Editor's Note: Todd Janzen, attorney at Janzen Agricultural Law in Indianapolis, grew up on a Kansas grain and livestock farm and now practices law at the intersection of ag and technology. Todd is chair of the American Bar Association’s Agricultural Management Committee and authors a blog addressing legal issues facing agriculture. You can see more posts from Todd at JanzenAgLaw.com.


A number of ag tech companies have developed ag data use policies. Others are working on these. This is a good trend and will benefit farmers. “Data Use Policies” (some companies have other names for these) attempt to answer farmers’ questions about “what happens to my data” in one single document. But before your ag tech company drafts its data use policy, it should define its guiding principles for ag data. This post explores how other companies have done this, with some advice at the bottom.

A number of industry players have well defined "guiding principles" for how they handle ag data. I’ve collected a few examples that illustrate the point. My thoughts follow.

SST AgX's Guiding Principles

We will not sell your data.

We will only share your data with those you ask us to share it with, such as your colleagues, your advisors, and your clients.

We have implemented appropriate security safeguards to protect your data in accordance with industry standards.

We will not aggregate your data.

John Deere's Commitment to Customer Business Data

Value – The data you create has value and if you choose to share it, we believe that value can grow.

Transparency – We want you to understand what we do, why we do it and what it means to you.

Control – You are in control of the data that's collected and with whom it is shared. That's why you must give your permission before John Deere shares your data with anyone.

Climate Corporation's Guiding Principles on Data Privacy and Security

As it always has, and always will, technology is changing our world.

The data created by a farmer, or generated from equipment the farmer owns or leases, is owned by that farmer and should be easily managed.

 Basic data services should be free.

 Farmer's data should be easily shared across systems.

 The Climate Corporation will regularly utilize third party audits to ensure we are adhering to our Guiding Principles on Data and Privacy.

Beck’s Hybrids' Guiding Principles for FARMserver

You have control of your data. If our privacy policies change, we will let you know. This way the decision about how to use or share your data is always yours.

FBN's Core Principles of the Farmers Business Network Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

The data you enter through our services is your Data. We will never sell or provide your Data to another party without your explicit consent.

By joining our network, you grant us the right to anonymize and use your Data for purposes that will enhance the value we provide our members. This may include using anonymized data from all our members to create insightful models and provide transparent information to the network.  

You may elect to share parts or all of your Data with other members on our network. You will always be in full control over who you share your personal information with, and the extent of the information that you share.

You may see advertising or have access to certain opportunities to interact with other companies through our Services. We only partner with companies that we trust and, in our judgment, provide value to the platform.

If Farmer’s Business Network is ever sold or acquired by another company, these Terms will continue to apply to any successor.

These guiding principles are very different and perhaps that reflects differences in corporate culture at these ag technology providers. I have three suggestions if you are embarking upon drafting guiding principles: 

First, the guiding principles should be drafted by the ag tech provider's leaders, not the marketing department. The leaders should know what drives the company. The marketing, sales, and legal departments should follow their lead, not the other way around.

Second, keep the message simple. Guiding principles should be short bullet points. Everyone in your organization should know and understand that these principles drive the company.

Finally, focus your principles on farmers, the users of your product. If your guiding principles are not centered around the farmers who will make your product a success (or failure), they are pointless.

Every successful company has a set of core beliefs that every employee understands and buys into. Guiding principles for ag data should be no different.