Using the tenets of data feminism, we analyse the National Agricultural Statistics Service Quick Stats database — the primary repository of United States agricultural data. We identify unstated assumptions built into the database’s scaffolding through data collection, aggregation and dissemination practices, revealing how they facilitate granular analyses of agricultural topics historically judged as national priorities while leaving unilluminated many others of vital importance for contemporary sustainability needs. We argue that this entrenches an inequitable and unsustainable food systems status quo, and we offer recommendations for data providers and users based on principles of reflexivity, context and pluralism.
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The companion data product to this Perspective is available at https://github.com/blschum/ag-data-4-sustfoodsys-research, where we have taken one CoA variable and cleaned it from its original to tidy form to demonstrate the kind of data accessibility we envision in this paper. We are committed to open data science and to making research more reproducible.
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We thank C. Coleman for providing helpful comments on an early version of the manuscript. B.L.S. was partially supported by USDA NIFA Grant Number 2021-69012-35916. A.R. and E.K.B. were partially supported by USDA NIFA Grant Number 2020-67019-31157. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the USDA.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Rissing, A., Burchfield, E.K., Spangler, K.A. et al. Implications of US agricultural data practices for sustainable food systems research. Nat Food 4, 213–217 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-023-00711-2
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