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:
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?