Source: Janzen Ag Law

In 2014, American Farm Bureau did extensive surveying of farmers to understand their attitudes towards ag data privacy and security. The results were pretty alarming. 78% of farmers said they were concerned or “extremely concerned” about which entities can access their ag data and whether that data could be used for regulatory purposes.

In 2016, Farm Bureau asked this same question and 77% identified themselves as concerned or extremely concerned. In spite of this, I often hear ag tech company officials say things like “farmers just don’t care about the fine print.” Have attitudes changed? Or is this just an excuse to ignore hard issues?

Farm Credit Canada (FCC) recently surveyed over 2000 Canadian farmers about ag data issues. Here are some highlights from the FCC Ag Data Vision Survey (November 2018).

First, comfort levels with ag data sharing platforms has not improved for most farmers, and for 25%, attitudes have gotten worse.

Most farmers view data treatment as very important or extremely important when selecting an ag tech provider.

For those companies that believe their contracts with farmers are clear and easy to understand, this next question should be a wakeup call. When asked if their contracts address data ownership and how data is used, 65% of farmers responded: “I am not sure.” Combined with the 9% who answered “no,” the survey suggests that current ag data agreements between farmers and tech providers are failing for 76% of customers. The contracts are not communicating their key terms in a way farmers can understand.

But it is not all bad news. Farmers continue to widely believe in the promise of ag tech.

In conclusion, farmers continue to be uncertain about how their data is used by ag tech providers. When company reps tell me farmers just don’t care about the fine print, I usually respond by saying don’t confuse lack of understanding with not caring. Farmers do care about these issues — now three surveys have led to the same result.