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Maysville Farmer Speaks to Congressional Committee

Brian Marshall has embraced technology in his farming business, and is now outspoken about protecting the massive amount of data he collects in the field.
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Agriculture, just like industry, has evolved over the years.

"Agriculture used to be a living, but it was a way of life.  Then we evolved from it being a way of life to it's a business," explains agriculture business expert Bob Kelly, from MU Extension.

Kelly says that like any business, farming has entered the technology age.

"It's phenomenal all the things you can potentially use technology for," Kelly said.

Brian Marshall is a farmer from Maysville, in Dekalb County.

Like others in his field, Marshall has embraced many of the advancements that have come his way.

"We've seen a tremendous increase in technology in the past few years," he said.  "The amount of data we generate from our farms is tremendous."

That massive amount of data - information on soil moisture, fertility rates, even pests and threats to crops - is important to each farmer.

Marshall is in Washington, D.C., testifying to the House Committee for Small Business on getting support on protecting data collected on the farm.

"I want them to be aware that this issue exists," he said.  "This is something that's pretty recent in our industry.  I assume that most of them don't know about the tremendous amounts of data that we collect and the ability that it would have to move a market and bring things about.  So my purpose is to let them know about this issue."

The issue is protecting his business from the competition, more specifically making sure he keeps the raw data private.

"They can come in and they're using this technology to sell themselves, and it's because they mined your data," Kelly said.  "Then, yes there needs to be some form of protection in there.  And it's kind of implied that it's my data; if you want to use it, you need to ask my permission."

Marshall says it's amazing to see the accuracy and the improvement that they've made in the equipment he uses in the last few years.

He brags about having tractors that can steer themselves, about potentially using unmanned aircraft to manage his crops.

This is the first time Congress has held a hearing about the issue of agriculture data privacy, and it's an issue Brian Marshall says is pretty cut and dry.

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