Some of the biggest names in American agriculture, ranging from farmers' organizations to private companies like Monsanto and DuPont, have agreed on principles governing the use of data collected from farms.
That data increasingly drives farm operations. Tractors and combines carry sensors that record — and upload to the data "cloud" — what happens on each spot of a farmer's field, from how much fertilizer and seed it received to how much grain it produced to what type of soil is found there. That data, once analyzed, guides decisions about what seeds a farmer will plant.
Top agribusiness companies, including Monsanto, DuPont, John Deere and Dow, have moved into the information business, offering to help farmers collect that data and analyze it — for a price.
But some farmers are starting to worry about how that data will be used; whether, for instance, details of their operations will be open for all to see. Others wonder how the data companies will exploit their new-found ability to monitor what's happening on vast tracts of farmland.