Farmers attending the recent Mid-Atlantic Precision Ag Equipment Day at Denton, Md., came from five states to learn how to make their equipment smarter and more efficient. Drawn by growing use of combine yield monitors, planter technology and GPS/GIS manure application technologies, they're using computers to make their machines work harder.
They were a mix of older farmers, often with one or two younger ones – meaning they came from larger multi-family operations. That helps explain the steadily rising trend in farm computer use over the last five years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2011 farm computer use survey.
In general, farmers from New York, New Jersey and New England were ahead of the pack (national average) in many categories of computer and Internet use.
Farms using computers for their farm business remained virtually stable at 37% in 2011 compared to 36% in 2009. But in New England, those counts jumped to 50% from 47%; In New Jersey, the counts jumped to 57% in 2011 from 46% in 2009 – tops in the country.
Internet access is a likely factor in computer use. While 62% of U.S. farms have Internet access, the New England states and New Jersey ranked in the top six with 78% of New England farms and 75% of New Jersey farms having Internet access.
Some 66% of New York farms have Internet access. But in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania, both computer use and Internet access are below the national average.
Farms in the West lead the nation in using computers to conduct business (48%). But Northeast farms, including the Mid-Atlantic and New England, came in second in business use (37%). Biggest users in all regions were farms with $100,000 gross sales or more.
Farmers in the Northeast are the biggest users of the Internet for purchasing ag inputs: Some 22% do so, compared to 16% of farmers in the West and a 14% national average.