How Farmers Can Evaluate an Ag Tech Startup's Privacy Policy

Lauren Manning, AgFunder News, April 26, 2016

Farmers may soon see a particular symbol popping up on the websites of their ag software and farm management technologies. The American Farm Bureau Federation has launched a new initiative aimed at awarding certain ag data company with an “Ag Data Transparent” seal if they participate in its Ag Data Transparency Evaluator (ADTE).

The ADTE aims to help guide farmers in determining which ag data service provider is right for their operation.

Created in collaboration with a broad list of farm industry groups, commodity organizers, and agriculture technology providers (ATPs), the Evaluator poses 10 questions to service providers regarding their data practices and terms of use. ADTE questions cover things like whether an ATP will notify the farmer if its agreements change, obtain the farmer’s consent before providing other companies with access to his or her data, and permit the farmer to delete his or her dataset when the contract terminates.

An independent third party administrator reviews the company’s answers and the results are posted on the ADTE website for farmers and other ag professionals to review. Only companies that receive approval are allowed to use the “Ag Data Transparent” seal.

“I believe that the agricultural industry is at a crossroads right now,” Todd Janzen, administrator for the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator, recently told AgFunderNews. “We are at a point where the industry must decide if (a) farmers are going to give up ownership and privacy in their ag data, or (b) if farmers are going to retain ownership and take control of their ag data.”

According to Janzen, the ADTE has three goals. First, it seeks to simplify the contracts that ATPs offer farmers, which can often be clouded with legalese and fine print. It’s also designed to foster trust between farmers and ATPs with an eye toward encouraging farmers to implement agtech.

Transparency is also a primary goal. “So many ATPs market phrases like ‘the farmer owns the data’, but the real proof is in their contracts with farmers, not advertising materials,” says Janzen. “By answering a few key questions about their contracts, we are forcing ATPs to be transparent.”

Continue reading at AgFunder News.


New programs help farmers understand how to manage their data

Sonja Begeman, Farm Journal,  April 23, 2016.

Southwest Indiana farmer Don Villwock uses data platforms to track every dollar he invests in his fields. Like many farmers, he wants to realize the full value of his data while working with reliable providers and maintaining control of the information he generates. 

Two new data programs, the Agricultural Data Transparency Evaluator and the Agricultural Data Coalition, have caught Villwock’s eye to address transparency concerns.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and other groups created the Agricultural Data Transparency Evaluator for companies to voluntarily join. 

“Think of the Agricultural Data Transparency Evaluator as a combination of a consumer report and a good housekeeping seal,” explains Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF senior director of congressional relations. 

Continue reading at Farm Journal.


Farm Groups and Agriculture Technology Providers Develop New Tool to Aid Farmers in Understanding Big Data Contracts

NEW ORLEANS, March 3, 2016 - A coalition of major farm organizations, commodity groups and agriculture technology providers (ATPs) debuted a tool designed to help farmers understand how their data will be used when they adopt precision agriculture technologies.

New technologies and products are constantly entering the marketplace and generating millions of bits of data about farmers' fields, crops and equipment. A recent survey found that an overwhelming number of farmers do not know what happens to their data when they use these new technologies.

The Ag Data Transparency Evaluator was created to help producers understand where their data is going and who has access and control over it. The evaluator requires participating ATPs to answer 10 key questions about their technology products' use and control of farmer data. A third-party administrator then reviews the answers and determines whether the products meet the standards of transparency set by the Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data (Data Principles). Products that meet the standards will receive the "Ag Data Transparent" seal to be displayed on promotional materials and product pages. Additionally, farmers can go to the Transparency Evaluator website to see and compare all the products and services that have undergone the evaluation.

The creation of the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator stems back to November 2014 when a coalition of ag groups and ATPs announced a Data Principles document, an agreement that identified key areas of concern for producers.

Some of the 10 questions addressed by the Evaluator include: What categories of data do the product or service collect from the farmer?; Will the ATP obtain the farmer's consent before providing other companies with access to the data?; and Will the ATP notify the farmer if a breach of data security occurs that causes disclosure of the farmer's data to an outside party?

The coalition involved in the development of the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator includes both farmer-led industry organizations and ATPs, including AGCO, Ag Connections, Agrible, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Beck's Hybrids, Conservis, CNH Industrial, Crop IMS, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, Farm Dog, Farmobile, Granular, Grower Information Services Cooperative, GROWMARK, Independent Data Management, John Deere, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers, and The Climate Corporation.

The Ag Data Transparency Evaluator is non-profit corporation governed by a board of directors from the participating organizations. The corporate bylaws require that all actions be approved by the farmer-led organizations, making the evaluator truly a farmer-driven initiative not controlled by the ATPs whose products are reviewed.

To learn more about the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator and to see the full list of 10 questions visit www.fb.org/agdatatransparent. For more information, contact Ag Data Transparency Evaluator Administrator Todd Janzen at janzen@aglaw.us or board Chairperson Mary Kay Thatcher at mkt@fb.org.