and other important variables, they simply keep on repeating the same farming and marketing practices that they had engaged in during previous years, often with no improvements to show for their efforts and, occasionally, with serious declines in productivity and profitability.
Twenty-Five Years of Experience - The CEO of Agtools, Inc., Ms. Martha Montoya, says:
“Based on my 25 years sourcing specialty crops worldwide, it is evident to me that the agriculture food supply chain is deeply fragmented, with many contributors worldwide. Each contributor in the chain views and understands a limited window in the overall food chain farm-to-table process. This disconnect leads to production and distribution mismatches, food waste, wasted financial and human resources, all with increasingly adverse CO2/SO2 impacts on the world
Small Farmers - USDA informs us that approximately 50% of all farmers in the US (about 1 million) make $10,000 or less in gross annual farm income. The idea that half of all US farmers make $10,000 or less per year from their farming operations is a real eye-opener. It clearly reveals the extent to which small farmers in the US need assistance to survive, to grow, and to participate effectively in the world economy.
Bid Data Platforms – In recent years, digital tools are being developed that aggregate vast amounts of agricultural data into Big Data platforms. Some of these platforms focus on the country’s major crops, such as wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton, rice, etc. Similar Big Data platforms focus on specialty crops, such as fruit, vegetables, stone fruit, and tree nuts, flowers, etc. One Big Data platform developer, for example, has aggregated worldwide data on over 500 different specialty crops going back 27 years.
Decades of Data - The developers of these Big Data platforms aggregate agricultural data from worldwide sources, including governments, universities, agricultural associations, research institutions, international organizations, etc. These Big Data platforms synthesize the data in ways that can be readily accessed by growers to enhance their farming operations and improve their profitability.
Access to Digital Data - What is needed is a very focused USDA program to bring the benefits of digital agriculture to small farmers throughout the US. Our recommendation is that, as part of the 2023 Farm Bill Reauthorization, Congress pass a $10 billion Digital Agriculture Program Act (DAPA) in support of the nation’s 1.8 million small farmers.
The DAPA funds would be used over the next decade to enable small farmers throughout the US to afford the cost of monthly subscriptions to Big Data digital agriculture platforms. This would become a standard, ongoing service available from USDA to small farmers across the country.
Program Implementation - To implement the DAPA program, USDA would contract with the various Big Data platform providers to make their data available to the nation’s small farmers for a flat monthly fee. USDA would make arrangements with the data providers to demo their platforms to farmers across the country so that they can make informed decisions about which service best suits their needs. Farmers would choose which data provider platform they would prefer to engage. Farmers would be able to switch providers from time-to-time.
It is estimated that access to the Big Data digital agriculture platforms could be made available to the nation’s small farmers for $1 billion per year, or $10 billion over a ten-year period. Please contact the submitting organization for a detailed breakdown of these cost projections.