Farmers and ranchers want to control the information their equipment collects every time it passes through a field, a newly released survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) found. Farmers also believe that creating a cooperative-style central repository for their data is the best way to enhance its security and maximize its value.
“We asked our members what they thought about data, and it is clear that boosting farmer confidence in security and data management will be critical to unlocking the potential this technology holds,” said AFBF president Zippy Duvall. “This survey also shows that we are on the right track with various ag group initiatives designed to improve data integration and promote transparency about how the data is collected and used.”
AFBF is a founding member of the Ag Data Coalition, an organization created by several leading agricultural groups and companies to help farmers better store and manage their information in a central location. The ADC will establish a co-op-style repository for agricultural data, with farmers having a governing role over the group.
Duvall said that is consistent with survey findings that 71% of respondents said they are interested in having access to the kind of data bank that ADC is developing, while 82% say it is important that farmers have a voice in the ag data co-op.
Survey respondents also ranked vendor transparency high among their priorities. Farm Bureau and other groups recently introduced a tool, the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator, to explain in plain English the convoluted details often found in data contracts with agricultural hardware and software providers.
The survey, meanwhile, revealed a high level of misunderstanding among respondents regarding data details in their contracts. When asked whether they knew if their contracts indicated they owned or controlled their own data, 55% of those surveyed said they did not know. Twelve percent said the contracts did not indicate control or ownership, and only 33% said their contracts specifically indicated that growers owned or controlled the data they generate.
When asked whether contract details about sharing data with a third party, business partner or affiliate required approval of the grower, only 32% said they did. Fifty-four percent were unsure and 14% said prior approval from a grower was not required for data sharing.
The survey also revealed other issues that must be addressed to help promote farmer acceptance, noting the following:
- Seventy-seven percent are concerned about which entities can access their farm data and whether it could be used for regulatory purposes;
- Sixty-seven percent said they will consider how outside parties use and treat their data when deciding which technology or service provider to use;
- Sixty-six percent believe farmers should share in the potential financial benefits from the use of their data beyond the direct value they may realize on their farm;
- Sixty-one percent are worried that companies could use their data to influence market decisions; and
- Fifty-nine percent were confused whether current agreements or contracts allowed technology or service providers to use their data to market other services, equipment or inputs back to them.
This year’s poll follows a 2014 survey that led to the development and publication of a set of Thirteen Principles on Data Privacy and Security that same year. Thirty-eight different agricultural companies and farm groups have signed on to the principles, to date.
Since then, Duvall said Farm Bureau has focused its efforts on “bringing life” to the principles. Farm Bureau’s work to date has primarily centered on three major projects: creation of the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator, development of a cooperative data repository by the Ag Data Coalition and additional education for farmers and ranchers on issues pertaining to data technology.
The new ag data survey of about 400 farmers and ranchers was conducted from January through April 2016.