Farmers are adopting the Internet at a spectacular rate. In fact, in the last two years the number of farmers with access to the Internet has more than doubled. Some experts expect agriculture to become the fifth largest electronic-commerce market.

That's exciting and probably a little scary. To keep pace, you may have to change the way you gather information, do business and make decisions.

Sound like daunting tasks? They are.

That's why we hope this special Internet issue of Soybean Digest will show you some better, more expedient ways to navigate the Web, and help answer some of your e-commerce questions.

E-commerce sites are an exploding part of the Internet. Projections by NUA, an Internet consulting and development company, indicate that in 2002 over $910 billion will be spent in e-commerce in the U.S. alone.

But trying to nail down the number of farmers actually making purchases via the Internet is like aiming at a moving target. Still, there are some clues. For example, last fall Soybean Digest, along with eight of its sister publications at Intertec Publishing, surveyed readers about Internet usage. In general, 51% of higher-income farmers (over $500,000 in annual gross revenue) use the Internet. As income declined, so did Internet usage. In the $250,000-500,000 range, 39% use the Internet; in the $100,000-250,000 range, 25% use it.

As you might expect, younger farmers use the 'net more often. Sixty-three percent of our readers under the age of 35 use it; 46% in the 35-54 age bracket; and 21% of our 55 or older readers.

More recently on the e-commerce front, Soybean Digest cooperated with Farms.com and gave 3,958 crop and livestock producers from around the country the opportunity to respond to a survey about their buying habits. Those producers - responding via an interactive Internet questionnaire - are registered on the Farms.com site. The charts below show what they had to say.