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Monsanto, DuPont Meet With Farm Bureau About Big Data


The American Farm Bureau Federation met Thursday with Monsanto and several other agribusiness companies, such as DuPont and John Deere, to talk about the use of big data in agriculture.

The meeting comes as farmers grapple with whether to share information with major agricultural businesses.

The Farm Bureau had been warning farmers to be cautious as Monsanto and DuPont rolled out new data services. Those services use farmers’ information, including crop yields, to determine the best seeds to use and how much to plant.

That information is stored in the cloud, leaving some farmers with concerns about privacy.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said Thursday's meeting was the first time the major players in big agricultural data have met.

“I view that as a huge positive,” he said. “This is going to be evolving. This is an evolutionary process and that’s why it’s probably important to continue this discussion and collaboration among these groups.

Many farmers view yield data as valuable and have questioned whether they should be compensated for it. If used in aggregate form, the Farm Bureau has questioned whether agriculture companies might influence markets.

“The discussion isn’t compensation per se but its value,” Stallman said. “What do these new systems create in terms of value and how is that value shared and who benefits from that value.” 

Stallman said the group will continue to talk in the next few months and could create a formal structure.

Monsanto said in a statement that the meeting was positive and an important conversation that will contribute to the success of emerging technologies.

The company launched FieldScripts this year in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Indiana. The service helps farmers decide the best seed to use and how much should be planted where. Monsanto also bought Climate Corporation for $1 billion last fall. That company uses weather forecasts and other data to help farmers decide when to plant, when to apply fertilizer and pesticides, and when to harvest.

Monsanto has said any data it receives from farmers belongs to individual growers and will not be shared with third parties. The company also said farmers can delete their data at any time.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.