What to do when your landlord asks for your farm data
Indiana attorney Todd Janzen has drafted dozens of farmland leases throughout the years, but he says with the increased interest in the so-called “big data movement,” new lease provisions could be afoot.
“I have yet to see a lease that addresses the issues associated with ownership and transfer of farm data,” he says. “As farmers embrace new data storage and analytic tools, it’s time to modernize the traditional farm lease to address farm data.”
Some farmers might be reluctant to share data with a landowner who might use the information to raise rents or entice higher bidders for the land next year, explains Thad England, a precision ag specialist with Crop Production Services.
“On the opposite end of the spectrum, it may help a landowner understand problematic areas, so he or she may be more willing to adjust rent to allow for long-term corrective measures, such as a lime application,” he adds.
Farmers and landowners alike need to understand yield data is just a small piece of the pie. “Yields might have been tremendous last year, but input costs could have gone up and the grain market could have turned down,” he says. “Helping a tenant and landowner both understand the risks and possible profit variability on the farm can help them make more informed decisions.”
When it comes to creating lease provisions for farm data, Janzen says there are three basic ways to consider data ownership. Either the farmer owns all data generated on the land, the landlord does or the two parties co-own the data.
This statement of data ownership should be included on future lease agreements, Janzen says. Consider adding the following three provisions.
- A definition of farm data.
- A provision establishing who owns farm data.
- A provision establishing what happens to farm data at the end of the lease.
Here is one example of how these three provisions might look:
Landlord and tenant recognize that tenant’s farming of the leased farmland during the term of the lease will generate agronomic data, including information related to soil, water, seed variety, crop health, crop maturity, disease, nutrients, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, yield, etc., in various digital forms, including files, imagery, records, video, photos, etc. (“farm data”).
Landlord assigns all rights and interest to farm data to tenant and relinquishes landlord’s rights in the same. Tenant is the exclusive owner of all farm data generated on the leased farmland during the lease term. Tenant shall have all rights associated with farm data ownership, including deletion, transfer, sale and disclosure rights.
At the conclusion of the lease, tenant shall assign and transfer all farm data from the prior crop year to landlord, or at landlord’s election, the subsequent tenant.
That’s just one way to look at a data ownership agreement between a farmer and a landlord, he adds.
“These provisions are merely a suggestion to get farmers thinking about this issue,” Janzen says. “They may not work for your situation—contact your attorney to make sure your lease has the exact provisions you need.”
Addressing how to handle data in a farm lease is a smart move even for farmers who aren’t sure how they’re going to use farm data, Janzen adds.
“The farmers who already have years of data stored in an accessible format will have a leg up on the competition when data analytic tools really come into their own in the next few years,” he says.
To read more about farm leases and other legal issues facing today’s farmers, visit Todd Janzen’s or John Dillard’s blogs on AgWeb at www.AgWeb.com/blogs