The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) conducted a survey of farmers to determine whether their attitudes about ag data had changed since the prior survey a couple years ago.  The results were very interesting. Most farmers still do not have a solid understanding on how their data is used when they move it from on-farm storage to cloud-based storage with an ag tech provider (ATP).  Here are some of the highlights:

Farmers’ familiarity with ag data contracts varies. When asked about whether they were familiar with and have read their contracts and policies regarding transfer, storage, and use of ag data, only 33% of farmers indicated that they had signed ATP’s contracts.  39% of farmers were aware of such policies, but said they had not signed anything. (It is not clear whether these respondents included checking “I accept” boxes as the same as signatures.) And 28% were unaware of their ATP’s contracts and policies on ag data. 

Most farmers don’t believe their ATP’s contracts address data control and ownership. Only 19% of farmers confirmed that the contracts they have signed with ATPs address control and ownership of their ag data. 

How well an ATP addresses data issues in their contracts makes a difference.  Do contracts with ATPs matter?  Absolutely.  When asked whether the terms governing the use of ag data are important when selecting an ATP, 67% said this was important or very important.  Only 14% of farmers said this was not important at all. 

Most farmers remain unaware of how their data is used.  When farmers were asked if they are aware of the ways in which an ATP will use their data, 78% of farmers answered “no.”  The lack of trust remains high. 

Most farmers are embracing new technology.  In spite of the depressed commodity prices this year, gloomy outlook, and lack of trust with ATPs, farmers remain the eternal optimists.  77% of farmers said they plan on investing in new technology in the next three years on their farms.

AFBF's conclusion to this survey is that farmers want control of the information their equipment collects. "We asked our members what they thought about data, and it is clear that boosting farmer confidence in security and data management will be critical to unlocking the potential this technology holds," says Zippy Duvall, AFBF president.

My takeaway from the survey is that ATPs have a lot of work to educate and convince farmers that sharing and using ag data with persons off-the-farm is a safe and smart thing to do. Farmers want to use the new technology, but first ATPs need to create guiding principles, contracts, and policies that are simple, easy to understand, and communicate what actually happens to farmers’ data. 

The new ag data survey of about 400 farmers and ranchers was conducted from January through April 2016. Additional highlights can be found at: www.fb.org/tmp/uploads/BigDataSurveyHighlights.pdf

To read more about efforts to bring transparency to ag data contracts, please read about the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator.