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Greg Martin 09/05/05 Computers on the farm?
by Greg Martin, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: September 05, 2005

More and more business has grown reliant on digital technology&the most basic of this for businesses big and small are computers and internet access. Even most American households are wired, with seventy two per cent of American adults having their own computers. Now having said that, the disparity between computers and internet access at businesses in general, in the household, and on the farm is growing. A new U.S.D.A survey shows that its not just that the growth in farm computer and internet use, and computer ownership is not just slow. U.S.D.A.s Chief Economist Keith Collins says that rate has just about come to a standstill.

COLLINS: If you look at farms with computer access, in 2005, fifty eight per cent have computer access. It was fifty eight per cent in 2003. Fifty-five per cent in 2001.

Another tell tale statistic. Only thirty one per cent of farms use computers in their farm business, only a one per cent increase over the last two years.

COLLINS: Nine per cent purchase agricultural inputs over the internet, and nine per cent conduct agricultural marketing activities over the internet.

Now U.S.D.A. may have a vested interest of concern with slow computer and internet use on the farm. After all, the agency in recent years as improved its web access to producers for market information, program applications, and feedback on issues, all in an effort to improve its service to farmers. However, the survey shows only four per cent of farms nationwide conduct business at U.S.D.A.s web site, just a one per cent increase from two years ago. Now some may say many in ag still prefer the personal and face to face service they get at the desk of U.S.D.A. Service Centers and county extension offices over the time convenience of filling forms on line. But Collins says a greater factor may be the slow rate in which high speed internet has come to the farms and ranches. Currently, sixty nine per cent of those farms that use the internet are reliant on dial up service.

COLLINS: In many rural areas, agricultural areas of the United States, you dont have access to broadband. Dial up can be frustrating, especially if youre going to try to transact business over the internet. Of if you are going to try to access lots of information such as marketing information over the internet. If youre limited to dial up, that can be a frustrating experience, and that acts as a deterrent to more wide spread utilization of computers and of the internet. As broadband starts to permeate more areas of rural America I think well see greater percentages of farmers using computers and using the internet, in accessing U.S.D.A.s programs in conducting business with U.S.D.A. over the internet.

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