We all know there are many uses for Global Positioning Systems (GPS).

In production agriculture, GPS has helped farmers economically in important ways. GPS is part of the innovative technology that provides improved fuel use, more effective planting practices and better profitability. The world-wide system of satellites helps producers make the most out their time and other resources.

Would these producers stand by silently while forces in Washington interfered with GPS transmission and reception? How much would it cost in yields and input costs if GPS were not available or reliable, in the short- and long-run?

Unfortunately, farmers and ranchers across the country now need to ask themselves those questions. Why? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has plans for using the bandwidth next to the GPS spectrum and this could seriously damage the practices of precision agriculture.

The explanation can become highly technical, but it comes down to this; the critical bandwidth next to the GPS spectrum could likely be overcrowded by commercial traffic to the point of interfering with GPS signals, and that would mean trouble for farmers.

LightSquared is the name of the company pushing the FCC to grant the bandwidth placement that interferes with GPS. The whole process by which the company is moving forward is suspect.

As GPS World put it on its web page, the “FCC turned up its nose at assertions by some that the entire process was conducted in near-stealth mode as well as on an admitted fast-track, filed during a period coinciding with Thanksgiving and winter holidays so that it would pass with little notice.”

The publication quotes from the FCC ruling: “We conclude that the pleading cycle for LightSquared’s request ? in which the Comment Public Notice was issued on Nov. 19, 2010, with comments due on Dec. 2, 2010, and reply comments due on Dec. 9, 2010 ? is sufficient for the decisions we make herein.”

Obviously the FCC did not understand the industries affected or just didn’t care. Wouldn’t it make sense to reach out to those industries that might be impacted to try to understand the ramifications of such a ruling? Other reports indicate that the FCC even ignored objections from the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Whatever is going on, it sounds like it’s time to speak up for agriculture, and that’s what we’re doing at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) in Agricultural Services and in AEM’s Washington DC office. We will post updates on this issue at http://www.aem.org/ as appropriate. In the meantime, we encourage you to contact the FCC and your Congressional representatives.