How do farmers use the internet?

How do farmers use the internet?

As Internet coverage and access improve in rural areas, more Iowa farmers are making use of this information source in their farming operations.

As Internet coverage and access improve in rural areas, more Iowa farmers are making use of this information source in their farming operations, according to the 2011 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll. The results of the poll—which covers several different topics--were released recently. Here are the results regarding the section of the poll that asked farmers about their use of the Internet.

Related: Keep up on local ag news, grain and livestock markets, enhanced weather and blogs

The 2011 poll included several questions on whether farmers have access to and use high-speed Internet service, the types of information they access and the sources of that information. Results from the annual poll are available in the 2011 Summary Report, PM 3016, which can be downloaded at no cost from the Iowa State University Extension Online Store.

Farmers' Internet use is detailed in recent Iowa Farm & Rural Life Poll
"Expansion of high-speed Internet coverage in rural areas has been a priority in recent years, and we wanted to learn more about how farmers access and use the Internet, especially broadband," says ISU Extension sociologist J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., who co-directs the survey with ISU Extension sociologist Paul Lasley. Arbuckle says 1,276 farmers participated in the poll. On average, the participating farmers were 65 years old, and 51% earned more than half of their income from farming.

Internet availability and access. "We gave farmers a list of common ways that people use and asked them to indicate which ones they use. In numerous cases farmers reported more than one source of access," Arbuckle says.

In the poll, 60% of the participants reported they use high-speed Internet service. "When we accounted for multiple forms of access, 70% of farmers reported they use the Internet," notes Arbuckle. The most common means of access, at 27%, was through a digital subscriber line (DSL) service; 14% of farmers reported accessing broadband through a satellite service, 13% through a wireless/cell phone service and 12% through cable. Also, 12% reported they access the Internet over a standard telephone line.

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"Only 14% of the farmers reported they did not have access to high-speed Internet. In fact, the percentage of farmers who reported that they had access to high-speed Internet where they live, but chose not to use it (21%) is significantly higher than the proportion who indicated they lack access," Arbuckle says. "That said, 14% is still a lot of people who don't have access to broadband."

Internet use for farm information. The last decade or so has seen an explosion of ag-related websites as farm magazines, agribusinesses, farm groups, conservation agencies and organizations and other entities have increased their Internet presence and content. So in the 2011 poll farmers were asked about the types of farming-related information they accessed via the Internet, as well as how often they accessed information from a number of agriculture-related agencies and organizations. These questions focused only on the 70% of farmers who indicated that they used the Internet.

More Iowa farmers are making use of this information source in their farming operations.
The poll shows 84% of farmers who use the Internet use it to get information on the weather, and 72% do so at least weekly. Most farmers who use the Internet also access market information (78%), general ag news (75%) and information about crop production (68%), and many do so on a fairly regular basis.

Arbuckle notes that 55% of farmers report they use the Internet for information on farm financial management, about the same proportion use it for pest management information, and 51% say they seek information on soil and water conservation. However, farmers use the Internet for these types of information less frequently with most reporting they access these types of information less than once a month. "Only 39% of the farmers accessed livestock production information. However, as you would expect, among farmers who raise livestock the percentage was higher, with 71% reporting using the Internet for livestock-related information," he says.

Farmers also were asked how often they access information online from several agencies and organizations that provide information and technical assistance on ag production and conservation. ISU Extension was selected by more Internet users than any other option, with 47% of farmers indicating they use Extension at least periodically. Farm magazines were second, at 44%, followed by farm groups at 39%, the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship at 36% and the USDA Farm Service Agency at 32%.

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Less than 30% of farmers report that they use the Internet to get information from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Iowa Department of Natural Resources or county conservation boards.

More about the Farm and Rural Life Poll—other topics also covered
The 2011 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll focused on a range of issues that are important not only to agriculture but to all Iowans. The 2011 survey also examined farmers' views on climate change, conservation issues, investment in agricultural drainage and their perspectives on reducing the federal deficit and balancing the budget.

Conducted every year since its establishment in 1982, the Farm and Rural Life Poll is the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation. ISU Extension, the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service are all partners in the Farm Poll effort.

The 2011 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll summary report and previous summary and topic reports are available to download from the ISU Extension Online Store and Extension Sociology.

TAGS: USDA Extension
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