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Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding the Relationship Between Farmers and Agribusiness About Big Data

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 31, 2014 – “Proprietary data collected from individual farms is valuable and should remain the property of the farmer. As innovation and technology using this data expands to provide farmers new management tools, protecting the privacy of this data is paramount. Farm Bureau will continue to work to ensure that a farmer’s data, whether related to seed or other crop inputs, the production system used, and both business and personal information, is extended the highest degree of protection.

“The farmer and rancher delegates attending our annual convention this year felt so strongly about these matters that they gave clear direction and approved strong policy resolutions on the so-called ‘big-data’ issue as it relates to data privacy, ownership and use in agricultural production. We will continue to advocate for farmers whenever this issue is raised, and we will provide thought leadership on production-related data privacy issues.

“We are encouraged that agribusinesses are taking our clear policy position into consideration. Today, Monsanto offered some guiding principles on how they will work with farmers and strive to respect farmers’ rights to their individual data generated during normal farming activities. We are encouraged by the fact that the company is working to address some of the concerns about data privacy, security and ownership expressed by our members.

“Overall, we see this as an important step toward securing widespread cooperation on big-data issues that affect all sectors of production agriculture. Farm Bureau will work quickly to convene formal discussions with all interested parties with a goal of securing cooperation on this emerging issue among farmers, companies and other production chain stakeholders.”

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 AFBF Background Document on Proprietary Data

Official AFBF Policy: No. 536 / Proprietary Data

1. Proprietary data collected from farming and agricultural operations is valuable, should remain the property of the farmer, and warrants protection.
2. We support:
    2.1. Efforts to better educate farmers and ranchers regarding new technology or equipment that may receive, record, and/or transmit their farming and production data;
    2.2. Requiring companies that are collecting, storing, and analyzing proprietary data to provide full disclosure of their intended use of the data;
    2.3. Formation of standardized protocols regarding privacy and terms of conditions to ensure a standard definition of all components within the contract. We should be an active participant in developing these protocols;
    2.4. Compensation to farmers whose proprietary data is shared with third parties that offer products, services or analyses benefitting from that data;
    2.5. Multiple participation options being included in all contracts;
    2.6. All proprietary information between the farmer and the company remaining between the two entities. This would not preclude a farmer from sharing data with whomever he/she chooses (e.g., a consultant);
    2.7. Utilizing all safeguards to ensure proprietary data is stored at an entity that is not subject to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request;
    2.8. The farmer’s right to enter into agreement and their rights to sell their proprietary data to another producer (e.g., in a land sale);
    2.9. Private companies entering into agreements which would allow for the compatibility/updating of equipment and updating of software;
    2.10. The right of a farmer to have access to their own data, regardless of when it was shared with a company; and
    2.11. The right of the producer who no longer wishes to participate in aggregated data sharing with a private company, to remove their past aggregated data from the company’s database and revoke that company’s ability to sell or use that data in the future.
3. We oppose any federal agency or FOIA-eligible entity from serving as a data clearinghouse for all proprietary data or aggregated data collected by private companies.

Contacts:   Mace Thornton
(202) 406-3641
macet@fb.org
  Tracy Taylor Grondine
(202) 406-3642
tracyg@fb.org