Many farmers may be taking a hard look at adding key technologies to their farm business, but what percentage are still without computer access or basic internet, and of those who are connected, how are they accessing the web?
In a survey of internet use among farmers and ranchers, completed every other year, USDA's National Ag Statistics Service aims to answer that question.
NASS's Farm Computer Usage and Ownership report, released Thursday, says about 70% of farmers have access to the internet, with a DSL-type connection being the most common.
DSL use has actually declined from the previous 2013 survey as more farms adopt wireless and satellite connections.
Broken down, 30% of the farms in the U.S. are on DSL, down from 35% in 2013, while wireless connections are at 29% and satellite connections are at 21%. They increased by 5%and 4%, respectively.
Other reported methods of accessing the Internet include cable modem service (12%), dial-up service (3%), and other or unknown (5%).
Farms with computer access at 73% is slightly higher than the 71% of the farms that reporting owning or leasing a computer.
The state reporting the lowest percentage of computer access is Arizona with 62%; it also reports the lowest percentage of owning or leasing a computer at 60%. The highest of the two categories, respectively, is Utah (86%) and Wyoming (84%).
Farmers who are reporting the highest sales are more likely to have computer access; 71% of those reporting $1,000--$9,999 have a computer; 70% for sales class $10,000--$99,999; 73% for Sales Class $100,000--$249,999; and 85% for Sales Class $250,000 or more.
When broken down by geographical location, computer use in the west is at 48%, North Central (46%), Northeast (45%), and the South (36%).
Comparing computer usage by crop and livestock farms, 47% of the crop producers use the computer for farm business compared to 39% of the livestock producers.
Farmers and ranchers report several uses for computers, with the top response being conducting business with a non-ag website at 44%.
Other uses include: Purchasing agricultural inputs: 19%; marketing activities: 16%; accessing USDA NASS reports: 10%; accessing other USDA reports/services: 17%; accessing other federal government websites: 17%; conducting business with any USDA website: 9%; and conducting business with any other federal government website: 7%.
How things have changed since 1997
In 1997, the first year the survey was available, U.S. farmers and ranchers reported 38% computer access and 13% internet access. At the time, about 31% of the computers were owned or leased and 20% of the farmers reported using the computer for farm business purposes.
Mississippi and Louisiana, each with 4%, represented the states with the lowest percentage of internet access at the time. The highest was Utah, at 29%.
About 14% of crop farms reported internet access, while 12% of livestock farms reported internet access.
Full data is available in the report on the USDA NASS website.