Modernizing Ag Data Infrastructure: A New Paper from AGree and the Data Foundation

2 May 2022

The AGree Initiative and the Data Foundation recently released a new white paper: Modernizing Agriculture Data Infrastructure to Improve Economic and Ecological Outcomes.

The paper highlights the necessity of data innovation to address a growing number of critical short and long-term food and agricultural issues, including agricultural production, environmental sustainability, nutrition assistance, food waste, and food and farm labor. It concludes by offering four practical options that are effective case studies for data acquisition, management, and use in other sectors.

Given the increasingly dynamic conditions in which the sector operates, the modernization of agricultural data collection, storage, and analysis will equip farmers, ranchers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with tools to adapt, innovate, and ensure a food-secure future.

We can improve the effectiveness of the farm bill and deliver better value for farmers and American taxpayers if we update the national agricultural data infrastructure now. There is an opportunity to improve how data is shared that will drive innovation in the sector. USDA is well positioned to provide leadership on this critical issue that will have important economic and environmental benefits.

Todd Barker, CEO of Meridian Institute, the institutional home of AGree

While USDA has made strides over the years, to truly unlock the potential of data to improve farm productivity and the resilience of rural communities, the department must establish a more effective data infrastructure, which will require addressing gaps in USDA’s mandate and authorities across its agencies and programs.

The white paper explores four options that are effective case studies for data acquisition, management, and use in other sectors:

  1. Centralized Data Infrastructure Operated by USDA
  2. Centralized Data Infrastructure Operated by a Non-Governmental Intermediary
  3. Data Linkage Hub Operated by a Non-USDA Agency in the Federal Government
  4. Contractual Model with Relevant Partners

Each of the models considered offers opportunities for collaboration with farmers and other stakeholders to ensure there are clear benefits and to address shortfalls in the current system. Careful consideration of the trade-offs of each option is critical given the dynamic weather and economic challenges the agriculture sector faces and the potential new economic opportunities that may be unlocked by harnessing the power of data.

In sum, the paper provides context for using data more effectively to address conservation and climate change issues in the agricultural sector.

It argues that modernizing the national data infrastructure for the agricultural sector is the linchpin to provide critical agricultural insights, improve the effectiveness of farm bill programs, and deliver better value for farmers and taxpayers. Realizing those benefits requires policy change and an orientation to using integrated data for analysis while ensuring important privacy and confidentiality protections are provided. Achieving these goals is possible. 

Read the full white paper HERE and REGISTER to join the AGree Initiative and the Data Foundation for a discussion about the report recommendations on June 9, at 12:00 p.m. ET.