In February 2022 the European Commission published a legislative proposal for the Data Act, the Proposal on harmonised rules on fair access to and use of data.

This new regulation is all about tapping into the huge potential of under-used data, concentrated in the hands of relatively few large companies, and is seen as a cornerstone in the European data strategy: it would create a cross-sectoral governance framework for data access and use such that it balances the relations between data economy actors, and generate incentives for horizontal data sharing across sectors.

It also mentions that it is built upon recent developments in specific sectors, such as the Code of Conduct on agricultural data sharing by contractual agreement, to which it resembles to some extent.

Just like in the code of conduct, that CEMA developed jointly within the sector, it is about clarifying the role of stakeholders within the chain and their rights/responsibilities. However, in the attempt to make the Data Act as broad as possible in relation to products in scope but also stakeholders’ relationships looking at Business to Consumer (B2C), Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Government (B2G), as presented, it does raise many questions.

Examples are the unclear definition of ‘data’ – is this the filtered agronomic data or also the machine CANBUS data? – , ‘user’ – with which is meant  the user of the product but all other mentioned stakeholders are linked to the data, like data holder, data recipient… . In the Code of Conduct every stakeholder could have rights and responsibilities on data depending on the role they played, while in the Data Act this clarity is hard to find and in particular for complex B2B relationships.    

Industry is also calling for more balance between data access rights and data protection rights. This is particularly crucial to keep conformity with existing product legislation.

CEMA strongly believes in better coordination of B2G data sharing, in particular in ‘proof by data’ for realising the sustainability targets in agriculture while supporting farmers financially for their good efforts. The hard focus on mandatory data sharing for ‘emergency’ reasons should be a last resort. The long-term solution is clear consensus between B2G stakeholders and by the necessary technological developments in interoperability networks. The efforts should come from both sides and be ‘facilitated’ at first.

The portability and interoperability requirements are fully supported and fit within the development of data spaces. However, it needs to be assessed whether the Code of conduct on agricultural data sharing can be fully retrieved from the current text. This is crucial as most platforms that will form a common agricultural data space use the basic principles of the Code of Conduct and these principles will be embedded in the technical developments.

The Data Act contains already many good building blocks for the future data strategy, but some architectural changes will be necessary to make it suitable for future vertical data spaces.

In particular, the existing sensitive balance between the data players that already result in well-functioning and successful data sharing should not be disturbed. While data is considered the oil of the 21st century, so far, for the Agricultural machinery companies as data holders, it has mainly been a cost rather than a value stream. The Data Act should not inadvertently hinder the existing data sharing and protect the investments of the stakeholders, including of platforms and farm management information systems. The main target should not be about giving more rights as such, but rather building trust that the rights they have are respected. Industry is working hard on technical solutions that will embed this trust.

CEMA will continue to contribute to the legislative process to bring the interpretation for the agricultural sector with clear use cases and in collaboration with other associations within the sector and sister associations of other industrial sectors.