Vertical Focus: The Agriculture Supply Chain

Vertical Focus: The Agriculture Supply Chain


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion, as provided by Congress, to help America’s farmers and ranchers recover from hurricanes and wildfires. The funds are available as part of the new 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency will make these disaster payments to agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria as well as from devastating wildfires. This investment is part of a broader suite of programs that USDA is delivering to rural America to aid recovery.


A new solar-powered, Roomba-style robot could be the first truly automated option for agriculture. Developed by the same company that introduced the robotic vacuum cleaner, Massachusetts-based Franklin Robotics is now looking to tackle weeding chores with the Tertill.

The weatherproof Tertill "lives" in the garden, get its power from a solar panel on its back (or shell), and wanders through the garden with four-wheel-drive, diagonal wheels and a weed eater-like plastic trim line that cuts down weeds. Tertill uses a combination of simple logic and wireless communication to distinguish desirable plants from weeds.

The end result is, ideally, a weedless garden without the use of chemicals. Embedded Bluetooth technology also allows for sending updates to mobile devices. The Tertill is about 5 inches high, 8 inches wide, and weighs less than three pounds.

The Tertill is expected to begin shipping in June 2018. It is projected to sell for $249.

—Tom Marren for Thomas


  • In 2016, $135.5 billion worth of American agricultural products were exported around the world. The United States sells more food and fiber to world markets than it imports, creating a positive agricultural trade balance.
  • Farmers and ranchers receive 15 cents out of every dollar spent on food at home and away from home. The rest goes for costs beyond the farm gate: wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation, and distribution. In 1980, farmers and ranchers received 31 cents.
  • Farming accounts for about 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

    SOURCE: American Farm Bureau Federation, 2017 Food & Farm Facts


The Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018 would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a task force charged with identifying gaps in high-speed internet connectivity for the nation’s cropland and ranchland.

Within one year, the task force is intended to bring together public and private stakeholders to evaluate current programs affecting broadband internet access on cropland and ranchland, identify and measure existing gaps in coverage, and develop policy recommendations to address that gap. The task force will also develop specific steps the FCC, USDA, and other federal agencies can take to address coverage gaps.

The measure also instructs the FCC to develop ways to help encourage broadband adoption and precision agriculture in areas where it is unavailable.

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