Coming Soon: A Tool to Help Farmers Evaluate Ag Data Providers

October 29, 2015 01:41 PM
Coming Soon: A Tool to Help Farmers Evaluate Ag Data Providers

If you’d like to know how various precision ag providers compared on data privacy issues, the American Farm Bureau Federation may soon have a tool for you.

Called a “transparency evaluator,” the tool would allow growers to compare and contrast how ag data companies handle farmer data in terms of privacy, access, aggregation and more.

“In short, farmers need to be able to determine whether the benefits outweigh the privacy and security risks associated with usage,” said Missouri Farm Bureau Federation President Blake Hurst, according to his written testimony at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on big data and agriculture on Wednesday.

“In its simplest form, I would describe it as a combination of a Consumer Reports review and a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” he explained. “This was important because many farmers are interested in using some form of data collection and storage, but virtually all are unaware of how their data is used after it leaves their farm.”

Even those growers who do ask questions can be stumped.

“Farmers often sign a terms-and-conditions contract with companies that collect their data, a contract that typically exceeds 30 pages in length and some are even longer,” Hurst said. “It is virtually impossible to find the specific provision you may be interested in, such as ‘Will the agriculture technology provider share my data?’ in such a lengthy document and even more difficult if a farmer is trying to compare policies between companies and service providers.”

The Farm Bureau hopes to change that with this new tool, which it expects to have "operational" in spring 2016.

The plan is to develop “a simple scorecard format to allow, for example, a farmer whose primary focus may be transparency concerns, to easily review that area of the [scorecard] and, if desired, click on a link to obtain more information from a particular agriculture technology provider,” he said in his testimony.

The organization hopes to have the tool ready to use in spring 2016. Twenty different ag businesses, co-ops, ag technology providers, and other farm groups are involved in the effort, including seed companies, machinery manufacturers, and more.

Would you use a tool like this? How difficult—or easy—has it been for you to evaluate how an ag technology provider plans to use your farmer data? Let us know in the comments. 

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