U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, this week joined Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), also a member of the Agriculture Committee, in introducing bipartisan legislation to improve agriculture data research of conservation practices to help farmers reduce risk and increase profitability. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently manages and stores valuable producer data, but the data can be better utilized to inform producers’ understanding about which conservation practices reduce risk and improve profitability. Individual producer data would be kept confidential and secure, and, under the provisions of this legislation, it would never be publicly divulged.
“One of the greatest challenges with applying the most effective conservation practices, like cover crops on working lands, is measuring the economic value these practices can provide, such as increased crop yields on subsequent crops,” said Thune. “This legislation would help farmers and land-grant universities better utilize USDA’s massive collection of conservation data and enable them to choose the best conservation practices that would improve productivity on farming operations.”
“Farmers sustain an important pillar of our nation’s economy, and do so under unpredictable market and weather conditions year-to-year,” said Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure hardworking farmers are able to capitalize on the United States Department of Agriculture’s vast resources to streamline their operations, enhance yields, and increase profits.”
“Conservation is a key element of South Dakota’s production agriculture landscape, and there’s an urgent need to learn more about the value of conservation practices in enhancing crop production, improving soil health, and reducing risk,” said Lisa Richardson, executive director of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. “The Agriculture Data Act of 2018 could provide land-grant universities, such as South Dakota State University, better access to USDA-compiled conservation data, resulting in more accurate recommendations for conservation practices and precision agriculture tools that are most beneficial for crop production and soil health.”
The Agriculture Data Act would direct the secretary of agriculture to collect, collate, integrate, and link data relating to the impacts of covered conservation practices on enhancing crop yields, soil health, and otherwise reducing risk and improving farm and ranch profitability. It would also give the secretary of agriculture the authority to establish a secure, confidential cloud-based conservation and farm productivity data warehouse to store operational, transactional, and administrative program databases and records that support business, statistical, and other analysis.
The Agriculture Data Act could create savings through accurate economic assessments of conservation practices, which may result in lower crop insurance premiums due to improved yields and reduced indemnities on land where covered conservation practices were applied.