Technology Use Growing on Nebraska Farms and Ranches

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Trends highlighted in USDA NASS's recent Technology Use survey indicate that Nebraska producers are more readily taking advantage of technological advances to improve their farm management skills and processes. (Center for Ag Profitability photo)

Technology Use Growing on Nebraska Farms and Ranches

Technology has changed the way most of us live and the way we farm. I was in graduate school in Texas during the 1980s when personal computers started to be used in agriculture. The understanding of computers and their value in management was still quite obscure at the time. As a graduate student, I assisted in a survey of Texas farmers and ranchers on their knowledge and use of financial management practices and computer use.

We found that 8% of farmers and ranchers owned a computer. When asked if they will invest in a computer if it has the potential to improve their management, 17% stated “yes” and 75% stated “no.” About one-third of respondents felt computers were not needed for management, and 28% did not feel a computer was a profitable investment. Judging by the comments several respondents wrote in the margins of their survey, it was evident most did not know how a computer could assist them in making management decisions. Some of the responses were:

“This ranch operation does not require immediate management decisions such as computers provide (a 20,000-acre cattle operation).”

“Pencils only cost 25 cents.”

“No advantage to owning a computer in a cow-calf operation with a 95% calf crop and weaning weights at 500 pounds.”

“I make my own business decisions.”

On Aug. 17, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its “Technology Use (Farm Computer Usage and Ownership)” survey, which analyzed ownership and utilization of computers and smartphones by farmers and ranchers, as well as their use of precision agriculture practices, with some interesting results. To read about the survey’s findings, continue this article on the Center for Ag Profitability.

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