Support agriculture innovation

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President Donald Trump visited Iowa to talk about our most impressive industry: agriculture.

Considering agriculture is the number one industry in our state and key to Iowa’s future economic success, it is exciting President Trump highlighted its importance by focusing on ag precision technologies. Such advances are changing how farmers produce and sell food; necessary to a growing population.

Iowa’s agriculture is intrinsically linked to other industries — including trade and manufacturing — and has supported the livelihoods of generations.

With Gov. Kim Reynolds taking the state reins and President Trump focusing on ag innovation, it’s a good time to reassess what’s working for agriculture.

President Trump visited with students training to be ag precision specialists at Kirkwood Community College. He met with future leaders who will work on pressing agricultural issues. Ag precision allows us to use less to grow more. This can mean utilizing less traditional inputs — such as land, water, fertilizer and herbicides — to increase crop yields.

It is in the best interest of Americans to focus on innovations that allow us to produce much-needed food, while using less land and resources. According to IBM research, our global food production must increase by an estimated 70 percent to feed the world’s growing population. Since 70 percent of the world’s fresh water is used for agriculture, we need to produce more food and use less resources.

Farmers will rely significantly on ag precision to solve this upcoming global crisis. Many specific tools developed in this field greatly lessen the amount of resources required for farmers’ operations. One example is sensors in fields that measure temperature and humidity. Another is LED lights that can reduce growing cycles. These are “smart” technologies that can save farmers and consumers time and money.

However, without reliable rural broadband infrastructure, we will not have the connectivity necessary to benefit from these advances.

It takes millions of dollars and multiple years to develop these inventions and get them to market. Fortunately, we have world-renowned scientists and large ag companies as willing participants in solving current and future ag problems. If we continue to invest in ag research and development, our farmers will continue to contribute to state and national economies.

One critical component is the ability of companies to join forces and reduce inefficiencies — allowing use of more resources with fewer regulatory hurdles. This means farmers get much-needed solutions faster — which helps farmers address problems sooner. Partnering with local companies helps bring advances so that farmers will have the technology they need, and the connectivity to make it work.

With President Trump visiting Iowa at this critical juncture, this is an ideal time to reflect on how important ag students and leaders are to our state. Farmers in Iowa have seen firsthand the benefits of innovation. Let’s continue to promote innovative change to secure a better future.

• Stacey D. Stewart is chief marketing officer at ACREBroadband, Inc. in Cedar Rapids

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