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Farm groups, ag tech companies agree on data privacy standards

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(Reuters) — A consortium of farmer organizations and agriculture data technology providers on Thursday published a set of data privacy and security principles aimed at reassuring farmers that data they share with big data services providers will not be misused.

The non-binding principles are also meant to provide companies that collect, store and analyze farmer data some guidelines when crafting their service contracts and marketing tools that use farm data to boost crop yields or reduce costs for farmers.

“The principles released today provide a measure of needed certainty to farmers regarding the protection of their data,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which spearheaded the effort to craft industry wide standards on farm data.

Among the guidelines are assertions that farmers own information generated by their operations, farmers should be told how their data will be used and who it is shared with, and farmers should be able to opt out of services and have their data returned to them if they choose.

The principles were developed after a pair of meetings organized by the Farm Bureau since April with industry groups including the American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers Association and tech providers like John Deere, DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto’s Climate Corp.

Over the last year there has been a surge in the collection and analyses of farm data across the United States as companies roll out products that combine analysis of everything from the row spacing a farmer might use to plant his corn, to the soil conditions of various spots in a field, and local weather patterns. The companies say there are big profits to be made in helping farmers increase crop production.

But some farmers worried that the data they share could be used against them. Some fear commodity markets and farmland values could be manipulated or exploited if the data winds up in the hands of traders or land brokers. Others fear that large seed and chemical companies could use the information to sell more fertilizer and seeds.