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Producers still prefer farm publications when it comes to ag information. Meetings or seminars and farm shows run a fairly distant second and third place. These are some of the findings of the "Trends in Agriculture 2000" survey of producers conducted by .he Gallup Organization last July and August.

"Producers were asked about their general attitudes toward farming today and about where they get information on agriculture and for making purchases," says Debra Christenson, managing consultant for Gallup. "We also wanted to know what producers thought about emerging agricultural technologies, as well as the industries that provide them with products and services."

Gallup interviewed a sample of 1,218 large farmers and ranchers randomly selected from agricultural publication lists representative of the industry. "We intentionally surveyed a sample of large producers because they represent the bulk of food and fiber production in the United States," Christenson says.

The study was conducted for the Association of Leading Ag Media Companies (formerly the Agricultural Publishers Association) and co-sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with assistance from the Alpha Zeta Foundation. Complete details of the study can be obtained at, or by calling 314/576-7957.


In telephone interviews, producers were asked to rate the impact of various information sources on a 5-point scale, with "5" meaning a major source and "1" meaning not a source at all. Sixty-five percent of the producers responding gave farm publications a "4" or "5" rating.

The study asked producers to rate eight information sources. In rank order, respondents gave a "4" or "5" rating to these information sources: farm publications, meetings and seminars, farm shows, direct mail, electronic information (DTN), farm radio, Internet and television.

The results are similar to those of a baseline "Trends in Agriculture" study conducted in 1998 by Gallup. In that survey, producers ranked information sources in about the same way. They named farm publications as their dominant source of ag information. But in the 2000 study, direct mail dropped from second to fourth place and the Internet moved up one notch ahead of television.

In the most recent study, women (73 percent) and those with high school or higher education (69 percent) rank farm publications higher than do men (63 percent) and those without a high school degree (60 percent).

Gallup divided the analysis of the survey results into two segments - one for crop producers and one for livestock producers. Within the crop producer segment, wheat/hay producers (67 percent) rate the impact of farm publications significantly higher than do most other crop producers. Within the livestock segment, beef producers (64 percent) and dairy farmers (70 percent) rank farm publications significantly higher than do hog producers (51 percent).


Producers also were questioned about their use of computers and the Internet. Farm use of computers is high (69 percent), but the number of farmers and ranchers using the Internet is significantly below figures for the general public (41 percent vs. 63 percent). Only 25 percent of farmers and ranchers have shopped online during the last six months.

"Shopping on the Internet is not cutting deeply into traditional purchasing relationships," Christenson says. "Known and trusted brands are attractive when the Internet is used, with 59 percent saying that brands are important to Internet purchases."


According to respondent demographics, the producers interviewed for the 2000 Gallup study looked about the same as the producers in the 1998 study. Of the sample, 94 percent were owner-producers; 44 percent produced crops and animals; 36 percent crops only; and 19 percent animals only.

Of the respondents, 78 percent were male and the mean average age was 51.

Ninety percent of the respondents had at least a high school education; 24 percent had college degrees. The mean household income from farming and ranching for the sample (before taxes) was $69,810.

Christenson points out that the study showed 62 percent of the producers totally, very or somewhat negative about agriculture. "But while there’s a drop in mood since the 1998 survey, many large producers continue to report that their farming and ranching operations are increasing in size," she concludes. AM

Debby Hartke is a St. Louis-based writer and communications consultant.

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