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FARM & RANCH: Internet Services Help Producers Cope

Many farmers and ranchers were drawn to their line of work because of the life style, which includes working out-of-doors, growing things, working with animals.

Ironically, the desire to work outside may impede their success, which increasingly is decided by what they do indoors. Yes, farmers and ranchers might be more successful if they spent more time indoors staring at a tube. Not the one in the television set, the one in their computer monitor.

A graph depicting farmers' use of the internet by region.
A graph depicting farmers' use of the internet by region.

Apparently farmers and ranchers are discovering this truth. Growing numbers of them are connecting to the World Wide Web and its ever- growing resources.

A recent study by the National Agricultural Statistics Service showed that Internet access by farmers more than doubled between 1997 and 1999, increasing from 13 percent to 29 percent.

Northwest agricultural producers have taken to the Internet at a greater rate. Forty percent of them in Washington, Oregon and Idaho are connected to the Internet, up from 18 percent in 1997. Washington leads the Northwest and is second in the nation with 50 percent of farmers and ranchers reporting access. Only New Jersey reported a higher rate of access, at 53 percent. Idaho reported 41 percent and Oregon, 29.

How does Internet access help farmers and ranchers produce profits?

Simply by bringing ideas and information, including data, to their farms and ranches, and by making it accessible 24 hours a day.

It’s hard to imagine a facet of farm and ranch business that hasn’t felt the impact of the digital revolution.

It won’t be long before farmers and ranchers will do much of their purchasing through on-line services. Eventually, this development will pose major challenges for local businesses where farmers and ranchers now buy implements, chemicals, seed, and other inputs. The Midwest apparently is ahead of the Northwest in this aspect of Internet services for farmers, but you can count on it growing here.

A look at just a few Midwest sites, however, illustrate what’s already in the cyberhopper for farmers and ranchers everywhere. http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca is a Midwest site focused service that helps farmers and ranchers find parts to help keep obsolete equipment running.

Local dealers would do well to get fully developed Web sites, fast. By fully developed, I mean Web sites that allow customers to come on-line and conduct business, any time of the day or night, any day of the week.

Here are several Web sites that illustrate the variety of services offered right now on the Internet.

  • Dairy-L is an e-mail list that dairy producers and university faculty can subscribe to and discuss issues that affect the dairy industry. It was created in 1989 by Washington State University dairy scientist Roger Cady and a colleague at the University of Maryland. It currently has 3,600 subscribers who live in 53 different countries.
  • The Washington Agricultural Statistics Service Web page offers data that can help farmers and ranchers plan and manage their operations. Data include weekly crop and weather reports, county crop and livestock reports, and press releases and publications on various commodities. The URL is http://www.nass.usda.gov/wa/.
  • Private companies also post valuable resources to help farmers cope with the challenges of today’s agricultural economy. You might want to visit Cargill’s site, which includes U.S. Risk Management Tools for grain growers. It also has a page of risk management tools tailored especially for Canadian growers. Point your browser to http://www.cargill.com/aghorizons/products/grain/us.htm.

These are but a few examples of what’s available, today. Tomorrow there will be more, and the next day – still more.

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