Farm groups and ag tech companies outline data privacy protocols

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2014 - A group of 12 major farm organizations and agriculture technology providers (ATPs) today announced an agreement on data privacy and security principles designed to protect farmers in the age of Big Data.

As advances in technology increase the amount of data gathered at the farm level and new products provide opportunities to manage that data, farmers increasingly wonder how their information can be protected. 

The “Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data” released today “provide a measure of needed certainty to farmers regarding the protection of their data,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), which is among the groups supporting the principles. Stallman said he hopes other farm organizations and ATPs join the agreement.

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Earlier this week the Data Privacy and Security Committee of AgGateway, a consortium of more than 200 ag-related businesses and organizations, released a similar document designed to help the agriculture industry incorporate the best practices for data privacy into their operations.

Using precision technology, farmers send large amounts of business and production information to ATPs 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.

AFBF noted that an easy-to-use transparency evaluation tool for farmers will be a critical part of the privacy principles. Such a tool would allow farmers to compare specific provisions within ATP contracts and to see how the contracts align with the agreed-upon principles, and how ATPs manage and use farmers' data.

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In addition to AFBF, the groups or companies supporting the principles are: 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.

By signing the agreement, each group and company indicated their belief that the following data principles should be adopted by each ATP. The principles outlined in the agreement include:


•       OwnershipThe group believes that farmers own information generated on their farming operations.  However, members note that farming is complex and dynamic and it is the responsibility of the farmer to agree upon data use and sharing with 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 he or she owns or has 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 the data's use and disclosure.  An ATP's principles, policies and practices should be transparent and fully consistent with the terms and conditions in its 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. 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 retrieve 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 and 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.

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