Peters Bipartisan Bill to Ensure Representation for Agriculture, Forestry, and Rural Sectors in the Development of Federal Drone Policies Signed Into Law

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) applauded the signing into law of his bipartisan legislation to ensure the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) chief drone policy committee includes representation for agriculture, forestry, and rural America. The Drone Advisory Committee for the 21st Century Act, which Peters introduced with Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), who serves as the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Forestry, and Nutrition Committee, will ensure that the FAA provides representation for local government officials, including those from county and tribal governments, on the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC).

“As more farmers and small business owners across Michigan utilize drone technology to bolster their daily operations, it’s critical that rural representatives have a seat at the table — especially when it impacts their bottom line and as they deal with unprecedented challenges related to the Coronavirus,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “I am pleased that this commonsense, bipartisan legislation has been signed into law. It will better ensure that agriculture, forestry and rural perspectives are included in drone policy decision-making.”

“As technology becomes more sophisticated, farmers will increasingly rely on drones to assess, monitor, and manage their farm activities,” said Senator Thune. “Rural areas like South Dakota – where agriculture is the state’s top industry – deserve to have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions on drone policies and best practices. I’m pleased this bill is now law and will ensure representation from rural areas on the Drone Advisory Committee.”

“Drones have become an integral part of farming across the country, providing timely and precise agronomic information to guide crop protection and nutrient application management decisions that maximize yields and minimize environmental impact,” said Carl Bednarski, President, Michigan Farm Bureau. “As more farmers adopt drone technology, Senator Peters’ bill will give farmers a seat at the table to help shape the best policies for an ever-evolving industry, and ultimately to help farmers stay competitive in a global economy. We appreciate Senator Peters’ leadership on this issue and applaud that it has been signed into law.”

“Drones play an important role in many rapidly-advancing technologies used by farmers and agribusinesses, so it’s important to have agriculture at the table when the federal government considers drone policies,” said Chuck Lippstreu, President, Michigan Agri-Business Association. “As our members across Michigan deploy groundbreaking new applications for drones, we appreciate U.S. Senator Gary Peters for his bipartisan leadership to help ensure the FAA takes agriculture into the equation on drone policies.”

“Drones are our eyes in the sky, and things seen from above are different than from the ground.  Drones will continue to play a critical role in the future of digital agriculture to help farmers and communities improve their lives and the environment,” said Dr. Bruno Basso, Professor of Precision Agriculture and Crop Modeling, Michigan State University. “On behalf of scientists and the agricultural community, we are grateful to US Senators Peters, Thune, and Roberts for ensuring that this important legislation is now law.”

“Today’s high-tech drone can now map, monitor, manage, and more. As these technologies continue to advance, we’ll need to ensure any proposed rules and regulations governing their use are compatible for their application in agriculture and forestry,” said Jack Alexander, President of the Rural & Agriculture Council of America. “We thank Senators Peters, Thune, and Roberts for giving those of us in rural America a seat at the policymaking table through the aptly named Drone Advisory Committee for the 21st Century Act.”  

The Drone Advisory Committee for the 21st Century Act will encourage public participation in the nomination process to increase broader user representation on the DAC, and will emphasize transparency requirements to ensure that the DAC’s work becomes part of the public record.

Since it was first announced in 2016, the DAC has never included a representative from the agriculture or forestry sector and no representatives from county or tribal governments have been selected to the policy board.  In 2017, complaints were raised about the Committee’s transparency. In June, Senator Peters and the Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Roger Wicker wrote to the FAA to request broader representation on the Committee for the agriculture, forestry, and rangeland sectors.

The legislation has the support of a number of organizations, including the Rural & Agriculture Council of America, American Forest Foundation, Michigan Forest Foundation, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Association of Corn Growers, United Egg Producers, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, American Dairy Coalition, Michigan Corn Growers Association, National Association of Counties and the Michigan Farm Bureau.

Peters has long supported efforts in Congress to support Michigan farmers. This past March, bipartisan legislation Peters introduced to address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industry at the border was signed into law. Peters has also been a leading voice in support of efforts by cherry growers across Michigan to prevent foreign competitors from deploying unfair trade practices, including dumping and subsidies on imported goods.