WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s 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), would also ensure that the FAA provides representation for local government officials, including those from county and tribal governments, on the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC).
“As drones continue to become a part of everyday commerce, it will be increasingly important that our federal policies do not leave out the voices of rural America” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “Our bipartisan effort will elevate the voices of agriculture, forestry, and other drone users so that our policies foster economic growth and continue to spur innovation. I am proud to partner with Senators Thune and Roberts on this commonsense legislation that will encourage broader participation in the development of federal drone policy.”
“As technology becomes more sophisticated, farmers will increasingly rely on drones to assess, monitor, and manage their farm activities,” said 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 glad to support this bill that would ensure representation from rural areas on the Drone Advisory Committee.”
“Drones are becoming a part of everyday life for farmers and ranchers in not only Kansas, but throughout the entire country,” said Sen. Roberts. “This legislation would ensure rural Americans are included in the decision making process when it comes to drone policies that will impact their businesses.”
“Drones have become a critical part of production agriculture – from crop protection to improving nutrient use and increasing yields. As more farmers depend on drone services, Senator Peters’ bill will give farmers a seat at the table with other industries and manufacturers to help shape the best policies for an ever-evolving industry, and ultimately to help farmers stay competitive in a global economy,” said John Kran, National Legislative Counsel for the Michigan Farm Bureau.
“As the drone industry grows at a rapid rate, it is clear intergovernmental collaboration and solutions are needed to protect the safety and privacy of our residents,” said Matthew Chase, Executive Director of the National Association of Counties. “Across the country, counties are using this new technology for critical functions, including emergency response, infrastructure inspection, search and rescue, and mapping. We applaud the bipartisan efforts of Senators Peters, Thune and Roberts to ensure local governments are represented on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Drone Advisory Committee. County leaders must be at the table, not just as stakeholders, but as co-regulators.”
The Drone Advisory Committee for the 21st Century Act would also establish a public nomination process to help facilitate increased participation and broader user representation on the DAC, and would impose 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. 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. Last month, the Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation Peters coauthored to address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industries at our nation’s borders. 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.