New USDA report: 36% of farmers don’t have computers
Farm 2.0? Not so much: A report released Friday by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) tallies the numbers for farm computer usage for 2009. It finds:
- Only 64 percent of farms have access to a computer, leaving 36 percent with no computer access.
- 59 percent of all farms--so nearly all of those with a computer--have Internet access, up 2 percent from the last survey, which was conducted in 2007.
- DSL has surpassed dialup as the most common method of farm Internet access, with 36 percent of all farms using it. Dialup use dropped from 47 percent of farms in 2007 to 23 percent in 2009.
- Only 13 percent of the farms with Internet access get it through satellite or wireless. 11 percent of farms have cable-based systems.
Some grist for the mill: A number of policy proposals making the rounds in Washington would require farmers to use electronic (i.e. computer-based) systems to track the movement of livestock or crops, ostensibly in the name of food safety. The National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which is already mandatory for livestock producers in some states, would require food animals to be tagged with electronic tracking devices and their movements recorded in an online database. The Food Safety Enhancement Act, which recently passed the House, would fund a pilot program to track produce from farm to retail using an electronic tracking system. For farmers, that would likely mean having to tag produce boxes with unique IDs, like UPC codes, and scan the ID into the system before the boxes leave the farm.
To the programs' conceptual falacies, we'll add a logistical issue: How can they be expected to work if more than a third of US farmers have no computer access? Or does Uncle Sam plan on instituting a "one laptop per farm" program?
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