Would agriculture be lost without GPS?

Using a Global Positioning System has become a common, everyday tool for many people. Whether I’m in my car getting directions or finding the best place to eat in my vicinity, GPS technology has become a staple in my everyday life, and I wonder how some individuals would cope without it.

The FCC recently granted a waiver to LightSquared, a wholesale-only integrated 4G-LTE wireless broadband and satellite network, which allows them to repurpose the satellite spectrum immediately neighboring that of GPS. This will be a low-ground, high-powered signal that is a billion times stronger than the GPS low-powered signal. This will cause severe interference with GPS signals impacting millions of GPS receivers.

Today GPS is commonly used by most industries, including not only agriculture, but also federal agencies, state and local governments, first responders, airlines, mariners, civil engineers, construction and surveying, and everyday consumers in their cars and on handheld devices.

As we have seen in the farming industry, technology has helped pave the way for increased efficiency and accuracy. Farmers have been met with the demand to produce more food, fuel and fiber in a timely manner and the involvement of GPS has strongly aided their ability to do so.

GPS technology enables farmers to perform a multitude of tasks like mapping fields, roads and irrigation systems, and applying fertilizer and chemicals. They often have the benefit of being able to continue to work in low-visibility conditions, as well.

Farmers have spent thousands of dollars upgrading to these high-tech GPS systems. Combines, tractors, spray rigs and many other implements are equipped with this technology. With loss of GPS signals, these high-powered, high-cost machines will lose the efficiency they were designed to provide and cost producers thousands of dollars.

“In agriculture, the loss of a stable GPS system could have an impact of anywhere from $14 to $30 billion each year,” said Ken Golden, director of global public relations at John Deere. “That could significantly erode the strong competitive global position of U.S. farmers in the world agricultural economy.”

Ellis Moore, a farmer from Sunray, Texas, has 14,000 acres of farm land and uses GPS extensively on his operation.

“We strip till on 20 inch rows in a circle, and it is virtually impossible to do that without GPS,” he said. “The loss would cost me anywhere from $2-2.5 million. I would conservatively lose 50 bushels per acre, as well.”

An online coalition is working to resolve this serious threat to GPS, agriculture and other industries.

To read more about the Coalition to Save Our GPS and become involved, go to http://www.saveourgps.org/.