Technology is undeniably changing farming, but there’s a surprising trend forming when it comes to what tech farmers use.

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 73 percent of Wisconsin farmers used a desktop or laptop computer. Today that figure is 65 percent. The difference appears to be driven by smartphones and tablets.

The link is hard to prove, since the 2019 survey didn’t ask farmers about mobile devices. But internet access itself hasn’t changed. Eighty-two percent of Wisconsin farmers say they can get online.

That’s the same rate as the national figure, though farmers across the country report more internet access than was available two years ago. The drop in use of desktop and laptop computers was mirrored nationally, but it only fell from 69 percent to 67 percent.

One trend that may bear watching is how Wisconsin farmers get online. More than half of the farms reported having access to broadband and almost two-thirds said they used cellular networks. Satellite access stood at 16 percent and, with the increase in projects like Starlink, that figure could well rise in the coming years.

The one area in which Wisconsin clearly lags behind the rest of the nation is in precision agricultural management practice. Only 15 percent of Wisconsin farmers said they use systems like GPS monitoring for soil and crop conditions, or use of electronic tagging for animals. That number was 10 percentage points behind the national figure.

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