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Schweitzer: Ag Data Should Be Public

Ag data being harvested from producers should be publicly available to avoid market manipulation, Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer told members of the Montana Legislature’s Interim Committee on Economic Affairs last week in Helena.

The committee has been tasked with how ag data is collected and used after legislation was introduced during the 2023 Legislative Session. Protecting producers’ data is a priority issue for Montana Farmers Union.

Montana should have a plan in place to ensure that agricultural data harvested by manufacturers cannot be used to the detriment of farmers, that farmers and ranchers are protected from commercial misuse of this data, and that fair commodity prices are protected.

Often data is harvested through precision ag tools without farmers’ knowledge.

“Even if the companies agree to not use or sell this data it can be hacked,” Schweitzer said. The aggregated data also presents opportunities for bad actors to take advantage of commodity markets, at the expense of family farmers and ranchers. The data allows people to figure out acres planted, conditions, yield and quality of crops in real time.

“The USDA statistics service spends a great deal of money and time collecting this information by requesting farmers to fill out surveys. They keep this data top secret until a date certain when they release this info publicly, so no one has inside information on the condition of each crop. If traders have access to this data before the release date, they can position themselves in the commodity futures markets to make money for their clients. This is very valuable data to commodity traders and purchasers of commodities,” Schweitzer told committee members.

“I appreciate the Committee taking the time to study this issue. They had some good questions, and I trust they will work together to come up with a solution to make sure farmers are not taken advantage of by bad actors,” Schweitzer said.

Read more about core principles for ag data collection at https://www.agdatatransparent. com/.

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