A common concern for growers when working with an Agricultural Technology Provider (ATP) is that their data may be used by that ATP to benefit itself in the marketplace. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it is illegal for businesses to act together in ways that can limit competition, lead to higher prices, or hinder other businesses from entering the market. The 12th farm data principle outlined in the American Farm Bureau “Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data” highlights Unlawful or Anti-Competitive Activities in which “ATPs should not use the data for unlawful or anti-competitive activities, such as a prohibition on the use of farm data by the ATP to speculate in commodity markets”. The primary concern is that a company could use farm data (however it is access) to market various crops or influence input sales.
Within the agreement or terms and conditions between a grower and their ATP(s), there should be an explicit statement regarding the prohibition of anti-competitive activities. If the contract does not specifically mention these unlawful or anti-competitive activities, one should be on guard for wording that could disguise these type of actions. For example, verbiage that mentions being exclusive to one particular ATP, discriminatory pricing practices that appear as pricing based on the amounts or quality of data being managed, and requirements that a grower must purchase additional services in order to use basic ones. By being knowledgeable about what activities constitute unlawful or anti-competitive behavior, growers can be better prepared when entering into contract agreements with an ATP.