The Technology is in Place
For several years, agriculture workers across America have been using GPS technology and advanced software to accurately calculate acreage and compile data from their fields. Not only is the data far more accurate than traditional methods, it saves time and money. Best yet, submitting this data to the USDA electronically would eliminate any need to do business in person, reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The Toll of COVID-19
As 2020 comes to a close and a new year is on the horizon, it’s difficult not to reflect on the devastating toll that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on our country. This year, nearly 16 million Americans have been infected. The daily U.S. death toll was more than 3,000 for the first time this week, while new reported cases rose above 220,000. In all parts of the country, doctors and health-care providers are struggling with rising caseloads and staff shortages. As temperatures drop and people are forced inside, the virus is surging.
An Opportunity to Keep Farmers Safe
We are witnessing the devastation in real time right now in the Midwest, the heart of our agriculture industry. In Minnesota and across the cross the Dakotas, hospital capacity is reaching ‘catastrophic’ levels. This week, Illinois and Kansas have set daily records for new cases. As a nation, we should be doing whatever we can to help protect the health and safety of our agriculture workers. Unfortunately, when it comes to how the industry is expected to report acreage to the USDA, we are not.
Save Time While Staying Distanced
Any farmer who has gone through the process of submitting acreage reports to the USDA can tell you that it is time consuming. At best, you can look forward to mountains of paper maps and forms, a trip to your local FSA office, and hours long waits in cloistered offices. It’s not the place anyone wants to be, especially when we know social distancing is one of the most effective ways to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Congress Has Spoken
Congress has already approved the acceptance of electronic acreage reports. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, passed by the Senate in December of that year, included the Acreage Crop Report Streamlining Initiative (ACRSI). ACRSI approved the collection of electronic acreage reporting by the USDA and set up a deadline of September 30th, 2020 for implementation. For whatever reason, this deadline came and went without any action from the current administration, even though that action has the potential to save lives during a pandemic.
The Time is Now
Now is the time to complete and submit acreage reports from the comfort and safety of home. This is an easy win for the Biden ag transition team. The technology is already being used. The bill is already law. All our agriculture workers need is implementation.
We urge the incoming administration not to ignore this issue. The health and safety of the men and women who make up the American agriculture industry is far too valuable to ignore this common sense solution.