A reporter for a national publication called me recently to ask some ag data questions. One of his questions was: Who is the ag data watchdog for farmers? Stated differently, who is looking out for farmers to make sure their data is not misappropriated?
It was a great question.
There is really only one organization that is looking out for farmers’ best interest when it comes to ag data — Ag Data Transparent (ADT). The ADT certifies companies that commit to be transparent about how they collect, store, use, share, and delete farmers’ agricultural data. The ADT has made great strides in the last few years certifying nearly 30 ag-tech and ag industry legacy companies. The companies that go through the process come out with contracts that are better and easier to understand.
The ADT is supported by National Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, and national commodity organizations for corn, soy, wheat, potatoes and pork. These organizations are ag data watchdogs for their members too. But watchdog does not mean police dog. None of these organizations can police how ag data is used.
That means, ultimately, there is no consumer watchdog organization looking out for farmers when it comes to how their ag data is used. I tell farmers every time I speak on the subject of ag data that the terms of the contracts they sign with ag data companies matter. We have all gotten so accustomed to clicking “I accept” without reading what we are accepting when signing up for a digital platform. I am guilty of this too. But when it comes to ag data containing a farms’ proprietary information, the terms really do matter.
Other industries have consumer protection groups that report abuse and look out for their consumers. When it comes to agricultural data, however, the ADT and its supporters are the lone, ag data watchdogs.