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Farm Bill Prevents Sharing of Geospatial Data?

Posted by Dave Smith On 9/28/2008 12:16:00 PM 5 comments

I just came across this bit of disturbing information - a colleague was seeking historic aerial photographs from USDA, and was greeted with the following response:

"Please refer to Title 1, Subtitle F, Section 1619 titled "Information Gathering" on pages 256-259. This will give you the precise language of the 2008 Farm Bill which prevents FSA from providing geospatial information."

The bill is available here:

The pertinent language is below:


(a) GEOSPATIAL SYSTEMS.—The Secretary shall ensure that all the geospatial data of the agencies of the Department of Agriculture are portable and standardized.


(1) DEFINITION OF AGRICULTURAL OPERATION.—In this subsection, the term ‘‘agricultural operation’’ includes the production and marketing of agricultural commodities and livestock.

(2) PROHIBITION.—Except as provided in paragraphs (3) and (4), the Secretary, any officer or employee of the Department of Agriculture, or any contractor or cooperator of the Department, shall not disclose—
(A) information provided by an agricultural producer or owner of agricultural land concerning the agricultural operation, farming or conservation practices, or the land itself, in order to participate in programs of the Department; or
(B) geospatial information otherwise maintained by the Secretary about agricultural land or operations for which information described in subparagraph (A) is provided.

(A) LIMITED RELEASE OF INFORMATION.—If the Secretary determines that the information described in paragraph (2) will not be subsequently disclosed except in accordance with paragraph (4), the Secretary may release or disclose the information to a person or Federal, State, local, or tribal agency working in cooperation with the Secretary in any Department program—
(i) when providing technical or financial assistance with respect to the agricultural operation, agricultural land, or farming or conservation practices; or
(ii) when responding to a disease or pest threat to agricultural operations, if the Secretary determines that a threat to agricultural operations exists and the disclosure of information to a person or cooperating government entity is necessary to assist the Secretary in responding to the disease or pest threat as authorized by law.

(4) EXCEPTIONS.—Nothing in this subsection affects—
(A) the disclosure of payment information (including payment information and the names and addresses of recipients of payments) under any Department program that is otherwise authorized by law;
(B) the disclosure of information described in paragraph (2) if the information has been transformed into a statistical or aggregate form without naming any—
(i) individual owner, operator, or producer; or
(ii) specific data gathering site; or
(C) the disclosure of information described in paragraph (2) pursuant to the consent of the agricultural producer or owner of agricultural land.

(5) CONDITION OF OTHER PROGRAMS.—The participation of the agricultural producer or owner of agricultural land in, or receipt of any benefit under, any program administered by the Secretary may not be conditioned on the consent of the agricultural producer or owner of agricultural land under paragraph (4)(C).

The disclosure of information under paragraph (2) shall not constitute a waiver of any applicable privilege or protection under Federal law, including trade secret protection.

5 Response for the " Farm Bill Prevents Sharing of Geospatial Data? "

  1. Highly disappointing. I suppose we won't have access to the CLUs anytime soon.

  2. KoS says:

    jarlath, you are correct sir. They have been locked up for a while.

    What got this ball rolling, in part, years ago a website/group listed all the assistance groups or individuals received from the Farm Bill. People could search by state or even county. It was an eye opener the amount of money some were receiving.

    Enough people with political clot got laws changed to make it harder to tie assistance back to who receives it.

    What we see above is a part of that push. I'm very surprised they are applying this to imagery. CLUs isn't a surprise with all the information which are tied to those.

    It's troubling someone is using this as an excuse to withhold historical imagery. Sounds like someone doesn't know what end is up. Someone should push back a little, otherwise this may be a "rule".


  3. Anonymous says:

    You should still be able to get historical imagery from the USDA. The farm bill did indeed only ban the dispersal of CLU. Try the sales department at the APFO and they can tell you what historical imagery is available from USDA-FSA.

    USDA Employee

  4. Anonymous says:

    APFO is definitely the place to talk to.

    Section 1619 really addresses information provided by the producer (farmer), which includes field boundaries/CLU information. It does not impact imagery.

    -another USDA-FSA employee

  5. KoS says:

    To piggy back on the comments made by my fellow colleagues within USDA.

    APFO is a good spot. Or depending on what state and if anyone has done it. There may be a state or university outfit which has the imagery scanned and referenced online. Indiana has a couple of places online to get historical imagery.

    Also, if someone just needs on small area. Make a trip to the local county USDA office and see if you can scan the image they have on file.