An Indiana agriculture law specialist went to D.C. last week and testified on ag data before the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee. Their hearing spotlighted the role of technology in farming’s future. Data is a major part of that discussion and Todd Janzen of Janzen Ag Law explained during his testimony that there are several concerns about farmer data moving off the farm to technology providers.
“One is a lack of trust among farmers in these ag technology providers because they are giving up part of what makes up their livelihood,” he stated in opening remarks. “Second is a loss of control to these companies, and third would be frustration with the complexity of the legal agreements they’re asked to sign. Of course, farmers are no strangers to contracts. They sign things all the time, but now they’re being asked to check an ‘I accept’ box that has some pretty important consequences for what happens to their data, followed by pages and pages of legal type that they may or may not read.”
Janzen is the administrator of the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator, established by ag companies and industry groups to bring transparency to those data contracts. Companies can go through the evaluator to receive the Ag Data Transparent seal.
“I’m proud to say that eight companies have already been through the certification process and been awarded the Ag Data Transparent seal, but there is still a lot of work to be done here. There are still a lot of companies that should go through this certification process but haven’t as of today. There are still a lot of complex, complicated contracts that farmers are asked to sign and we can do better as a legal community to address that as well.”
Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford from Arkansas asked Janzen if the industry effort he administrates is sufficient or if Congress should get involved in developing data protection standards.
“Through the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator we’re filling a gap there, because we’re addressing those farmer concerns, that mistrust. If we have widespread participation in the industry then I feel like we are addressing the farmers’ concerns in a way that means there is no need for any additional legislation that would protect farm data.”
But he added, if the industry looks the other way and doesn’t give it the attention needed, and farmers’ trust issues continue, then it might be necessary to look into other measures.
See the testimony at the House Ag Committee YouTube channel.