AGRIBUSINESS: Farming Data Versus Farmer Privacy

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In the expanding field of precision agriculture, farmers are generating truly massive amounts of data. It's to their benefit: yield data, soil fertility maps, and soil maps, all are input by new technology and uploaded to remote servers. GPS technology can prevent double-planting in irregular-shaped fields and cuts back on input costs.

Monsanto acquired Precision Planting in 2012, and The Climate Corporation last year. The two companies have been folded into Monsanto's Integrated Farming Systems platform launching in Iowa this year.

Monsanto's Midwest Region Director of Community Affairs Dave Tierney says farmers who make use of the IFS platform submit data about their fields and get it back cross-referenced with Monsanto's research.

"Through IFS what we are now doing is putting it together in a form that we think farmers can use it. That'll really help them in their operation." He says through IFS they are marketing field scripts, "Field scripts puts together approximately 20 layers of information that is specifically for that farmers farm and for that specific field."

American Farm Bureau has been vocal in its reservations about uploading real-time information, which could prove invaluable to a trade system that still uses USDA surveys.

At the annual Farm Bureau convention in January, Iowa delegates were responsible for a new policy to protect farmer data from Freedom of Information Act Requests.

Last week Missouri Farm Bureau Member Brian Marshall testified to the House Committee on Small Business in Washington that AFB prefers to verify, rather than trust, that big ag companies won't share or sell farmer data.