Agricultural Data

The collection and analysis of data about agricultural practices and farm profitability are essential to demonstrate the connections between conservation practices, agricultural risk, and farm profitability. This information can be used to both inform agricultural policy, crop insurance ratings, technical assistance programs at USDA, and farmer decision-making.

The AGree E2 Coalition works closely with Congress and USDA to shape policies that support agricultural data innovation while protecting producer privacy.

Conservation and Crop Insurance Research Pilot

The AGree E2 Coalition is currently implementing a research pilot to analyze USDA and third-party datasets to understand how current and historic cover crop and/or no-till practices affected whether fields could be planted in 2019, when they could be planted, and the yield that was obtained. This research pilot establishes a framework for collaboration between USDA and land grant universities in order to facilitate research that will assist USDA in carrying out its missions in the areas of conservation and crop risk management.

Progress on Conservation and Crop Insurance Research Pilot

The research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, led by Dr. Bruce Sherrick, is currently working to process and combine data from satellite image sources, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Risk Management Agency (RMA). It is expected the research will be completed in early 2022 and results will be summarized in a joint publication between the University of Illinois and USDA and submitted to an academic journal for peer review and publication.  See below our October 2021 status update on the pilot’s progress.

Update on Research Pilot

Frequently Asked Questions

For more detailed information about the research pilot, how it is being implemented, the stakeholders involved, and how the research team is protecting data privacy, read our Frequently Asked Questions. Additional questions about this pilot study should be directed to Deborah Atwood at DAtwood@merid.org.

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ADVANCING 2018 FARM BILL SUCCESSES

This pilot research is the culmination of several years of work conducted by the AGree E2 Coalition to promote data innovation at USDA to help support its overarching mission of driving broader adoption of agricultural conservation practices.

In 2018, The AGree E2 Coalition supported the Agriculture Data Act of 2018 when it was introduced by Senators Thune and Klobuchar. This effort led to language in the Farm Bill to 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 January 2020, USDA released this farm bill mandated report on USDA data access. The report outlined that USDA has the ability to share data protected by law with external researchers for the purposes of technical or financial assistance to USDA and called for a pilot study to demonstrate this mechanism. This language in the 2018 Farm Bill and USDA’s report directly laid the groundwork for this research pilot.

This pilot has received bipartisan support from senior leadership within USDA and on Capitol Hill. In March 2020, Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the Cover Crop Flexibility Act, which directed USDA to complete our study. In response, we published a letter supporting the bill. In October 2020, USDA, Meridian Institute (AGree’s organizational home), and the University of Illinois signed a Memorandum of Agreement to implement the pilot.

Related Research

AGree has commissioned research exploring agriculture data innovations: