Farm Bureau testifies on big data at House hearing

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One of the most important issues related to "big data" goes directly to property rights and who owns and controls farm-level data that may be collected, the American Farm Bureau Federation told Congress this week. Risks to privacy that farmers face are of great concern, according to Farm Bureau.

"For years, farmers have used technology advances to better match varieties of seeds, production inputs and management practices with specific field characteristics," said Brian Marshall, a farmer and Missouri Farm Bureau member testifying to the House Small Business Committee on behalf of AFBF. Further, noted Marshall, "While farmers have been experimenting for well over a decade, only now is the industry starting to consider all the uses of this transformative technology."

Farmers are right to be concerned about data privacy, Marshall said, in part because the information collected is valuable to companies. Also of concern are the risks to privacy that farmers could face related to the release of information about pesticide use or biotech crops, which are accepted farming practices that have been dubbed politically unpopular.

In addition, "Farmers should have a say in and be compensated when their data is sold," Marshall said.

Another data privacy issue of concern to Farm Bureau centers around the use of unmanned aircraft systems, better known as drones, for commercial purposes in agriculture and forestry.

Operators of drones should be required to gain the consent of the landowner or farmer if surveying or gathering data about the landowner's property below navigable airspace, explained Marshall. Further, Farm Bureau opposes federal agencies using drones for regulatory enforcement, litigation, and as a sole source for natural resource inventories without the consent of the landowner below navigable airspace.


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Gene Millard    
Missouri  |  February, 12, 2014 at 03:03 PM

Mr. Marshall is absolutely correct. Farmers are the most over researched demographic in the nation. Every marketer of farmer purchased inputs want data they can use to dig just a little deeper in the farmers pocket.... insider trading on commodity markets can be expected. With trust in Government at an all time low, how can the farmer protect his economic health if he has no privacy of information ?? Maybe someone will develop a futures options on the CBT so everyone can use the farmers own data for their own economic or political gain. There must be privacy protection and violators severely punished.


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