Fri. Sep 29th, 2023
Farmers in Wisconsin Face Challenges with Internet Access and Adoption of New Technologies

Internet access has become an integral part of farming operations in Wisconsin, but a recent survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service revealed that only 83 percent of farms in the state reported having internet access. This figure is just one percentage point higher than the previous survey conducted in 2019 and 2021.

The survey also indicated that Wisconsin is falling behind the national average for internet access, as the overall U.S. response increased to 85 percent this year. The findings surprised John Shutske, a professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has studied the adoption of new technologies in the agriculture industry. Shutske expected more farms to have internet access, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced increased online activities, such as remote learning.

Limited internet access poses challenges for farmers like Linda Ceylor, who rely on online tools for various aspects of their farm management. Ceylor uses the same cellular network for internet access on her farm, using it for tasks ranging from texting to searching for equipment on Facebook Marketplace. She also keeps up with her milk processor’s online data on milk quality and proposed changes to organic certification requirements.

The data-driven nature of modern farming further emphasizes the need for reliable internet access. Precision agriculture practices, such as GPS mapping and tractor monitors, help farmers gather better data and make more informed decisions. However, the survey found that fewer Wisconsin farms (18 percent) reported using precision agriculture practices compared to the national average (27 percent).

Shutske suggests that the size and topography of Wisconsin’s fields may influence the adoption of new tools and technologies. Additionally, challenges in communication infrastructure in some areas of the state make it difficult to rely on mobile signals.

Despite the challenges, Shutske believes that the data collected from farms will become increasingly valuable and affect land values in the future. However, he cautions against investing in emerging technologies without proven long-term economic benefits.

Efforts to improve rural internet access, including recent investments of funds from state and federal initiatives, have been made. While progress has been made, it will take time for rural communities to fully benefit from these investments.