A coalition of farm groups and leading agribusinesses have crafted a set of guidelines to help farmers protect and manage their data. The American Farm Bureau Federation and several leading companies, including Becks Hybrids, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, John Deere, ASA, NCGA, Wheat Growers, and Climate Corp, have all agreed to a set of protocols that govern the use of farmer data. Bob Stallman, with AFBF, said these standards will address the concerns over privacy and security that have worried many producers, “The principles released today provide a measure of needed certainty to farmers regarding the protection of their data. 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 ATPs join this collaborative effort in protecting farm-level data as well as educating farmers about this revolutionary technology.”
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. Stallman said, with more and more companies offering new and different data services, some standards were needed to help farmers make informed decisions, “The privacy and security principles that underpin these emerging technologies, whether related to how data is gathered, protected and shared, must be transparent and secure. On this matter, we all agree.”
“NCGA strongly believes that farmers are the sole owners of data gathered through precision farming practices,” said NCGA First Vice President Rob Elliott. “This information should not be used, released, or sold without the farmer’s consent, and this coalition is an important first step in addressing how farmers and ag tech providers will handle farm-generated data. NCGA will continue to be an active participant in industry-wide discussions about data protocols and protections.”
The new standards are voluntary, but Stallman hopes all companies will eventually agree to use these guidelines. The principles cover a wide range of issues that must be addressed before most farmers will feel comfortable sharing their private business information with data providers. Highlights include:
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. Policies for notification and response in the event of a breach should be established.