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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Computer Usage by Virginia Farmers

Farm Business Management Update, October/November 2005

By Gordon Groover (, Extension Economist, Farm Management, Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

August 2005, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported on national computer usage by U.S. farmers. The questions about computer usage were added to the June NASS survey to estimate acres of crops, grain in storage, livestock inventories, and land values. Responses to the computer usage questions were summarized from 32,500 farms.

Virginia's computer usage in the four categories survey by NASS were below the U.S. average. Computer usage by all states as compared to the U.S. shows that 54 percent of Virginia's farmers have access to a computer as compared to the national average of 58 percent and Virginia's rate declined from 65 percent since 2003. In 2005, only 51 percent of Virginia's farmers own a computer compared to 55 percent for the U.S.

Access to or ownership of a computer does not insure the computer will be used in the farm business. In 2005, 28 percent of Virginia's farmers who own a computer use it in their farm business, down from 34 percent two years ago. Farmers nationwide report usage of 31 percent in 2005 compared to 30 percent in 2003.

Access to the Internet showed the lowest overall adoption rate from 2001-05. Virginia farmers used the Internet to purchase inputs at a rate of 9 percent in 2001 and increased to 13 percent in 2005; the national average during those same times were 6 and 9 percent, respectively. Virginia farmers used the Internet to conduct agricultural marketing activities 5 percent of the time in 2001 and increased to 8 percent in 2005. The national tend followed a similar pattern with an increase from 6 to 9 percent.

How farmers accessed the Internet maybe the most interesting. Seventy-nine percent of Virginia farmers with Internet access use a dialup service (slowest access speed), followed by 5 and 4 percent using a DSL and cable, respectively. Wireless (1 percent) and satellite (1 percent) are used by very few farmers. NASS reported that 10 percent of respondents did not know the type of service used to access the Internet. National usage rates show similar trends with the majority of farmers using dial up service (69 percent), DSL (13 percent), cable (6 percent), satellite (4 percent), and wireless (3 percent).

What does this mean for Virginia and the South? NASS reported computer access and use based on region and gross farm sales showing that the South, as a whole, lagged behind all other regions. The economic class of farmers (less than $99,999 in gross sales) nationwide had the lowest level of computer access and use. Thus, with approximately half of Virginia's farmers having access to a computer and internet (albeit dialup). A large number of farmers still rely on traditional means of communication to access information from extension, state, federal, and local government agencies.

A complete copy of this report can be obtained from NASS at the following URL:

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