Posted November 30, 2004: Findings from an Internet
survey indicate future farm success will involve farmers
and ranchers 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 National Farmers Union,
a general farm organization representing more than a quarter
of a million farm families nationwide and headquartered
in metro Denver.
“The purpose of this survey
was to find out from farmers, ranchers and rural citizens
ways they may be using the Internet and its relevance
to their farm business and local cooperatives,”
said Jeff Moser, project manager and NFU director of
economic and co-op development.
Perhaps the most significant finding in the survey
was 58 percent of the responding farmers said they used
the Internet for doing farm business for buying and
“From that key result Farmers Union is encouraged
by helping farmers and ranchers and their co-ops to
use the Internet for marketing and selling niche services
and goods like specialty cheeses, par-baked breads,
premium pasta, organic soybeans, and natural meats,”
The survey also found that:
- 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 said their farm or the cooperative
that they are associated with had a website.
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 No. 1 Internet concern
of 50 percent of all respondents, followed in order
by privacy, reliability of service, affordability of
service, and easy to learn.
The NFU survey is part of a larger project to enhance
rural business from an existing online learning center
created two years ago by NFU. The Web site, www.e-cooperatives.com,
was created to tie Internet education with online retailing
so the specialty products of farms and farm cooperatives
become more readily available to consumers, said Moser.
“We seek to increase value to consumers, raise
farm profits and add to the quality of rural life.”
“E-cooperatives.com educates and helps family
farmers and ranchers carve out a niche, add value to
their products and enhance their bottom line,”
said Missouri Farmers Union President Russ Kremer. “It
also helps create authentic relationships between producers
“I feel that consumers want convenience, and
like the producers who supply the food, also focus on
value, taste and health,” said Sue Beitlich, a
dairy farmer from Wisconsin and that state’s Farmers
Union president. Beitlich is a member of the NFU e-commerce
team of farmers, cooperative specialists and Internet
developers guiding the project.
Forester Research, an independent technology research
company, projects that by the year 2009, half of U.S.
households will have broadband at home. During this
year’s holiday season, Beitlich and her client
team at the NFU hope to launch the retail component
to www.e-cooperatives.com. Then family farmers and co-ops
will have a new venue on the Internet for reaching online
shoppers seeking better produce from local farms.
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 was also 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. Of the farmers,
78 percent indicated they had been farming at least
10 years or more. The NFU survey was similar to one
conducted in March 2004 by the NFU when 268 persons
responded from 23 states. Seventeen percent of the survey
participants identified themselves as current Farmers