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More farmers in West tap computers

Published on August 19, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on September 16, 2011 6:19AM

Rate of computer ownership, use increases across West, USDA says

The Capital Press

SALEM -- Farmers in Idaho and Oregon have among the highest rates of computer access and ownership in the nation.

Farmers in the West increasingly own or lease computers, use them for business and their connection speeds are faster, too, according to a report released Aug. 12 by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The survey shows 83 percent of farms in Oregon and Idaho have computer access, higher than the national average of 65 percent.

Idaho farmers have the highest rate of computer leasing or ownership in the country at 82 percent, up 2 percent from 2009. In the state, 76 percent of farms have Internet access, up from 68 percent in 2009, but only 46 percent of farms use computers for business.

In California, the number of farmers with computer access declined in the latest survey. Some 68 percent of farmers have computer access, down from 71 percent in 2007. Farmers in the state who have computers is 65 percent, down from 68 percent in 2009, but those numbers are still higher than the national average.

However, only 44 percent of California farmers use computers for business. Farms with Internet access in the state are reported at 63 percent, down from 66 percent in 2009.

In Oregon, 80 percent of farms have computers, up from 75 percent in 2009. In the state, 80 percent of farms report having Internet access and 50 percent say they use their computers for business.

In Washington, farms with computer access declined 1 percent, to 80 percent, but farms using computers increased to 78 percent, up from 74 percent in 2009.

Farms in Washington with Internet access are reported at 76 percent, and 47 percent use their computers for business.

Nationwide, 65 percent of farms have access to computers and 63 percent own or lease a computer. Farms in the West use their computers for business at a much higher rate than the national average of 37 percent. American farmers report that 62 percent of them have Internet access.

The U.S. average for farmers and ranchers who purchase ag inputs online is 14 percent. The highest rate in the West is in Idaho at 22 percent. California and Washington were next at 18 percent and Oregon was also higher than the national average at 17 percent.

Nationally, 12 percent of farmers and ranchers use the Internet for marketing activities, like direct sales, online crop and livestock auctions and commodity price tracking.

Washington reported the highest rate of online marketing activities in the region at 17 percent, followed by Oregon at 15 percent. California and Idaho trailed the national average at 11 and 10 percent respectively.

The survey also asked farmers and rancher if they do business with any non-agriculture websites. Nationally, 35 percent of farms and ranches said they do. The rate is higher in the West, with 58 percent in Oregon, 54 percent in Idaho, 51 percent in Washington and 38 percent in California.

The use of slow, dial-up connections to get online is dropping. In California, only 2 percent of farms with Internet access use dial-up as their primary connection. In Oregon, the rate was 9 percent. Idaho's rate was 11 percent. Washington's rate of 12 percent is the same as the national average.

That's down dramatically in just four years. In 2007, 47 percent of farm and ranch Internet connections were dial-up services. The rate dropped to 23 percent in 2009 and is down again to the current 12 percent mark.

The survey show nationally that cattle ranchers are the slowest to adopt computer use for business, with only 32 percent saying they use computers that way, even though 57 percent report having Internet access. However, 67 percent of cattle ranchers who do more than $250,000 in sales say they use their computers for business purposes and 79 percent of them have Internet access.

Download the report

The complete report is available from USDA in pdf format: http://www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/fmpc0811.pdf


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