The Internet is a valuable tool for the future success of agriculture. Findings from an Internet survey indicate future success will involve producers and their cooperatives knowing how to effectively manage the Internet for marketing.

That was the sentiment registered by 86 percent of individuals responding to an online survey conducted by the National Farmers Union.

"The purpose of this survey was to find out from producers, ranchers and rural citizens ways they may be using the Internet and its relevance to their farm business and local cooperatives," says Jeff Moser, project manager and NFU director of economic and co-op development.

Probably the most significant finding in the survey was 58 percent of the responding producers say they use the Internet for conducting farm business for buying and selling purposes.

Other survey findings include:

  • 94 percent of all respondents use a computer.
  • 88 percent are connected to the Internet;
  • 80 percent use the Internet daily;
  • 51 percent made a purchase over the Internet within the past six months; 
  • 47 percent are interested in marketing the products of their own farm or co-op over the Internet; 
  • 44 percent declared they were presently members of a co-op and/or credit union ; and
  • 43 percent say their farm or the cooperative that they are associated with had a Web site.

According to other recent statistics, online retailing in the United States accounts for 2.3 percent of all retail sales or approximately $100 billion annually. In the NFU survey, security was the top Internet concern of 50 percent of all respondents, followed in order by privacy, reliability of service, affordability of service and easy to learn.

National Farmers Union fielded the online survey between Aug. 10 and Sept. 6 and motivated 827 respondents by entering them in a random drawing for a laptop computer, held Oct. 13. The survey also was provided offline to attendees at various state and local fairs around the country including in California, Colorado and Missouri. Specifically, 408 farmers, ages 17-87 and from 24 states, took part in the survey, representing 49 percent or near half of all individuals participating.