The AGree Coalition works closely with Congress and USDA to shape policies that support greater data integration and analysis—and help farmers make important land management decisions.
ADVANCING 2018 FARM BILL SUCCESSES
During 2018 Farm Bill negotiations, AGree successfully lobbied for language directing USDA to “generate a report identifying available Departmental data sets on conservation practices and the effect of such practices on farm and ranch profitability, including effects relating to crop yields and soil health.”
In June 2019, the AGree Coalition convened a diverse group of land grant university researchers, USDA data managers, and AGree Coalition members to think through the challenges and opportunities in implementing this language. Meeting participants identified key USDA datasets, explored challenges to facilitating this access, and identified protocols, procedures, and systems USDA could pursue to enable access to data sets by university researchers.
On Friday, January 17, USDA released this farm bill mandated report on USDA data access. The report outlines that USDA has the ability to share data with external researchers on a limited basis under the “technical guidance” language in Section 1619. We believe that this report is a step in the right direction towards clarifying ways that USDA can facilitate data access for researchers to answer producers’ questions about conservation practices.
AGRICULTURE DATA PILOT PROJECT
In order to help USDA develop secure data-sharing protocols in connection with its agricultural data report, AGree developed a pilot project proposal to analyze USDA data from six states—Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, and South Dakota. In conjunction with other datasets, the pilot will assess whether the implementation of cover cropping and no-till practices affected the number of prevent plant acres in 2019.
In addition to the study’s findings about the relationship between no-till, cover cropping, and farm outcomes, this pilot will provide a model for future data sharing that can answer the profitability, productivity, and environmental sustainability questions of American agricultural producers.
Our pilot has received support from senior leadership within USDA and on Capitol Hill. On March 12, Senators John Thune and Debbie Stabenow introduced the Cover Crop Flexibility Act, which directs USDA to complete our study. In response, we published a letter supporting the bill. We are currently working to establish a legal mechanism for cooperation with USDA, with the intent to begin the analysis in mid-2020.
The Coalition will continue to work closely with Congress and USDA, shaping policies that will support greater data integration and analysis—and help farmers make important land management decisions.