A coalition of major farm organizations and agriculture technology providers have reached an agreement on data privacy and security principles that will encourage the use and development of a full range of innovative, technology-driven tools and services to boost the productivity, efficiency and profitability of American 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.
“The principles … provide a measure of needed certainty to farmers regarding the protection of their data,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman. “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 providers 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.
Many analysts compare today’s big-data-driven precision ag to the “green revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s, which has likely saved a billion lives or more from starvation since its inception.
Central to the effort surrounding the principles will be grower education initiatives that will include an easy-to-use transparency evaluation tool for farmers. The tool would allow farmers to compare and contrast specific issues within agriculture technology provider contracts and to see how the contracts align with these agreed-upon principles, and how agriculture technology providers manage and use farmers’ data.
“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,” said Stallman. “Farmers are excited about this new technology front, which is why Farm Bureau asked these groups to come together and begin this collaborative dialogue.”
Using precision technology, farmers send large amounts of business and production information to agriculture technology providers regarding their planting, production and harvesting practices. Companies use that data to produce “field prescriptions” and benchmarks that provide valuable information farmers can use to make decisions on when, how and which crop varieties to plant, and optimize the application of crop protection and fertilizer inputs. “That’s good for the environment and efficient for food production, too,” Stallman said.
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. 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 agriculture technology providers, etc. The farmer contracting with the agriculture technology provider is responsible for ensuring that only the data they own or have permission to use is included in the account with the agriculture technology provider.
· Collection, access and control: An agriculture technology provider’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 agriculture technology provider and how they will use it.
· Transparency and consistency: Agriculture technology providers shall notify farmers about the purposes for which they collect and use farm data. They should provide information about how farmers can contact the agriculture technology provider with any inquiries or complaints, the types of third parties to which they disclose the data, and the choices the agriculture technology providers offers for limiting its use and disclosure. An agriculture technology provider’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: Agriculture technology providers 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 agriculture technology provider. If multiple options are offered, farmers should be able to choose some, all, or none of the options offered. Agriculture technology providers 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: Agriculture technology providers agree they should provide for the removal, secure destruction and return of original farm data from the agriculture technology provider, and any third party with whom the agriculture technology provider has shared the data, upon request by the account holder or after a pre-agreed period of time.
· Market speculation: Agriculture technology providers will not use farm data to illegally speculate in commodity markets.
· Liability and security safeguards: The agriculture technology provider 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.