• a common communication structure;

  • standardized static and dynamic spatial data exchange formats; and

  • data dictionary specifications in ISO 8211 format for yield (grain crops), soil fertility, and application crop plan characteristics.

NEED FOR UNBIASED EVALUATION

Unbiased, systematic, rigorous evaluations of the economic and environmental benefits and costs of precision agricultural methods are needed. USDA should facilitate and coordinate evaluations conducted through collaborations of public agencies, professional organizations, commercial organizations, and producers.

An appropriate role for public agencies is independent, objective evaluation of precision agriculture technologies. Private technology development firms and input suppliers have a natural commercial interest in promoting precision agriculture. Individual producers may have insufficient incentives or resources to conduct evaluations or make the results known because all producers in a region can learn from those experiences at little cost, creating a "free rider" problem. The benefits of having local information about the performance of precision agriculture technologies exceed those a single producer can gain, arguing for a public role. Moreover, producers may find it difficult to apply the experiences of a single farm to their own situations because they may not be able to make the appropriate adjustments for differences in conditions across sites. Site-specific factors can be so important in evaluating these technologies that the usual producer network will likely be inadequate for disseminating precision agriculture information.

Producers need unbiased assessments of precision agriculture's performance characteristics under various conditions. Public and private environmental organizations are also interested in unbiased evaluations of precision agriculture's environmental performance (Ogg, 1995). Acceptance and support for precision agriculture depends on the extent to which potential efficiency gains and environmental benefits are actually achieved.

USDA is in a unique position to facilitate and coordinate evaluation and research activities among federal agencies. USDA and its affiliated SAES partners have the agronomic knowledge necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of specific precision agriculture technologies and systems. Where federal agencies outside agriculture have some basic technological components and expertise necessary to advance precision agriculture, collaboration in that evaluation should be encouraged.

Producers and other customers for precision agriculture technologies should be encouraged to search for multiple sources of information when deciding whether to adopt particular components of precision agriculture technology. Producer decision-making processes are complex, and multiple sources of information



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