Last month, I had the chance to visit with our leaders on Capitol Hill to talk with them about an issue of critical importance to our industry, the protection of our Global Positioning System (GPS). By now, many ag retailers have heard about a company called LightSquared and its proposal for a new broadband wireless network, which would interfere with the use of GPS.

Here is some background on LightSquared (LS) for anyone not familiar with the company. LS purchased SkyTerra who owned the MSS band in March of 2010. The MSS band is used by satellite phone, emergency broadcast band, and correctional signal for OmniStar and StarFire 2 signal. LS purchased SkyTerra for this frequency band and are trying to bring it to the terrestrial level and increase the power 1 million times. The LS terrestrial signal will interfere with GPS because of the increase in power and its closeness to the GPS frequency.

ARA Guest Column: Working to Protect Our GPSThe LS plan is to set up the networks near cities and then broadcast wireless broadband to rural areas. The problem with this plan is that the satellite will not be able to handle the data volume of all rural America. The MSS band has two segments. The upper band, which was the original one tested, affects all GPS receivers. The lower band affects only high accuracy receivers because this type of receiver needs to have the whole band in order to get the high level accuracy it achieves.

Currently, I serve as the precision agronomy manager for MFA, Inc. a farmer-owned cooperative based in Columbia, Mo. However, I began my precision agriculture journey in 1995 when my father purchased one of the first yield monitoring systems with GPS. During that time, it was a struggle to operate this new technology and cope with the inaccuracies of GPS. While at Iowa State University, as accuracy improved, I came to love what precision agriculture can do for farming by preserving the environment, minimizing inputs and maximizing yield to give our farmers a greater return on their investment.

During my visit to Washington, I was fortunate to visit with Missouri's Congress men and women about my passion for precision agriculture and what it does for our farmers. My visits with these leaders were very positive, and they were all supportive of protecting our valuable GPS. They signed a letter currently being distributed around Congress.

I also had the chance to testify before the House Committee for Small Business on the importance of GPS to the agriculture industry. During this experience, I was especially thankful for the leadership of Congressmen Sam Graves (R-Mo.), who understands the needs of our industry and the economic and environmental benefits of GPS use in agriculture. It was truly an honor to meet with him and testify before the House Committee. Here are a few key points from my testimony.

ARA Guest Column: Working to Protect Our GPS• Satellite Wireless Broadband will not interfere with GPS. LightSquared terrestrial high powered signal in the MSS band will.

• The GPS industry needs to have the upper MSS band off the table.

• From 2002 commodity prices are up 350 percent, seed prices are up 266 percent, and fuel and fertilizer prices are up 270 percent. Efficiency and increased productivity is the key to their survival in this global market. High accuracy GPS will be needed if we are going to feed a global economy and preserve the environment.

• If JAVAD filters work on all GPS, LightSquared should pay for the filters and installation costs. (Estimated between $300 and $800 per unit)

I would like to extend a big thank you to the staff at the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA); Andy Karellas, House Small Business Committee Aid; Peter Large with Trimble; and Paul Scolese with AKINGUMP who did a great job coaching me and helping me draft my testimony.

Organizations like ARA lobby for us on a variety of legislative and regulatory issues that impact our business on a daily basis. However, it’s also up to us as members of these organizations to provide that important testimony that only those of us in the field can provide. Through this experience, I have realized the value of this and encourage other ARA members to do the same.

For more information and to read my testimony on GPS, visit the ARA Web site at www.aradc.org.