“Codes of conduct help include smallholder farmers in decision making, policy design, and enhancement of privacy protection and trust, as well as providing considerable economic and health benefits.”

Andre Laperriere
Executive director of GODAN 

Codes of conduct, voluntary guidelines and sets of principles around how to transparently govern farm data are a recent thing. While laws and regulations that govern personal data are becoming more and more common, legislation still does not cover data flows in many industries where different actors in the value chain need to share data while protecting all involved from the risks of data sharing. Data in these value chains is currently governed through private data contracts and licensing agreements, which are normally very complex and over which data producers have very little negotiating power.

Codes of conduct have started to emerge to fill the legislative void, setting common standards for data sharing contracts. Codes provide principles that the signatories agree to apply in their contracts. Farm data is an example of such sensitive data flows. Farm data flows go from the farm through many other actors (extensionists/ advisory service providers/ ag tech companies, farmers’ associations, financial service providers, government…), before returning – aggregated and combined and in the form of services – back to the farm. Such flows potentially open up sensitive data that should only be shared with specific actors under specific conditions, or should be anonymised in order to avoid harming the farmer’s interests and privacy. This is especially true in the case of smallholder farmers, whose farm data often coincides with household data and personal data, and who are in the weakest position to negotiate their data rights.

This online tool, therefore, also has another important practical purpose: providing the conceptual basis for general, scalable guidelines for everyone dealing with the production, ownership, sharing and use of data in agriculture.

Build your own code of conduct

We have created a tool to allow you to select Clauses that might be of relevence, letting you easily produce a printable and saveable Code of Conduct.

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Code of Conduct Kit

  1. A list of definitions that are relevant to the agricultural sector. For example: what types of data are going to be collected, what is considered to be personal data, agricultural data, individual farm data, raw data, aggregated data, data originator, data provider...

  2. It should be mentioned that farmers own information generated on their farming operations. In particular whoever has produced/collected the data either by technical means or by himself, or who has commissioned data providers for this purpose,  has  a leading role in controlling the access to and use of data from their business and to benefit from sharing the data with any partner that wishes to use their data. Providers should preserve the ability of the farmer to determine who can access and use individual farm data. However, it would be good for the farmer to agree upon data use and sharing with the other stakeholders with an economic interest, such as the tenant, landowner, cooperative, owner of the precision agriculture system hardware, and/or an Ag Tech Provider(ATP) etc.

  3. C​ollection, access and use of farm data should be granted only with the affirmative and explicit consent of the farmer. Via a contractual arrangement the collection, access, storage and use of agricultural data can be occurred only with the explicit informed permission of the data originator. Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous. In order to obtain freely given consent, it must be given on a voluntary basis. The element “free” implies a real choice by the farmer. Any element of inappropriate pressure or influence which could affect the outcome of that choice renders the consent invalid. For consent to be informed and specific, the farmer must at least be notified about the provider’s identity, what kind of data will be processed, how it will be used, to whom it will be disclosed and the purpose of the processing. The farmer must also be informed about his or her right to withdraw consent anytime.

  4. Providers must only collect, use and share farm data for the purposes that have made clear to the farmer. No reuse of data is allowed for different purposes than those that had been originally agreed.

  5. Data originators(​farmers) must be notified that their data is being collected and about how and to whom the farm data will be disclosed.

  6. Data originators(farmers) should be notified about what types of farm data is being collected, as well the purposes for which agribusinesses, Ag.Tech Providers(ATP’s) collect, use and share data in a more transparent way (e.g. algorithms).In addition information should be provided about how farmers can contact e.g. the ATP’s with any inquiries or complaints, be also aware of the third parties to which their data is disclosed and any risks that may affect farmers who share data with the providers.

    All agribusinesses’, ATP’s policies, principles and practices should be transparent and consistent with the terms and conditions in the legal contacts. No contract change can be effective without the other party’s agreement. 

  7. Within the context of the agreement and retention policy, the data originator (farmer) should be able to have the following rights:

    • Right to portability:  Data providers should be responsible for making individual farm data easily available to farmers.
    • Farmers should be able to retrieve their individual farm data in both processed(cleaned) and unprocessed form for storage or use in other systems, with the exception of the data that has been made anonymous or aggregated and is no longer specifically identifiable.
    • Right to remove, destroy, erase (the right to be forgotten) or return data to the data originator.
  8. Providers should recognise the originator’s right to benefit or be compensated for the use of data they originated.

  9. An agribusiness, an Ag.Tech.Provider( ATP) will not sell and/or disclose   individual farm data to a third party without first securing a legally binding commitment to be bound by the same terms and conditions as the ATP has with the farmer. Farmers must be notified if such sale is going to take place and have the option to opt out or have their data removed prior to that sale. An ATP will not share or disclose original farm data with a third party in any manner that is inconsistent with the contract with the farmer. If the agreement with the third party is not the same as the agreement with the ATP, farmers must be presented with the third party’s terms for agreement or rejection.

  10. ​Each agribusiness, ATP should provide for the removal, secure   destruction and return of individual farm data from the farmer’s account upon the request   of the farmer or after a pre-agreed period of time. The ATP should include a requirement that farmers have access to the data that an ATP holds during that data retention period.

  11. Farmers must be given the possibility to opt out of the contract and terminate the collection and usage of their data provided that it's stated in the contract and the data originator is informed about the consequences. Procedures for termination of services should be clearly defined in the contract.

  12. Data should not be used for unlawful or anti-competitive activities, such as misuse of power and information for farmers?? A prohibition on the use of farm data by the agribusinesses, ATP’s to speculate in commodity markets.

  13. The contract should mention farmer’s privacy, security and confidentiality responsibilities and measures that data users/providers should take. Farm data should be protected with security safeguards against risks such as loss or unauthorised access, destruction, use, modification or disclosure. Notification policies and measures in the event of a breach should be established.

  14. Terms of liability should be defined. The contract should also acknowledge the rights of all parties to protect sensitive information via restrictions on further use or processing. Protection of sensitive data such as personal/financial data, confidential information, trade secrets, intellectual property rights against tampering should be ensured.

  15. Providers should be responsible for making a clear contract and easily understandable to farmers. Contracts for ag data should use simple and plain language.

    In addition contracts  will clearly specify: (1) important terms and definitions, (2) the purpose of collecting, sharing, and processing data, (3) rights and obligations of parties related to data, (4) information related to storage and use of ag data; (5) verification mechanisms for the data originator; and (6) transparent mechanisms for adding new uses. 

  16. Data certification schemes develop transparency and trust around data uses. How to monitor a code or accreditation requirements. Establishment of an independent Supervisory Authority that could evaluate, if the contracts comply with these principles. Compliance with the codes of conduct should be rewarded. All stakeholders who respect these principles should submit their contracts and policies for evaluation by an audit team of an independent accredited organization. Upon evaluation a certificate of compliance will be issued.