By Amy Skoczlas Cole

The Difference Maker

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June 5, 2024

Data is the currency of the climate-smart economy. It’s something that I say in nearly every conversation about conservation agriculture and its impact on the environment. 

But, while data’s importance may be undisputable, everything that comes after that raises more questions. Take, for instance, findings from our recent report, “Farmer Perspectives on Data” that we produced with The Sustainability Consortium. That report underscoresthat inconsistences in data reporting—between both row crop farmers and hog producers—are making it nearly impossible to track critical metrics through the pork value chain.  

Underlining these findings, I am struck, again, by two articles published by Farm Journal’s PORK detailing initiatives that industry leaders, PIC (Pig Improvement Company) and National Pork Board, are undertaking to quantify pig genetics data using metrics from life-cycle assessments. From their perspectives, these assessments could potentially open doors to farmers and create alternative incomes streams through quantifying and monetizingcarbon. 

Research shows-time and time again-that farmers are not unwilling to capture data. In fact, many are collecting data every day in their operations. The big hurdle that needs to be addressed topropel adoption of both data collection and data sharing comes down to trust. 

Farmers need to trust that they are collecting and sharing the right data with the right partners for the right reasons.   

Streamlining data collection is one critical step. It will go a long way with producers if they can connect the dots not only between the data they are collecting and agronomic success on their farms, but to additional revenue streams. “Farmer Perspectives on Data” found that half of both row crop and hog farmers said they would be willing to share data if it opened the door to new market opportunities.

But, in order to gain the full spectrum of benefit from farm-level data, we need to gain the full trust of farmers.

I encourage you to read the “Farmer Perspectives on Data” report. I also recommend learning more from the insights of PORK Editor Jennifer Shike in Data Makes the Difference: PIC Seeks Answers to Environmental Impact of Genetics and How Valuing Carbon Could Open Doors for Pork Producers.   

As for Shike’s headline, “Data Makes the Difference” – I definitely agree. But, I think that, for farmers, while data may make a difference, trust is the catalyst needed to make the difference.

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