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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) In this blog piece, Callie Eideberg, a Senior Policy Manager, Ecosystems Sustainable Agriculture, for the Environmental Defense Fund, writes that for “big data to truly revolutionize agricultural productivity and sustainability, data needs to be accessible.” There have been enormous amounts of agricultural data already collected, both by the private and the public sector. The private sector has moved to capitalize on that data, providing farmers with ways to collect and interpret it via farm management software. The public sector has not been as quick or nimble. Much of the wealth of farmer data controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture sits in various agencies, which makes it cumbersome and difficult to access. But, says Eideberg, new proposed legislation from Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) would, if included in the next farm bill, knock down these data silos. Their bill, the Agricultural Data Act, directs the Agriculture Secretary to anonymize and aggregate farmer data into a single location. “The sky’s the limit on the sustainability and profitability value farmers will realize from researchers connecting the dots between data points about conservation practices, yield variability, and susceptibility to droughts and floods,” writes Eideberg. “In the near term, data can help farmers and advisers increase the efficiency of inputs, build soil health, and increase resilience to extreme weather.” Longer term, she adds, “improved quantification of the links between specific conservation practices and risk reduction will help strengthen the crop insurance program, measure environmental improvements and tell farmers’ sustainability story.”

Posted March 13th, 2018
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