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The Path to Agricultural Data Innovation: Webinar on Models for Modernizing Agriculture Data Infrastructure

5 August 2022

Data innovation is necessary to address a growing number of critical short and long-term issues facing the food and agriculture sector, including agricultural production, environmental sustainability, nutrition assistance, food waste, supply chain disruptions, and food and farm labor. More data than ever is being collected on farms through precision agriculture technology and through administering public and private farm programs. However, this information remains mostly siloed and therefore unusable for public research to improve on-farm decision making and public policy decisions.

We recognize that data is fundamental to making policy improvements, policy that brings better value to the taxpayer, and better results to the farmer. – Deborah Atwood, AGree

On June 9th, AGree hosted a webinar bringing together data and agriculture experts to discuss how the agriculture sector can take steps to modernize public data infrastructure. Staff from AGree and the Data Foundation discussed a recently released white paper Modernizing Agriculture Data Infrastructure to Improve Economic and Ecological Outcomes, that presents four potential models for USDA to better store, integrate, and share agriculture data, drawing on models used in other sectors.

The discussion was moderated by Deborah Atwood, AGree Strategic Advisor. Panelists included:

  • Robert Blair, Owner, Three Canyon Farms
  • Rob Myers, Director, University of Missouri Center for Regenerative Agriculture
  • Laurie Ristino, General Counsel, Meridian Institute (paper co-author)
  • Katie Howell, Policy and Research Analyst, Data Foundation

A major theme of the panel was the concern from both farmers and policymakers that farmers’ proprietary business information will be protected. Katie Howell discussed statues that currently exist to protect information privacy, and how these interact with each of the four models explored in the white paper. Rob Myers and Robert Blair shared how USDA can build trust with farmers and develop an information system that benefits the entire agricultural community.

We have to build a good record of trust with data… the Agriculture Innovation Act is the foundation of that. – Rob Myers, University of Missouri

The Agriculture Innovation Act, introduced by Senator John Thune of South Dakota and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, would direct USDA to identify, collect, link, and analyze data on conservation and other production practices to determine the impacts of these practices on enhancing crop yields, soil health, and ecosystem services, reducing risk, and improving working land profitability. It would also direct USDA to make anonymized and aggregated data available through the secure data center to trusted academic institutions and researchers for research, analysis, and evaluation.

AGree is working to educate lawmakers and agriculture stakeholders about this important legislation, in advance of the 2023 Farm Bill.

Read the White Paper