Hoeven: We're Working to Build Unique Autonomous Tech, Precision Ag Sector Just as We Did for Unmanned Aerial Systems

Senator Helps Unveil State’s First Autonomous Truck, Discusses Future of Autonomous Tech Policy at Grand Farm

FARGO, N.D. – At Grand Farm’s Autonomous Systems Policy Day today, Senator John Hoeven outlined efforts to develop and implement autonomous technology, further establishing North Dakota as a leader in this field. As part of the event, Hoeven joined state officials in unveiling the state’s first autonomous truck and participated in a panel discussion with industry experts. The senator drew parallels with the state’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry, which he has advanced since his time as governor. Specifically, Hoeven worked to bring together a unique mix of state, federal, private and university partners to create a nationally-significant UAS test site and Grand Sky, a first-of-its-kind UAS research and technology park.

Hoeven highlighted how Grand Farm is taking this same approach and building a wide range of partnerships to secure the state’s position in the growing autonomous technology sector, including as it applies to the next generation of precision agriculture. This will help to address challenges faced by farmers here at home and globally, while also bolstering economic growth and creating good job opportunities for years to come. To this end, Hoeven is working to: 

  • Secure federal support for Emerging Prairie’s Grand Farm initiative.
  • Invest in broadband infrastructure to ensure the technologies developed by the initiative, like precision agriculture, can be implemented.
  • Support the success of the state’s tech entrepreneurs.

“The growth in North Dakota’s tech sector, especially in UAS, is the result of years of effort, where we built an ecosystem unmatched by anything else in the world,” Hoeven said. “We now have a premiere location for all things unmanned aircraft – research and development, training and operations, across civilian, military and government applications. Grand Farm represents the opportunity to do the same with autonomous technology and precision agriculture. That’s why we’re investing in the infrastructure we need, like broadband, to support these operations and building on the partnerships that Emerging Prairie has secured so far.”

Securing Support for Grand Farm

As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured $5 million for the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Grant Program, which supports innovation clusters in rural regions, and included language in annual funding legislation to prioritize projects like Grand Farm. Hoeven continues working with the administration to implement the RISE program, with a request for applications expected in early 2021.  

Expanding Rural Broadband

Further, the senator has secured more than $1.6 billion across fiscal years 2018-2020 for the ReConnect Program, a rural broadband loan and grant pilot program. The senator also cosponsored: 

  • The Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, which passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, to ensure adequate broadband access in rural areas.
  • The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which was signed into law in March, to improve federal broadband mapping.

These efforts will help ensure enough capacity is available to implement precision agriculture technologies.

Helping Tech Entrepreneurs Succeed

Hoeven is advancing measures like the Support Our Start-Ups Act, bipartisan legislation he introduced with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to enable entrepreneurs to deduct more of the start-up costs for their business and invest more into their operations sooner. The senator also helped introduce the Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act. This bipartisan bill would make portable benefits more accessible for entrepreneurs and provide greater certainty for them and their families.