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USDA Breaks Down Farm Computer Usage and Ownership

Ah, the internet. As a Millennial, I can admit my life pretty much revolves around the use of it. At work, I scour the web for stories for Today in Food, The Food Institute Report and The Food Institute Blog. When I get off of work, I keep in touch with friends and family via social media sites, shop on apps and even watch TV through Netflix and the like. And I am not alone.

About 67% of Americans had access to at-home broadband internet in 2015, down from the 70% reported in 2013, according to Pew Research Center. Pew was unsure whether the small downgrade was a blip on the radar or indicative of a more prolonged reality. However, it noted this downgrade came at a time of increasing adoption of smartphones as the primary connection to the internet for U.S. adults.

Now, if there is one demographic that might be different, I figured it would be farmers. For whatever reason, I imagined a bucolic life in the fields with plants and animals, but clearly, in the modern world, this cannot be sustainable. Luckily, USDA just released the 2017 edition of its Farm Computer Usage and Ownership report, and it gives us a nice look into the computer usage of U.S. farmers.

Nationally, 73% of farms have computer access. Of those farmers with computer access, 72% (representing a 1% jump from 2015) own or lease a computer. Computer access by national sales class is 71% for sales class $1,000—$9,999; 70% for sales class $10,000—$99,999; 76% for sales class $100,000—$249,999; and 85% for sales class $250,000 or more.

The agency noted computer usage for farm business is 47% nationally, up 4 percentage points from the 2015 study. Broken down by the four major geographic regions, 48%, 49% and 50% of farmers in the Northeast, West and North Central regions utilize a computer for farm business, respectively. The South lagged behind reporting only 42% usage.

Additionally, the report tracked usage of tablets or smartphones for farm businesses in 2017 for the first time. The report found 39% of national producers use such a device to access the internet while working on their day-to-day operations.