Matt Bechdol, president of GeoSilos, talked about opportunities and cautions related to big data, which includes using technology to aggregate large quantities of information about agriculture production.
Proponents say it could help shape decisions that will improve crop yields, reduce production costs and manage risk among many other things. Still, there are concerns.
“We (the farming community) tend to be a very modest, very private group but society in general is trending away from privacy. You have to work very hard to be private anymore. I say it very bluntly that the idea of privacy is just about dead,” Bechdol said.
Bechdol said privacy concerns have led to good questions from farmers about how their data is handled. He said big data entities are beginning to do a better job of listening to feedback from farmers and having an open conversation about what their privacy policies are and what they do with data.
“I think that transparency will come and with that transparency will come far more acceptance of what we are doing with data, and I think it will come very quick,” he said.
Terry Fleck, executive director of the Center for Food Integrity, addressed what consumers think and feel about food and how it is produced. He explored why farmers’ social license to operate is being threatened, what being more transparent looks like and how to better address contentious issues. He gave farmers six steps to engaging with those who have questions about their food: listen and don’t judge, ask questions to invite dialogue, clarify their perspective, identify common values, share your perspective and determine next steps.
OFBF Executive Vice President Jack Fisher spoke about changes at Ohio State University and the environment that agriculture operates in on campus. He invited consideration of how to recruit the best and brightest students and faculty and provide the facilities on campus to support them.
“I want to reach out to all Ohioans, in particular farmers, farm families and leaders of our farm organizations, and say now is the time to engage with your university at all levels to look at what the 2014-2015 model of Ohio State University will look like from a land grant perspective,” Fisher said.
After the morning speakers, Ohio Farm Bureau’s Advisory Teams met. Advisory Teams are groups of Farm Bureau members that make policy and program recommendations to OFBF staff and state policy development team. The nine teams are agriculture education, dairy, energy, equine, feed grains, livestock, rural development, specialty crops, labor and water quality.
Advisory Team members also are asked to discuss their recommendations at county policy development meetings and make program recommendations to county boards.