Farm groups, ag tech companies agree on data privacy standards

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2014 5:30 PM

By Karl Plume

(Reuters) - A consortium of farmer organizations and agriculture data technology providers on Thursday published a set of data privacy and security principles aimed at reassuring farmers that data they share with Big Data services providers will not be misused.

The non-binding principles are also meant to provide companies that collect, store and analyze farmer data some guidelines when crafting their service contracts and marketing tools that use farm data to boost crop yields or reduce costs for farmers.

The principles were developed after a pair of meetings organized by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) with industry groups including the American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers Association as well as tech providers like John Deere, DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto's Climate Corporation.

Although the guidelines closely mirror already published policies of many data services providers, approval by the AFBF and other farmer organizations could help soothe some farmer concerns about data misuse. The effort could be particularly beneficial for the larger data services providers, often the focus of farmer mistrust.

"It’s an important step in making farmers more comfortable with these emerging data science technologies that can provide real value for their operations," said Anthony Osborne, marketing vice president for the Climate Corporation, an early leader in the industry.

Climate and other companies are hoping to cash in on services that combine everything from how densely farmers plant seeds, row-by-row soil conditions and local weather patterns to help farmers increase crop output.

Some farmers have worried commodity markets and farmland values could be manipulated if their data winds up in the hands of traders or land brokers. Others fear

large seed and chemical companies could use the information to sell more fertilizer and seeds.

"The principles released today provide a measure of needed certainty to farmers regarding the protection of their data," said AFBF President Bob Stallman.

Among the guidelines are assertions that farmers own information generated by their operations, farmers should be told how their data will be used and who it is shared with, and farmers should be able to opt out of services and have their data returned to them if they choose. (Data principles: http://tinyurl.com/mgwlnmz)

(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Chris Reese and Andrew Hay)