GAO report touts benefits, challenges to adoption of precision ag

The report examines the current state of precision agriculture and presents a number of policy recommendations to address low adoption rates.
Woman farmer controls drone sprayer with a tablet. Smart farming

The Government Accountability Office, Washington, D.C., released a report, “Precision Agriculture: Benefits, Challenges, and Policy Options” (GAO-24-105962), examining the state of precision agriculture, its advantages and obstacles to its widespread adoption. The report also presented policy solutions to enhance its use and benefits. 

Adoption and Federal Support 

Although precision agriculture technologies have been accessible since the 1990s, their adoption was reported at 27% among U.S. farms from June 2022 to June 2023. The United States Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation have backed the sector with around $200 million in R&D funding from 2017 to 2021 to boost adoption and technological advancements. 

Benefits and Challenges 

The benefits of precision agriculture include increased profitability, reduced input usage and environmental gains. However, challenges such as high initial costs, data sharing concerns and the absence of standards hinder broader use. 

Policy Recommendations 

The GAO report suggests policy measures across three areas to overcome these obstacles: 

  • enhancing adoption: Improve accessibility to financial assistance and extend educational outreach. 
  • fostering innovation: Support R&D for better on-farm data gathering and analysis, and advocate for interoperable standards. 
  • data management: Promote better data analysis tools and encourage transparent data sharing practices. 

The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 included provisions for GAO to conduct a technology assessment and review federal programs, according to the report.  

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