It is here again — the end of another year. For me, this is always a good time to take a look back at some of the big stories from the past year. Here is my recap of the four biggest ag law and ag tech stories from the Janzen Ag Law Blog, based upon reader feedback, page views, and reprints in 2017.
No recap of 2017's big ag stories would be complete without talking about dicamba. What a mess. The year began with big warnings from the specialty crop growers who worried about what widespread dicamba use might mean to their tomato, orchard, and other fruits and vegetables that are highly suspect able to drift. But as the summer spraying season got underway, non-dicamba-tolerant soybean growers seemed to be the most affected. (Read: A day in the life with dicamba damage). State regulatory agencies were overwhelmed with complaints.
As harvest arrived, however, many of the complaints fell silent — or perhaps farmers were too busy harvesting to care. There was some yield loss, for sure, but was it enough for farmers to take action? I wrote that "dicamba will show us the promise — and limitations — of big data in 2017." I think that will be true as we try to unravel what happened in 2017. More application restrictions will apply in 2018.
Ag data platform consolidation begins
The proliferation of ag data platforms that led up to 2017 has peaked. 2017 saw the Ag Data Coalition merge with Grower Information Services Cooperative. Granular was acquired by DuPont, which then merged with Dow. Precision Planting was sold to AGCO, after John Deere and Monsanto gave up trying to please the DOJ. All this raised a question for me — when your ag tech provider is sold, what happens to your data?
Congress tunes in to ag data chatter
As the next farm bill gets closer, Congress has started to ask whether ag data collection, storage, and transfer presents issues for federal action. Subcommittees in both the House and Senate held hearings on ag data issues this past year. Here is RFD TV's coverage.
Where does Congressional inquiry end? Legislation? Inaction? It is too early to tell, but with the EU's GDPR data protection regulation becoming enforceable this next year, I think we'll be hearing more from Washington about ag data.
Everyone talks about rural broadband but I still can't get a signal
Many of us on the ag data panel before the House Ag Subcommittee were surprised to learn that rural broadband — not ag data — was the topic on most congressional members' minds. This topic received a lot of attention this past year in the media and by politicians, perhaps because Trump promised new infrastructure investment. Talk is cheap, however. Rural broadband is expensive. Will our politicians or private industry ever get us there? Here is my look at some of the options for bringing rural broadband to America: Pipedream or Possibility? Can you hear me now?
This is my last blog post for 2017. Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and best wishes for 2018.