Legislative Action News November 18, 2014

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The 10 Principles of Big Data Agreement Outlined

A coalition of major farm organizations and agriculture technology providers (ATPs) announced an agreement on data privacy and security principles earlier this month. The coalition supporting the principles includes: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Beck’s Hybrids, Dow AgroSciences LLC, DuPont Pioneer, John Deere, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, Raven Industries, The Climate Corporation – a division of Monsanto, and USA Rice Federation.

The 10 principles are:

  • Ownership: The group believes that farmers own information generated on their farming operations. However, farming is complex and dynamic and it is the responsibility of the farmer to agree upon data use and sharing with the other stakeholders with an economic interest such as the tenant, landowner, cooperative, owner of the precision agriculture system hardware, and/or ATP etc. The farmer contracting with the ATP is responsible for ensuring that only the data they own or have permission to use is included in the account with the ATP.
  • Collection, Access and Control: An ATP’s collection, access and use of farm data should be granted only with the affirmative and explicit consent of the farmer. This will be by contract agreements, whether signed or digital.
  • Notice: Farmers must be notified that their data is being collected and about how the farm data will be disclosed and used. This notice must be provided in an easily located and readily accessible format.
  • Third-party access and use: Farmers and ranchers also need to know who, if anyone, will have access to their data beyond the primary ATP and how they will use it.
  • Transparency and Consistency: ATPs shall notify farmers about the purposes for which they collect and use farm data. They should provide information about how farmers can contact the ATP with any inquiries or complaints, the types of third parties to which they disclose the data, and the choices the ATP offers for limiting its use and disclosure. An ATP’s principles, policies and practices should be transparent and fully consistent with the terms and conditions in their legal contracts. An ATP will not change the customer’s contract without his or her agreement.
  • Choice: ATPs should explain the effects and abilities of a farmer’s decision to opt in, opt out or disable the availability of services and features offered by the ATP. If multiple options are offered, farmers should be able to choose some, all, or none of the options offered. ATPs should provide farmers with a clear understanding of what services and features may or may not be enabled when they make certain choices.
  • Portability: Within the context of the agreement and retention policy, farmers should be able to retrieve their data for storage or use in other systems, with the exception of the data that has been made anonymous or aggregated and is no longer specifically identifiable. Non-anonymized or non-aggregated data should be easy for farmers to receive their data back at their discretion.
  • Data Availability: ATPs agree they should provide for the removal, secure destruction and return of original farm data from the ATP, and any third party with whom the ATP has shared the data, upon request by the account holder or after a pre-agreed period of time.
  • Market Speculation: ATPs will not use farm data to illegally speculate in commodity markets.
  • Liability & Security Safeguards: The ATP should clearly define terms of liability. Farm data should be protected with reasonable security safeguards against risks such as loss or unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification or disclosure. Policies for notification and response in the event of a breach should be established.

More information here.


Fed Banks: US Farmland Values Steady, Weakness Ahead

Christine Stebbins | Reuters — “Forty-nine percent of the responding bankers predicted a decrease in the volume of farmland transfers relative to the fall and winter of a year ago, while only 11 percent predicted an increase,” the Chicago Fed said. Read more.


What to expect: 2014 Election Brings Change to House and Senate Agriculture Committees

The next session of Congress will bring new Chairs to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.  House Chairman Lucas (R-OK) is term limited, under Republican conference rules, from continuing to be Chair.  Even though he isn’t next in line in seniority, Congressman Conaway (R-TX) is rumored to become the next House Agriculture Committee Chair.  Congressman Peterson (D-MN) was re-elected and is expected to remain ranking member.

Current Senate Agriculture Committee Chair, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will most likely become the ranking member as the Republicans now control the Senate. Senator Roberts (R-KS) will most likely become the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee as Senator Cochran (R-MS) will resume the Chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Currently there are 11 Democrats and 9 Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee. That ratio will change with the Republicans gaining seats as the Democrats lose seats to reflect the change in majority. Not returning to the Committee for certain are Senators Harkin (D-IA), Walsh (D-MT), Chambliss (R-GA) and Johanns (R-NE). Other Senators may elect different committee assignments as well.  Only 1 Republican is not returning to the House Agriculture Committee for certain, McAllister (R-LA) while at least 4 Democrats will not return McIntyre (D-NC), McLeod (D-CA), Gallego (D-TX), Enyart (D-IL).  Other members may choose to leave for other assignments and the number of seats held by each party could change as the Republicans picked up House seats overall, increasing their majority.


Washington Week Ahead: Focus on Keystone XL Pipeline

Daniel Enoch | Agri-Pulse.com — Much of rural America will be paying close attention to the U.S. Senate this week as lawmakers prepare for a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would carry heavy crude oil from Canada’s Alberta tar sands, North Dakota and Montana through the U.S. midsection to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Read more.


ARC/PLC Coverage Selection Starts November 17, 2014

The selection period for producers that have the opportunity to choose between the new 2014 Farm Bill established programs, Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), begins November 17, 2014, and continues through March 31, 2015. Now through Feb. 27, 2015, farm owners may visit their local FSA office to update yield history and/or reallocate base acres.

USDA helped create online tools to assist in the decision process, allowing producers to enter information about their operation and see projections that show what ARC and/or PLC will mean for them under possible future scenarios. Farm owners and producers can access the online resources, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.


The Question: WOTUS

Terri L Jensen | Lands of American Magazine — WOTUS (Waters of the US) is the on-going challenge to regulate water pollution — the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and Army Corp of Engineers have been tasked with this challenge.  The original Rivers & Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 protected navigation and protected some waters from discharge of pollution.  In 1948, the Federal Water Pollution Act called for programs eliminating or reducing the pollution of interstate waters and tributaries thereof, and improving the sanitary condition of surface and underground waters.  The current Clean Water Act (CWA) was established by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, which were substantially amended in 1977 and 1987. Read more.