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Coalition of Ag Groups, Companies Reach Data AgreementCoalition of Ag Groups, Companies Reach Data Agreement

The American Farm Bureau Federation has spearheaded an industry-wide agreement to develop range of standards for managing farm data.

November 13, 2014

5 Min Read
<p>This week a coalition of agriculture technology providers (ATPs) have announced a Big Data agreement that sets down key rules on data privacy and security principles that will encourage the use and development of a full range of tech driven innovations for agriculture.</p>

The excitement over the use of on-farm data in new ways has been tempered by concerns in the industry over who owns and controls the data and how those relationships should be managed in the future. Earlier this year, Farm Industry News took an in-depth look at the issue, yet concerns remains.

This week a coalition of agriculture technology providers (ATPs) have  announced a Big Data agreement that sets down key rules on data privacy and security principles that will encourage the use and development of a full range of tech driven innovations for agriculture.

The coalition supporting the principles includes: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Beck’s Hybrids, Dow AgroSciences LLC, DuPont Pioneer, John Deere, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, Raven Industries, The Climate Corporation – a division of Monsanto, and USA Rice Federation.

This controversy has been bubbling along for several months and issues over data control and ownership were first raised by AFBF earlier in 2014 at the group's annual convention. Also this year, with initial funding from Climate Corporation, and later including a range of partners, the Open Agriculture Data Alliance was formed. Yet AFBF has maintained its effort to work with a coalition of companies to develop the framework for Big Data.

In a press statement, Bob Stallman, president, AFBF, notes: "Farmers using these technology-driven tools will help feed a growing world while also providing quantifiable environmental benefits. These principles are meant to be inclusive and we hope other farm organizations and [agriculture technology poviders] join this collaborative effort in protecting farm-level data as well as educating farmers about this revolutionary technology."

The statement, notes that the principles "promise to greatly accelerate the move to the next generation of agricultural data technology, which includes in-cab displays, mobile devices and wireless-enabled precision agriculture that has already begun to boost farm productivity across the United States."

The principles cover a wide range of issues that must be addressed before most farmers will feel assured to share their private business information with data providers. Here are some highlights - as noted in the AFBF media release - in this the ATP is an agriculture technology provider:

Ownership: The group believes that farmers own information generated on their farming operations. However, farming is complex and dynamic and it is the responsibility of the farmer to agree upon data use and sharing with the other stakeholders with an economic interest such as the tenant, landowner, cooperative, owner of the precision agriculture system hardware, and/or ATP etc. The farmer contracting with the ATP is responsible for ensuring that only the data they own or have permission to use is included in the account with the ATP.

Collection, Access and Control: An ATP’s collection, access and use of farm data should be granted only with the affirmative and explicit consent of the farmer. This will be by contract agreements, whether signed or digital.  

Notice: Farmers must be notified that their data is being collected and about how the farm data will be disclosed and used. This notice must be provided in an easily located and readily accessible format.

Third-party access and use: Farmers and ranchers also need to know who, if anyone, will have access to their data beyond the primary ATP and how they will use it.

Transparency and Consistency: ATPs shall notify farmers about the purposes for which they collect and use farm data. They should provide information about how farmers can contact the ATP with any inquiries or complaints, the types of third parties to which they disclose the data, and the choices the ATP offers for limiting its use and disclosure. An ATP’s principles, policies and practices should be transparent and fully consistent with the terms and conditions in their legal contracts. An ATP will not change the customer’s contract without his or her agreement.

Choice: ATPs should explain the effects and abilities of a farmer’s decision to opt in, opt out or disable the availability of services and features offered by the ATP. If multiple options are offered, farmers should be able to choose some, all, or none of the options offered. ATPs should provide farmers with a clear understanding of what services and features may or may not be enabled when they make certain choices.

Portability: Within the context of the agreement and retention policy, farmers should be able to retrieve their data for storage or use in other systems, with the exception of the data that has been made anonymous or aggregated and is no longer specifically identifiable. Non-anonymized or non-aggregated data should be easy for farmers to receive their data back at their discretion.

Data Availability: ATPs agree they should provide for the removal, secure destruction and return of original farm data from the ATP, and any third party with whom the ATP has shared the data, upon request by the account holder or after a pre-agreed period of time. 

Market Speculation: ATPs will not use farm data to illegally speculate in commodity markets.

Liability & Security Safeguards: The ATP should clearly define terms of liability. Farm data should be protected with reasonable security safeguards against risks such as loss or unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification or disclosure. Polices for notification and response in the event of a breach should be established.

Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data can be found here: http://bit.ly/1zjQ4Sk.

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