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.