Commodity Classic Q&A: Ag Data Transparency Evaluator Todd Janzen

Things tend to move rather quickly in the ag data world. Just a couple weeks ago attorney Todd Janzen announced the launch of the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator from the floor of Commodity Classic 2016 down in New Orleans, and already the first Ag Data Transparent seal has been awarded to Independent Data Management’s MyAgData acreage reporting service and Conservis Corporation.

Janzen and the American Farm Bureau Federation’s new tool analyzes contract terms and conditions set forth by various Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS) to address the concerns many growers are having with the data policies set forth by the FMIS.

I caught up with Janzen down in New Orleans for a brief chat, here’s some of the highlights:

PrecisionAg.com (PA): Why this project, right now?

Todd Janzen (TJ): “You know one of the things that American Farm Bureau and other groups have determined when they’ve done surveys with farmers is there’s just a high level of mistrust among farmers around what happens to their data after they send it into the cloud with a lot of these companies. So they (AFBF) started thinking about ways to fix that problem because you want people to use the modern technology that’s out there. This is one of the tools we are all hoping puts farmers at ease with respect to farm data.”

PA: What are your day-to-day responsibilities, as they pertain to ag data?

TJ: “A number of my clients are precision ag companies and they have me write their privacy policies, their terms of use, so I practice in that space so it’s sort of a natural fit for me.”

PA: Explain a little bit about the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator process and how it works.

TJ: “Let’s say you have a startup Agricultural Technology Provider (ATP), and you say I want to use this seal of approval on my products so that farmers know I am being honest and transparent with them. You would fill out these ten questions, send them in for evaluation, the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator does the evaluation and if your policies say what you are answering in the questions then you get to use the seal for one year. If at any time you change your policies you have to reapply.”

PA: Why have them reapply every time they change policies? Won’t that get confusing since a lot of these guys change policies on a monthly basis?

TJ: “One of the problems I think farmers have is these companies are always updating their terms or use and privacy policies, right? So every time a farmer logs on they have to go back and re-read every policy. Well, if they go through this certification process so they can get the Ag Data Transparency seal they can’t change their policy again unless they go through the entire process again. So I’m hopeful that that means companies will start saying let’s introduce our new policies for this year on January 1st instead of every few months. Its still up to them, they can do it whenever, but that’s my hope that one of things that comes out of this process is a standardization of when those data policy updates take place.”

PA: Have you experienced any push back on this from the big data players? What would a successful Year One for the program look like in your mind?

TJ: “All of these companies, I think, are faced with the same issue: convincing growers that they should let go of their data and trust that these companies are going to do the right thing, so they’re all on board with it because they want farmers to trust them. If this is a way to gain trust, they say sign me up. I would say success in year one would be to have at least 25 companies go through this process.”

PA: Any tips for growers today that are looking at different FMIS data management options?

TJ: “I would say look at these ten questions (for the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator). These are good questions to ask the salesman when he says ‘give us your data.’ You can go through the ten questions with the salesman and ask them how would you guys answer this? I’d also say, a good question to always ask is, after I give you my data, can I get it back? Is this the only copy you have?”

More information on the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator can be found at www.fb.org/agdatatransparent.

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