According to the latest Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, about 70% of farmers report using at least one technology that provides them with Internet access. In addition, a basic cell phone is the most common communications technology used by farmers in the statewide survey. Results of the 2012 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll were compiled and released in January 2013.
"Internet and mobile communications technologies are becoming more widespread for communicating with farmers, and we wanted to know which technologies farmers are actually using," explains J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., a sociologist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Arbuckle co-directs the annual Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll with Paul Lasley, another ISU Extension sociologist. "We provided farm poll survey participants with a list of communication technologies and asked them to select the ones they own or use regularly," Arbuckle says.
A basic cell phone was the most common communications technology used by farmers in the survey. Of the farmers surveyed, 75% reported that they own and/or regularly use a cell phone without Internet access. And 58% reported they have or regularly use a computer with high-speed Internet access.
Percentage of farmers in Iowa who use smartphones is a lot lower than some estimates
According to the Iowa Farm Poll data, about 11% of farmers reported they use a smartphone. Also, 11% have a computer with dial-up Internet access, 10% own or use a tablet computer such as an iPad or Kindle and 5% report using a cell phone with Internet access.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
"One of the motivations for this research was that a number of online surveys conducted by agricultural press organizations have found that a relatively high percentage of respondents report smartphone use," says Arbuckle. "We felt that the online nature of such surveys might bias samples toward farmers who use such technologies. Our results indicate that, at least in Iowa, the percentage of farmers who use smartphones is substantially lower than some estimates."
Arbuckle cautions, however, that the farm poll, because it is a panel study that surveys the same farmers each year, is somewhat biased toward older farmers. "To the extent that older farmers are less likely to use more sophisticated communications technology, our results might underestimate the use of some technologies," he notes.
Survey shows use of high-tech communications in Iowa agriculture is indeed on the rise
"That said, use of high-tech communications technology in agriculture is definitely on the rise," Arbuckle adds. "From an ISU Extension standpoint, these developments are exciting because they offer more ways to provide research-based information to farmers and the agribusinesses who serve them. I look forward to asking these questions again in a few years to see how things have changed."
About the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll: Conducted every year since its establishment in 1982, the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll is the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation. ISU Extension and Outreach, Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service are all partners in the farm poll effort.
The 2012 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll Summary Report (PM 3036) and previous Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll summary and topical reports are available to download from the ISU Extension and Outreach Online Store, and Extension Sociology.