In their annual policy review session, the voting delegates of American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) chose to add new policies on unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, and the sharing and ownership of proprietary data, or “Big Data.” 

Both subjects are hot topics in agriculture and received attention at the AFBF 95th Annual Convention in San Antonio. The new policy supports the use of drones for commercial purposes, including agriculture, but opposes the federal government using drones for regulatory enforcement.

The delegates also added policy clarifying their support for the protection of the farmers’ ability to share farming and agricultural operations data.   

During a breakout session at the convention Monday, GeoSilos president Matt Bechdol told farmers that the skilled management—as opposed to merely the collection—of large amounts of farm data is key to succeeding in the “Big Data” era of agriculture.

“We’re going to move past precision agriculture to predictive agriculture,” he said. It’s very important for us to share our data. It will make us better managers.” While encouraging farmers to be open to new technologies, he did note that the potential vertical integration of data — where one firm has sole control of large amounts of data—may be cause for concern.  

Perhaps one of the lengthiest debates during the voting delegate session focused on the government’s authority to regulate raw milk sales. Dairy producers are conflicted—some propose that consumers should be able make the choice to purchase raw milk, while others believe the safety risk is too great. Ultimately, the body voted to maintain previous policy that supports the marketing of pasteurized milk only. A policy change under AFBF’s section on narcotics opposes the classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance.

AFBF reorganized its immigration policy, but left the principles mostly unchanged. Notably, delegates voted to remove language to “oppose any amnesty programs,” citing controversy around proposals that offer citizenship status to illegal immigrants. Delegates also added language to support “an incentive to workers who obtain permanent legal status through agriculture to stay in agriculture.”


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