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Coalition Urges Support of Agriculture Data Act of 2018

A letter to U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has been signed by a bipartisan coalition of 28 producers, national and state commodity groups, supply chain companies, and environmental and conservation groups urging the pair to support the Agriculture Data Act of 2018 (S. 2487).

The bill would strengthen the USDA’s management of producer data so that it can be used to study the impacts of farm conservation practices such as cover crops, no-till farming, and more, while protecting the privacy of farmers. It was introduced by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).  

The Agriculture Data Act of 2018, say the signatories of the letter, will increase understanding about how on-farm conservation practices impact farm and ranch profitability, soil health, water quality, crop yields, and risk. Above all, the bill will allow USDA to use existing data to support research and analysis that will strengthen the crop insurance program and ensure it remains defensible.
 
“The wide support for this legislation illustrates that the ag community recognizes the need to better leverage USDA’s vast data resources for the benefit of American producers and trusted agricultural researchers while protecting producer privacy,” says Former Deputy Secretary of USDA and AGree Co-Chair Jim Moseley. “We applaud Senators Thune and Klobuchar for legislation that will enable USDA to work across its many agencies and support credentialed researchers in connecting the dots between conservation practices, crop yields, and soil health. This is common-sense legislation that we urge members of both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to support.”
 
The legislation will create a secure data warehouse to collect and aggregate agricultural data, improve procedures for greater data interoperability, create opportunities for producers to voluntarily elect to participate in additional research and data-generation activities. It will also introduce strong safeguards prohibiting the sale of data and requiring published research to release only aggregated data to provide anonymity to individual farmers.
 
The Agriculture Data Act of 2018 builds on the recommendations developed by AGree’s Conservation and Crop Insurance Task Force, a group of leading researchers, academics, former USDA leaders, producers, and representatives from farm-based and environmental NGOs. It has worked since 2013 to develop innovative strategies to remove roadblocks and increase adoption of conservation practices through federal crop insurance and conservation programs.

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