Friday, May 29, 2015

Are Livestock Farmers Being Left Behind in Ag's Big Data Revolution?

The rapid spread of the avian flu across the Unites States has been cause for concern for a lot of farmers and consumers.  I can’t help but wonder whether wide-spread adoption of data collection and sharing by poultry farmers could have helped stop the spread of the avian flu.  Most of the focus on farm data the past few months has been on the impact on corn, soybean, wheat, canola, and cotton farmers.  I keep wondering when the big data solutions for livestock farmers will appear. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What Makes Agronomic Farm Data Different from Other Forms of Intellectual Property?

I often hear other attorneys say that agronomic farm data is just like other forms of intellectual property, and that the issues farmers are confronting have already been dealt with in other areas of law.  But the truth is that agronomic farm data is unlike any other form of property. Agronomic data is unique. As a result, how much protection the law will ultimately afford farmers for their agronomic data is an open question. This post explains why agronomic data is different than other forms of intellectual property.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Farm Machinery, Copyright, and the Right to Tinker

It may not be enumerated in the Bill of Rights, but the Right to Tinker with farm machinery is well embedded in America’s rural culture.  I grew up a first-hand witness to farm tinkering.  I still remember when my dad and Uncle Herman thought it would be a good idea to “marry” a header from a John Deere chopper onto a Farmhand silage cutter.  Farmhand made a good harvester, but a lousy header.  With some farm-engineering and a lot of welding, a new Farmhand/Deere silage cutter was created. The machine wasn't perfect, but it cut a lot of silage. It was the epitome of tinkering.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

John Deere Does Not Own Your Tractor.

WIRED magazine’s recent headline: “We can’t let John Deere destroy the very idea of ownership,” really got my attention.  The article’s premise is based upon John Deere’s recent comment to the US Copyright Office that farmers who buy a new John Deere tractor are granted an implied license to operate a tractor for the duration of its life.  Or as WIRED puts it:  “It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.”  I decided to dig a little deeper.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Does Your Co-Op Own Your Farm Data?

Recently I was asked this question:  When a farm cooperative (a “co-op”) does work for a farmer and in the process generates agronomic data, does the co-op own that data or does the farmer?   Many in the ag industry like to say “the farmer owns the data,” but the co-op’s generation of farm data presents a more complicated problem. Of course, if the co-op has a written contract that addresses ownership, this is a non-issue. (See my previous post for more on this: Co-Ops and Custom Applicators: Are You Addressing Farm Data?).  But who owns the data if there is no written contract?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Drones at the Speedway: A Presentation to The Racing Attorneys Conference (TRAC)

On April 15, 2015 I'll be on a panel discussing hot topics in the law at The Racing Attorneys Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I'll be talking about the legalities of unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) or "drones" in the motor racing industry. I've posted a link to my presentation here if you are unable to attend:

Drones at the Speedway: TRAC Conference Presentation

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Co-op and Custom Applicators: Are You Addressing Farm Data in Your Contracts?

Farmers will call up their local co-ops this year to help them fertilize and spray their fields.  These sprayers-for-hire will be recording what they do, but what happens to that data after that point?  Does the co-op have an obligation to provide that data to the farmer?  Does the co-op own the data generated on a farmer’s field? These questions need to be answered when farmers engage third parties to perform precision ag activities on their fields.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Big Data on the Farm: Legal Issues Surrounding Farm Data Ownership, Transfer, and Control

This Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 12:30 EDT, I'll be hosting a webinar titled "Big Data on the Farm: Legal Issues Surrounding Farm Data Ownership, Transfer, and Control."  The webinar is hosted by ThompsonReuters and geared towards a legal audience. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit is available for most states. More information below.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Don't Forget the Little Guy: FAA's Proposed Rules for "Micro" UAVs

Many articles have been written about the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) proposed rules for "small" unmanned aircraft systems ("small UAS" or "small UAVs"). But most authors have overlooked that the FAA is also considering special, less stringent rules for "micro" UAVs.  Micro UAVs weigh less than 4.4 lbs (small drones are less than 55 lbs.) and travel less than 35 mph (small drones are restricted to 100 mph).  This article takes a closer look at the FAA's proposal for micro-UAVs and its promise for agriculture.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ten Key Points to the FAA's Proposed Small UAV Rule

The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has released proposed rules that would govern the integration of “small” unmanned aircraft systems (“small UAS”) into the National Airspace System. The proposed rules specifically state that they would allow crop monitoring and inspection, aerial photography, and research and development—meaning commercial agricultural uses fall squarely within the new rule. Here is my summary of the proposed rule, followed by some suggestions to current and future drone operators.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Talking Big Data and Drones on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick

I was recently lucky enough to be interviewed by Gerry Dick for his television show Inside Indiana Business.  I was joined by Beck's Hybrid's Jim Shertzer who leads FARMserver, a web-based farm data storage and analysis tool.  These are exciting times for agriculture!  You can watch the video by following this link: Drones, Big Data, and Technology on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick.

Thanks Gerry for the opportunity to be on your show!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Defining "Big Data" in Agriculture

A recent comment on one of my articles addressing big data concerns in farm leases asked why I used the term "big data" instead of just "data." This got me thinking about the definition of "big data" and what the term really means with respect to agriculture.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Big Data in Farm Leases: When Landlord and Tenant Both Want the Data

In my last two posts, I discussed what provisions one might add to a farm lease when either the landlord or the tenant wants ownership of farm data generated during the lease. Another scenario arises when the landlord and tenant both want equal access to the farm data. In this situation, the lease should establish co-ownership rights. As a side note, I should mention that data analytic tools on the market at this time, like FARMserver, make this sharing of data between landlords and tenants extremely easy.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Big Data in Farm Leases: When the Landlord Wants Control

In my previous post, I discussed some ideas for drafting a lease to make sure that the tenant owns the farm data created during the lease. Another scenario arises when the landlord wants control of the farm data generated by the tenant. This might be the case where the landlord makes land management decisions, such as what to plant, how much fertilizer to apply, when to spray pesticides, etc. In this type of situation, different provisions need to be included in the lease than suggested in my previous post. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Does Your Lease Address Big Data?

I've drafted and reviewed dozens of farmland leases over the years, but I yet to see a lease that addresses the issues associated with ownership and transfer of farm data. As farmers embrace new data storage and analytic tools, it’s time to modernize the traditional farm lease to address farm data. This post begins a series of articles on how to address farm data ownership, privacy, and sharing, in a farm lease.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What You Need to Know about Farm Data Privacy

Here is my presentation to the Indiana Horticultural Congress on January 21, 2015.  You can follow along online by clicking below:

Farm Data Privacy:  What You Need to Know

Please check out other articles about the agriculture and technology on this blog.

Big Data on the Farm: Presentation to Indiana Farm Bureau

My January 20, 2015 presentation to Indiana Farm Bureau's District Meeting can be found by clicking on the following link:


Don't forget to also check out American Farm Bureau Federation's Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

FAA Approves Ag Drone Flights for One Company: Is Decision a Road Map for Others?

The Federal Aviation Administration has granted a Washington company (Advanced Aviation Solutions LLC) an exemption to fly unmanned aerial vehicles ("UAVs" or "drones") commercially for "precision agriculture" and "crop scouting" purposes.  In general, FAA regulations prohibit any person from flying a UAV in national airspace without an airworthiness certification (except for model aircraft flow under the "hobby" aircraft guidance document).  A person may seek to avoid airworthiness certification by seeking an exemption under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (“FMRA”).  To date, these exemptions have been issued sparingly.  This latest exemption, however, may provide other ag drone operators with a road map for obtaining their own exemption from current FAA regulations.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Year in Reverse: A Look Back at 2014

Each year I take a look back at the big legal stories in agriculture. This year, the usual wrangling over environmental and livestock issues took a back seat to drones and “big data.” These precision ag stories were everywhere.  But there was also a big fight over future environmental regulations, and that made my list too.  So here it is, my complete list of the top 5 legal ag issues from 2014.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Big Data and Drones at the IN/IL Farm Show

I'm presenting this year again at the Indiana/Illinois Farm Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Each year, Hoosier Ag Today hosts a series of seminars on different topics for attendees.  I'll be on stage on December 16, 2014 at 11:00 am. My presentation is called: "Data Privacy on the Farm: What You Need to Know." I'll talk about recent data privacy developments and drone news.  I'll be joined by Jim Shertzer and Jim Love from Beck's Hybrids, which recently launched its own data analytic tool: FARMserver.  More information can be found here:  IN/IL Farm Show Seminars.  I hope to see you there!

If you missed my presentation, you can find it here:  Data Privacy on the Farm: What You Need to Know.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Questions to Ask About Your Data Privacy Policy

AgGateway recently introduced its latest whitepaper on data privacy best practices for the agricultural industry. For those unfamiliar with AgGateway, it is a non-profit consortium of businesses serving the agriculture industry, with the mission “to promote, enable and expand eBusiness in agriculture.” AgGateway’s 200 members come from the crop protection, seed, grain, ag retail and other industries. AgGateway’s latest whitepaper provides not so much the “best practices” for ag technology providers, but a list of questions ag technology providers should ask when drafting their policies. These same questions are ones farmers should ask before clicking “I accept” the terms: 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) - Becoming a Part of Dr. Borlaug's Legacy

In November I was elected to serve on the Board of Representatives for the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology ("CAST").  CAST is a nonprofit organization composed of  representatives of the scientific societies, commercial companies, and nonprofit or trade organizations. CAST was established in 1972 as a result of a meeting sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council. Its members today come from universities (like Purdue, Iowa State, Kansas State), food and agricultural companies (like Elanco, Dow Agrosciences, Monsanto), scientific societies, and industry trade organizations (like National Pork Board).  I am the representative for the American Bar Association's Agricultural Management Committee.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Closer Look at Farm Data Ownership

A number of agriculture technology providers (ATPs) worked together recently to produce a document identifying core industry principles for data privacy and security on the farm.  (Read the core principles document here:  Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data).  One principle addressed ownership questions.  This principle is particularly important as it is the first step to resolving the often asked question:  “Who owns farm data?”  Although the answer to this question seems obvious to most people, the core principles document developed by industry stakeholders contains a more in-depth approach than merely concluding “the farmer owns the data.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data

A few people have asked me for a link to the farm data core principles document released by ag technology providers and industry trade organizations. Below is the entire document, which represents a collaboration of American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Beck’s Hybrids, Dow AgroSciences LLC, DuPont Pioneer, John Deere, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, Raven Industries, The Climate Corporation, and USA Rice Federation.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ag Industry Releases Core Principles for Farm Data Privacy

This past year some of America’s leaders in agricultural technology products worked together with American Farm Bureau Federation and industry trade organizations to come up with a set of core principles for data privacy. The principles identified should help these agriculture technology providers (ATPs) develop new privacy policies and ensure existing policies protect farmers’ privacy. Here is an abbreviated version of the of the core principles.