A survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows more farmers are reaping the benefits of the latest agricultural technologies, but most remain wary of risks involved with big data collection. Fully 77.5 percent of farmers surveyed said they feared regulators and other government officials might gain access to their private information without their knowledge or permission. Nearly 76 percent of respondents said they were concerned others could use their information for commodity market speculation without their consent.

“We want to be sure that farmers’ and ranchers’ data are protected, and we’re asking the hard questions to make sure that happens,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “Farmers should know who owns their data and how they plan to use it. It’s up to companies that collect the data to make all that clear.” Farmers overwhelmingly agree: More than 81 percent believe they retain ownership of their farm data, according to Farm Bureau. Yet, it’s still unclear to most (more than 82 percent) how companies intend to use the farmers’ data.

Farmers say they are getting positive results from using precision technologies that collect weather data, track seed varieties, analyze nutrient applications and map crop yields. Those surveyed indicated the use of precision technology has reduced the cost of seed, fertilizer and pesticides by an average of 15 percent, and increased crop yields by an average of 13 percent. More than half of the survey respondents who are actively farming indicated that they plan to invest in new or additional precision and data technology in the next year or two.

“Agriculture technology providers must be diligent in protecting farmers’ data and transparent in their contracts about how their data will be used,” AFBF’s Stallman said.

The survey was conducted from late July to early September. Reponses were received from 3,380 farmers.

A summary of all questions asked can be found at http://bit.ly/1ny9AZX.