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Farmers find Web baffling but useful

KLAMATH FALLS ­ Web surfing has come to the farm, and dozens of Internetsites are being set up to help farmers and ranchers with up-to-the-minuteinformation.

But farmers are having the same problems other users do. It is a hassleplowing through the thousands of sites to find those that are interestingand the fewer still that are really useful.

The sheer volume is turning some farmers away.

I'm too busy farming to bother with it, said Dave Reed, aKlamath Falls hay grower. I'm planning to avoid the Internet as longas I can, but I know I'll have to start using it eventually. There's noway around it.

But to many farmers the Internet is proving beneficial.

For example, potential hay buyers can find a directory of Klamath Basinhay growers at:

It provides information on the type of hay grown by each producer, howit is baled and how it has been stored.

Alan Urbach, another hay producer, says he makes occasional use of thesystem, especially for weather information.

There's been a few times when it's made a difference, or wouldhave if we'd have used it, he said. It's like we wouldn't havecut if we had known what was coming.

He favors a site that provides a radar summary for the Northwest, updatedhourly.

Greg Chilcote, webmaster at Oregon State University's Klamath ExperimentStation, said farmers and ranchers should learn the Internet as a tool forpromoting their industries.

It's one way to get your side of the story out there, hesaid. I think there's a lot of people who don't understand farmers'views.

The options are expanding.

There's NetVet, maintained by Ken Boschert, a veterinarian at WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis, Mo., that links to hundreds of Web sites on livestockand pets.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center provides market analyses compiledby federal agencies and state extension agents.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association site provides everything fromarticles, photos and recipes to monthly diaries from farm families.